Real-World Review

2015 Buick Encore: Real World Review

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author photo by Doug DeMuro July 2015

The world of subcompact luxury SUVs is blowing up, and the Buick Encore is one of the pioneers of the segment. Tiny, fuel efficient and reasonably priced, the Encore is aimed at city-dwelling car shoppers who want to combine high-end materials and the ever-popular SUV seating position without purchasing a big, expensive luxury vehicle. So how does the Encore stack up? To find out, we spent a week behind the wheel of a 2015 Buick Encore, and we've gathered our thoughts below.

Inside and Out: Mixed Opinions

We handed off the Buick Encore keys to several members of our editorial staff, and they each came back with roughly the same opinion about the exterior styling and the interior quality: It's a surprisingly mixed bag of good and bad.

Here's what we mean: Nearly everyone who drove the Encore loved its styling, which manages to bring Buick's luxury look to an endearing tiny-car platform. The contours, the profile and even the paint color certainly had us convinced that it was an upscale SUV. But then that begs the question: Why did they saddle our Encore with wheels from its base-model cousin, the Chevrolet Trax? It cheapens the SUV's overall look, and we think Buick could have done better.

It's the same story inside, where the Encore offers a mix of nice materials and subpar touches. For instance, we like the soft-touch plastic, and we think the fake wood trim looks better than it does in most vehicles at this price point. But as our site editor, Brian Moody, asked: Why does a $33,000 luxury car have a manually adjustable seatback? Worse, why are the seats so uncomfortable? Several editors complained about this, and we noticed the same issue with the Encore's Chevrolet Trax mechanical twin.

Same With Features and Performance

It wasn't just styling where we felt the Encore delivered a mixed bag. We were especially disappointed with the car's infotainment system, which suffered from too many buttons, too much lag time and several buttons that had redundant tasks. Here's where we need to make an important distinction: The infotainment system in the Encore is solid in terms of its intent, so the idea of it and the functions it should carry out are great; it's the execution of those ideas that is lacking. One editor disapprovingly noted that the system "felt like the leftover parts bin from General Motors" -- though everyone noted that they liked the Encore's 4G Wi-Fi system. It really shouldn't matter where the parts for the system are sourced; it should just work well the first time and every time, and it doesn't. Other tech features were perplexing, as well. For example, why include a futuristic Wi-Fi hot spot and not smart key entry or push-button starting?

Performance, too, earned the Encore mixed reviews. Brian mentioned that the engine and transmission combination feels "confused," noting that "at times, it feels like it doesn't know what to do." Yet, at other times (especially on the open highway), the engine/transmission combination feels nearly perfect. Other editors mirrored Brian's comments, with one noting that "the turbo engine can handle most situations," but that the transmission "can be a little jerky" in traffic and under hard acceleration. But nobody complained about the Encore's fuel economy figures: It gets up to 25 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, which is excellent for any luxury SUV.

Our Take

In the end, we found the Encore to be a mix of good and bad. Some things impressed us, such as gas mileage, engine performance, the Wi-Fi hot spot and the overall styling, but other items left us disappointed, such as the manually adjustable driver's seat, the mediocre infotainment system and the jerky transmission. In all, we liked the 2015 Buick Encore, but we didn't love it.

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Used 2015 Buick Encore FWD
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Used 2015 Buick Encore
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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: Real World Review - Autotrader