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Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

On my final day with the compact Buick Encore crossover I had an early meeting in the Detroit suburbs, not far from Pontiac, where we discovered a charming little coffee shop I’ll tell you more about later. On the way back to my world headquarters in mid-Michigan the back roads called. Intermittent light rain was doing its part to convince Mother Nature it is time for spring greening, without much success. Those great country two-lanes will be the perfect venue to give us a sense of the little Encore.

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From our café in Keego Harbor the county roads wind generally west through mostly upscale neighborhoods surrounding dozens of lakes, wetlands and woodlots. A disproportional number of other vehicles on these roads are high-end ones. The Buick Encore feels right at home in this environment. It also looks the part in this “White Frost” color with its stubby, urban-chic styling. Graceful sculpting all around and a confidently tall stance with flashy 18-inch aluminum wheels adds a little cred and hints at the image of a city car blown up and dressed up. It is still a compact, after all, sharing underpinnings with the Chevy Trax and a variety of other GM compacts.

The interior in our “Premium” grade car holds its own with the high-enders as well. Lots of nice leather, metal and good-quality plastics rule the cockpit. Because of its tall profile ingress and egress are pretty good in the front and it does not feel cramped. Rear seat enterers will need to duck and there’s not a lot of foot room, but again, this is a compact. Expect only modest cargo capacity with 18.8 cubic feet behind the second seat and 40.4 with seat backs folded 60/40.


Push-button start and availability lots of driver assistance features makes content competitive. The multi-function screen features large icons and sensible navigation paths making it mostly easy to manage. The main annoyance was the seat-belt buzzer. It comes on immediately as you start the car, not even giving any time to buckle up, and it is way too loud – an annoyance shared by all the GM vehicles we’ve tested lately.

Powering this little Korean-built, German-designed, 5-passenger, front-wheel drive crossover is a tiny, 1.4-liter turbo with surprising competence. With only 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque and an unremarkable six-speed automatic transmission you’d expect tepid acceleration. It’ll do 0-to-60 in a leisurely 10.7 seconds, but it feels quicker than that when you keep the revs up with the manual shift mode. The EPA says we can expect about 33 mpg on the highway and 27 in the city, and that’s close to what we experienced. The 14-gallon fuel tank makes for a good cruising range of around 400 miles. All-wheel drive is available in all five trim levels.

Now, back to that drive home.

Having plied these roads for many years I’ve learned how to avoid the unpaved two-lanes as we do our best to avoid civilization. Our underfunding of infrastructure here in Michigan over the past few decades means plenty of rough surfaces, though with pot holes and deteriorating surfaces the rule until we get away from the city. The Encore felt surprisingly agile with nicely tuned, well-balanced suspension. The ride is a bit jumpy because of the relatively short wheelbase but even under spirited driving it handled all conditions, even a few dirt roads I decided to take, flawlessly. It was as quiet inside as you would expect though some wind noise intrudes at higher speeds.

You can get the base Encore for just under 23-grand without any extras. Our top-of-the-line Premium model shows a starting price of $31,000. With a nice list of options, the bottom line on the sticker shows $35,630. That includes: leather, navigation with real-time traffic, power sunroof, all the driver assistance stuff, premium sound, stop-start, the fancy wheels and a lot of other stuff.

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

The little eatery referenced earlier is Bosko’s Coffee & Kitchen on Orchard Lake Road just east of Cass Lake Road. Sort of a café, or donut shop, or deli, it’s hard to categorize. Their breads come from the world-renowned Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor and coffee from our best roaster, Great Lakes Coffee in downtown Detroit. At 9 AM I had the place nearly to myself and for 6-bucks I had the best croissant breakfast sandwich ever – way better than the one I paid 7-bucks for at Panara the day before.

So, the Bosko is there in Keego Harbor, just waiting to be discovered, and the Buick Encore awaits your attention at your Buick showroom.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

2018 BUICK ENCORE PREMIUM FWD - CONSUMER REPORTS: Overall Score 73; Reliability (better) , Satisfaction (worse) - 23 MPG