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2013 Buick Encore FWD Review By John Heilig

2013 BUICK ENCORE  (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Buick Encore

By John Heilig
The Auto Channel


The Bottom Line First: This isn’t your father’s Buick. The Encore is one of the more practical small cars/CUVs. Its quirky styling belies its practicality. The economy should be even better considering the Encore’s relatively small engine size.

Reviewed Model: 2013 Buick Encore FWD

Engine: 1.4-liter Ecotec turbo four

Horsepower/Torque: 138 hp @ 4,900 rpm/148 lb.-ft. @ 1,850 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 100.6 in.

Length x Width x Height: 168.5 x 69.9 x 65.2 in.

Tires: P235/35R19

Cargo: 18.8/48.4 cu. ft. (rear seat backs up/down)

Economy: 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway/28.5 mpg test

Fuel capacity: 14.0 gal.

Curb Weight: 3,190 lbs.

Sticker: $22,074 (includes $755 delivery charge, $3,549 in options)

I’ll bet you never thought you’d see the day when a Buick would compete with a VW or a Mini. But the Korean-built Buick Encore is designed to do just that. The Encore is in the same ballpark and compares in size (smaller than you would ever expect of a Buick), with the VW Tiguan, MINI Countryman, and Ford Escape. But the Encore is filled with all the standard Buick attributes including good ride and decent power and comfort.

As a hard-core traditionalist, it’s hard for me to accept a vehicle that is so un-Buick-like as the Encore. While I recognize that Buick and GM both have corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) numbers to attain, the Encore just doesn’t stack up when it’s placed alongside a LaCrosse or Lucerne. I confess to a bit of disappointment when it appeared in my driveway. I guess I was expecting something more along the lines of the Enclave.

My what-could-have-been disappointment dissipated quickly once I had a turn at the wheel. Despite its size (and it does qualify as a small SUV), it does things well. The 1.4-liter turbocharged four delivers enough power, the transmission is smooth and the ride quality is very good. Handling over some very interesting and new to me winding roads is very good.

Interstate highway runs are typical Buick; very comfortable and the car gives you a feeling of control.

Aside from the mechanicals, the interior is all Buick. There’s a taste of luxury with leather appointed and heated front seats, power front seats, power windows, dual zone climate control, quiet tuning and OnStar. The exterior is Buick as well, with a waterfall grille and six ventiports, three on each side. Keeping with tradition, they’re for show only, just like the originals .

There’s a clear instrument panel with a large tachometer and speedometer and an information panel in between. The infotainment screen in the center of the dash was a pain. I didn’t like that it always returned to the navigation screen when you re-started the car. Then I would have to work my way around the many screens to get to XM for my audio choices. Also, the navigation was difficult to program even after you get past the learning curve.

For internal storage we had a pair of glove boxes. The upper one was smaller and the lower one more standard size. There was a nice cubby by the driver’s left knee that worked well for a cell phone. However, there was no center console. There was an arm rest on the inside of the driver’s seat.

The rear seats had tight leg and knee room. The high center hump made the Encore a four-seater rather than the advertised five-seater. The pull down arm rest in the rear has a pair of cupholders. I order to lower the seat backs for increased cargo capacity you first have to move the seats. Cargo is very good and there are four tie-downs to secure anything you may want to put back there.

Encore’s answer to blind spot warning is circular convex mirrors as part of the exterior rear view mirrors. These work well in daylight, but they’re somewhat confusing at night with all the lights.

Fuel economy was very good, but still pales in comparison to my wife’s 2001 LeSabre with a 3.6-liter V6.

The Buick Encore is a reasonable attempt at entering the small SUV/CUV market for Buick. While it has many Buick signatures in the styling, its quirky styling and diminutive size break through the disguise and reveal it as a rebadged Korean something-or-other.

2013 The Auto Page