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2014 Buick Encore - Big Features In A Small Package

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2014 Buick Encore
Review and Opinion

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, New York Bureau
The Auto Channel

I’ve been wanting to drive Buick’s Encore since its appearance in the market about a year ago. I’ll admit I was somewhat conflicted with the Encore being GM’s smallest crossover SUV and being part of the near-luxury Buick brand. But then again, what’s wrong with that.

With nearly 25,000 Encores sold this year the all-new Encore is a top seller in the Buick model range. J.D. Power recognized the Encore as the highest ranked subcompact CUV in the Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study (APEAL), as well as “Highest Ranked Subcompact CUV in Initial Quality (in a tie).” It’s also an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 2013 Top Safety Pick. And now the 2014 Buick Encore is a finalist for the North American Truck/Utility of the Year.

Buick tells me the Encore moves off the dealer lot quicker than average, in approximately 38 days. The average age of Buick buyers is down by seven years, and that of the Encore buyer is 59 years. Many are empty nesters, early buyers or parents buying the car for a child, but since the title is in the parents’ name, the data gets skewed.

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The 2014 Encore is offered in front-wheel and available all-wheel-drive configurations in four trim levels: Encore (1SB), Encore Convenience (1SD), Encore Leather (1SL) and Encore Premium (1SN). Base prices start at $24,160 and go up to about $30,465.

The feature-rich 1SN Premium trim is the most popular model and is the fastest to turn on dealer lots. Top customer color is White Pearl tri-coat and top interior color is Saddle. There are eight exterior and three interior color choices.

My test-car-for-a-week was a front-wheel-drive model with the Leather Group. It actually was a 2013 model, but very representative of the 2014. Things new for 2014 are the availability of Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Side Blind Zone Alert safety features, and an enhanced IntelliLink with text message support, Siri Eyes Free and smartphone voice recognition pass-through.

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Buick makes it easy when it comes to spec'ing out an Encore. The only powertrain is the 138 HP Ecotec 1.4L Turbo engine mated to a six-speed automatic. Some auto writers have expressed concern with this engine not providing enough performance. I drive a forty-five minute loop around the Philly area to do evaluations that includes in-city stop and go, some hilly drives into the suburbs, and expressway merging and cruising. From my experience around-town, big-city driving is very adequate; you can't go more than 20 mph due to city traffic. Merging onto expressways and cruising is fine too. I drove the Encore up to New York City along I-95 and it keeps up with the best of them, has no trouble to overtake, and is quiet to boot. Granted, it was just me or occasionally with my wife. I can believe that when fully loaded in hilly terrain a bit more power would be a nice-to-have.

EPA test ratings for the Encore are 25 city mpg and 35 highway mpg for a combined of 28 mpg on the front drive model. The all-wheel-drive configuration is EPA test rated at 23 city mpg and 30 highway mpg for a combined of 26 mpg. With the Encore’s 14 gallon fuel tank you should be good for 400 miles between fill ups. In my run up to NYC I got about 29.1 mpg, and I was cruising with the best of them.

Coming back to the Encore being quiet, Buick’s exclusive quiet tuning process consists of acoustically enhanced windshield and side glass, along with numerous noise canceling acoustic treatments to reduce, block and absorb noise and vibration to create a quiet interior cabin. I comfortably enjoyed the audio system and didn’t find any objectionable wind or tire noise.

Encore is built on a global small-crossover platform and engineered with a “one-tire” philosophy. Everything is optimized around a single 18-inch tire specification, designed for more precise suspension tuning, driving refinement, quietness and a feeling of control. To explain, there is different dynamic behavior between steel and alloy wheels, wheel sizes, and tire sizes. When a car company offers wheel/tire choices the suspension is usually tuned one way, and perhaps somewhat in a compromise. The Encore’s one-tire philosophy allows for no compromise.

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The five-passenger Encore is certainly very comfortable up front for an empty-nester couple’s long weekend road trip with plenty of room behind for luggage and such. For a night on the town the rear seat won’t make enemies of your best friends. And if you happen to be an urban-living young couple with youngsters of your own they’ll be happy in the rear seat.

The rear cargo area holds 18.8cuft and when your fold the rear seat that goes up to 48.4cuft. Even the front passenger seat folds flat to extend the cargo length and accommodate long items – up to eight feet long – that otherwise would not fit in a vehicle of this size.

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A few more things I liked. A rear view camera is standard and wonderful to have in maneuvering tight parking in a big city. Heated seats and a heated steering wheel are on the Leather and Premium models. Lane-departure warning, side blind zone alert, forward collision alert and front/rear park assist are available on certain models.

The recline adjustment for the front seats is manual. I prefer full power on front seats including the recline, especially when different drivers use the vehicle and make use of the memory seating feature. I’m a big fan of a power-fold feature on outside mirrors, since in crowded cities they need to be folded often to prevent being damaged by large trucks passing while parked on narrow streets. If you are interested to compare the 2014 Buick Encore to other compact crossover SUVs, such as the VW Tiguan, MINI Countryman, BMW X1, Fiat 500L or others, you can do that right here on For more information and detailed specifications on the 2014 Buick Encore go to

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The Buick Encore was engineered by Opel in Rüsselsheim, Germany and is produced in Korea for the U.S. market. It is also sold in Canada and China and in Europe as the Opel Mokka, with a slightly different appearance.

Customers who purchase or lease an eligible new 2014 Buick in the U.S. will be covered by a new maintenance program that includes certain scheduled services for two years or 24,000 miles, whichever occurs first. This is nice to have knowing that for two years there is no maintenance costs.

© Larry Nutson