2014 Buick Encore Heels on Wheels Review
HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel
Rich with elegance and agility, the 2014 Buick Encore brings small-sized crossover luxury for five.
INTRO TO THE ENCORE VEHICLE
The Encore is the most recent addition to the revised Buick brand, and its purpose is to do what the more common competitors cannot do: weave luxury throughout its small-sized crossover cabin. And because Buick is chasing a new generation of drivers, you get gobs of connectivity technology to deepen your relationship with your smartphone.
I drove a 2014 Buick Encore with the standard 138-horspower turbocharged ECOTEC 1.4-liter four-cylinder paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. Available four trim levels distinguished by packages, my fully loaded Encore Premium came with the following standard features: leather upholstery; heated front seats; heated steering wheel; power front seating; remote vehicle start; fog lamps; side blind zone alert; rear cross traffic alert; Bluetooth; XM Radio; a rearview camera; an upgraded Bose audio system; rain sensing wipers; front and rear park assist; forward collision alert; lane departure warning; and eighteen-inch wheels. Price as described came to $28,695.
Now in its second year of production, the Encore adds safety technology like an optional blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alerts. Buick does currently corner the market in reasonably priced smaller crossovers – you can step up to a BMW X1 for a lot more money; or lower your elegance expectations and opt for an everyday crossover like the Kia Sportage, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 (which have more room).
HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA
Stylish But Comfortable Results: Despite its small size, the Encore offers easy for all with four wide, generous doors. The interior is a skilled mix of dark and light tones constructed from premium materials – although you’ll feel like you are riding in a Honda Fit compact. The Encore is exceedingly tech-savvy, featuring Buick’s exclusive IntelliLink that integrates your smart phone to a high-definition touch-screen and voice command system. However, the center stack is an example of poor layout execution – any driver will find the amount of commands crammed in here extremely overwhelming. And of all the conveniences, there is no power liftgate command or push-button start.
Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Encore highest possible ratings “Good” in all but one area – the Encore earned “Poor” in the new small-overlap frontal-offset crash test like most competitors. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the all-wheel version an overall rating of 5-Stars (the front-wheel received 4-Stars).
Cost Issues: A base Buick Encore starts at $24,160 and does include some convenient and stylish extras like Bluetooth, eighteen-inch wheels, XM Radio, IntelliLink, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Price tops out at $28,695.
Activity & Performance Ability: A total of138 ponies is not a lot of horsepower – and the turbocharged engine does its best to speed past this calamity – but a whiny lag is felt. I will say thanks to the standard QuiteTuning, Buick’s active noise cancellation technology, sound-absorbing materials and quite-tuned tires do create a traveling sanctuary. Almost all of the safety technology is much better suited for an SUV of real size and girth, omitting the rearview camera, as the Encore does suffer from poor rear visibility due to huge headrests on front and rear seats.
The Green Concern: With all-wheel drive, the 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine gets 23-city/30 highway for a combined 26 miles-per-gallon, which is on par with The Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage. With front-wheel drive, numbers are 25-city/33-highway for a combined 28.
FINAL PARTING WORDS
If the smaller, more economical crossovers are too uncouth for you, the 2014 Buick Encore crams as much luxury and tech as possible into its tiny interior – perhaps overlooking a few practical issues in its quest to dazzle younger buyers.
©2013 Katrina Ramser