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2016 Buick Encore Sport Touring Review By Steve Purdy


SEE ALSO: Totally Buick

Review By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Buick continues to add vehicles to its lineup, most recently a new mid-size crossover called Envision built in China and a lovely small convertible from Germany called Cascada. The Cascada is at dealers now and we’ll see Envision at dealers before you know it.

Not long ago GM’s near luxury brand added the compact crossover we’re testing this week made in Korea called Encore. It shares some underpinnings and a general character with the nice little Chevy Trax but its personality and price are somewhat different.

First, let’s acknowledge this is a competent and attractive small crossover. Its vertical and stubby appearance makes for exceptionally easy ingress and egress for such a small thing – not the case with all compact crossovers. Style and design of the Encore leave no question of its family affiliation, notwithstanding the “It doesn’t look like a Buick” TV ads. Perhaps we’re still associating the brand with big, luxury cars. That has not been the case for many years.

It certainly looks like a Buick to me with the typical trapezoidal grille with vertical slats sporting a Buick badge in the center. Its perky stance along with a distinctive CUV shape and high-end ambiance seem a bit incongruous with something this small and stubby but it is very nice to look at.

Inside we find an upscale cabin that feels a bit cramped but cozy. Fabric seats on our test car were comfortable with enough adjustment for this reviewer. A busy center stack is topped with a decent sized 7-inch display screen. It took a lot of fumbling around to decipher the controls, settings and adjustments. Some of its functions and controls are non-intuitive like the little collar around the control knob used to make some selections.

Powering our Encore is the more powerful of two 1.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder gasoline engines. This one makes an adequate but uninspiring 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. The lesser engine makes just 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Both get the same 6-speed automatic transmission. Our tester is said to get 32 mpg on the highway, 26 in the city and 29 mpg combined on regular fuel. Our experience was not far off that mark. The lesser engine mileage ratings are nearly the same. Our friends at Edmunds achieved a 0-to-60 mph time of a leisurely 9.8 seconds. This is not the vehicle for the spirited driver.

Our tester is the all-wheel drive version of the mid-trim level Sport Touring with a starting price of $28,850. Our gray metallic paint is optional as is the upgraded audio system with navigation, Intellilink, larger screen and input ports. The list of included content is impressive including cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, all the infotainment functions, dual-zone climate control, remote keyless entry, remote start, cloth seating with leather accents and lots of other stuff. Content is pretty good for this price level. The bottom line on our sticker shows $30,665.

Rear seats are designed for three abreast but they wouldn’t accommodate three full-size people very comfortably. The rear seatbacks fold 60/40 nearly flat for a 48.4 cubic-foot cargo capacity. With the seat backs in position we have 18.8 cubic feet, not best-in-class but not worst either.

GM’s new car warranty covers the Encore for 4 years or 50,000 miles and the powertrain for 6 years or 70,000 miles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Encore a full five-star rating on crashworthiness. Rollover risk gets four stars as do just about all other vehicles. With lots of airbags, stability control, rear view camera and other stuff it’s as safe as anything on the road.

I found a few annoying quirks in my week of driving the Encore, most associated with the controls and information outputs. Perhaps most annoying was that with the multifunction screen in map mode we had no clock. I found that browsing between screens and functions to be less logical than most, although much of this difficulty goes away as we progress through the learning curve.

Ride and handling are good and the cabin is remarkably quiet at speed, even on bad pavement. They’ve done a good job with both sound insulation and active noise-canceling technology. The ride is more gentile than some. This is a Buick after all.

The Encore is a pleasant and attractive vehicle, in my view. It would not be my first choice in compact crossovers, but it might be yours. For the same price you have many choices in like the Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade we recently tested along with the Mazda CX3, Honda HR-V, Nissan Rogue and others.

If it looks like a Buick, it must be a Buick.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved