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2015 Buick Encore: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader September 2014

The 2015 Buick Encore is a small premium SUV that's now entering its third year on the U.S. market. At less than 170 inches in length, the Encore isn't just small -- it's tiny. It's even shorter than Chevrolet's subcompact Sonic sedan, and it uses a small 4-cylinder engine. The engine makes less than 140 horsepower, which falls below most economy cars in terms of muscle.

Why is it so small? Because many shoppers want to combine premium appointments, an SUV driving position and exceptional gas mileage -- and it's the Encore's mission to do just that. No, the Encore doesn't take on BMW or Mercedes in terms of driving experience, but it does offer luxury-SUV appointments and cachet without asking shoppers to shell out an arm and a leg to get in the door.

What's New for 2015?

The Encore returns for 2015 with only minor changes, including a new OnStar system with Wi-Fi connectivity and a new Experience Buick option package that combines a navigation system, a power sunroof and chrome alloy wheels.

What We Like

Comfortable ride and upscale interior; exceptional price point; strong fuel economy for an SUV

What We Don't

Might be a little too small; performance could definitely use a boost, even at the expense of gas mileage

How Much?

$25,000-$31,800

Fuel Economy

The Encore is only available with one engine: a 138-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. It's mated to a standard 6-speed automatic and returns 25 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive. For shoppers who upgrade to all-wheel drive, gas mileage drops to 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The Encore comes in four trim levels. Base-level models are simply dubbed Encore, while the higher trims are Convenience, Leather and Premium.

The Encore ($25,000) is well-equipped for a base model. Many upscale features are standard, including 18-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power driver's seat and a rearview camera. Also included is Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system with a 7-in color touchscreen. Of course, the Encore has all the features you'd expect from a car in its price range, including remote keyless entry, cruise control and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.

Drivers who upgrade to the Convenience ($27,100) get several new luxury features. They include remote starting, dual-zone automatic climate control and auto-dimming mirrors. The Encore Convenience also adds fog lamps.

Next up is the Encore Leather ($28,800), which adds even more premium items. Headlining the additions are a heated steering wheel and heated front seats, though the Leather also adds a power passenger seat and a driver's-seat-memory package.

Topping the Encore range is the Premium ($30,200). In addition to standard equipment from other models, it adds rain-sensing wipers, front and rear park assist, a forward-collision alert system and a lane-departure warning system.

Major Encore options include roof rails, all-wheel drive and a new-for-2015 Experience Buick option package that adds a navigation system, chrome alloy wheels and a power sunroof.

Safety

All 2015 Buick Encore models come standard with a wide array of safety features. They include dual front airbags, driver and passenger knee airbags, side-curtain airbags and seat-mounted side torso airbags. A rearview camera is also standard, as are 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and GM's StabiliTrak stability control system. Available features include forward-collision alert, front and rear park assist, and a lane-departure warning system.

The all-wheel-drive Encore received 5-star ratings overall in government crash-testing, while the 2-wheel-drive model earned four stars overall. Both models earned five stars in front and side tests and four stars in rollover tests. In tests carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Encore generally performed well, except for a troubling Poor rating in the group's new small-overlap front assessment -- a test that has tripped up many new vehicles.

Behind the Wheel

Climbing inside the Encore, you're immediately struck by the handsome cabin and high-quality materials. It's particularly impressive considering the Encore's reasonable pricing that starts below $26,000 with destination. The center stack is well-designed, and the cabin even boasts a stylish appearance.

We also appreciate the Encore's commanding driving position, especially considering its compact-car roots. More importantly, it really does feel like a Buick, meaning that it offers a supple ride thanks to soft, cushy suspension. No, the Encore isn't a sports car around the corners, but we suspect that most buyers would rather have the better ride.

Our biggest complaint with the Encore is its acceleration. While we appreciate the gas mileage, we'd happily sacrifice a few mpg for a better 0-to-60 time. As it stands, the Encore reaches 60 miles per hour in around 9.5 seconds, which makes it one of the slowest SUVs on the market, but that doesn't even tell the whole story. The Encore feels even more sluggish on the highway, where its 138-hp engine feels overmatched in high-speed passing.

The Encore could also use some extra room in back. Currently, the crossover has a tight back seat and a fairly small cargo area -- a function of its small size. Once again, we think that many shoppers won't mind, as some -- especially those who rarely carry passengers or lots of equipment -- will flock to the Encore specifically because of its size.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW X1 -- The all-new X1 functions more like a tall wagon than a crossover, contrary to the high-roofed Encore, which has much more traditional SUV height. The X1 is also sportier thanks to turbocharged engines and standard rear-wheel drive. The two models are priced -- and sized -- similarly.

MINI Countryman -- Even the tiny MINI Countryman is larger than the Encore. The two are still competitors, especially on price with the Countryman starting around $22,500, but the Countryman is a better choice for drivers who want a sportier ride.

Mazda CX-5 -- Mazda's latest compact SUV doesn't have the Encore's premium badge, but it does boast similar gas mileage, and some upscale models are just as well-equipped as the nicest Encores.

AutoTrader's Advice

If you can live with the tepid acceleration, the Encore is a strong choice. In terms of picking a trim, we think that the base-level Encore has just about everything you might need. On the other hand, if you're going to splurge, go with an Encore Premium -- for just $5,000 more than a base-level Encore, it offers high-end luxury-car amenities.

Find a Buick Encore for sale

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Buick Encore: New Car Review - Autotrader