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2017 Buick Encore: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader February 2017

The 2017 Buick Encore is for those who don't need their SUV to be big. What's more important is the overall look along with the indispensable appeal of sitting up high. Although there are now a handful of other similarly tiny SUVs on the market since the Encore first went on sale 5 years ago, it remains the only one that bridges the gap between cheaper mainstream models and pricier luxury models.

Frankly, its quality, comfort and feature content should represent a sweet spot for a lot of crossover buyers, especially given its appealing slate of improvements for 2017. For starters, it's much better-looking now, with a sleeker face more in keeping with Buick's attractive new design language. The interior overhaul might be the bigger achievement, though, as it features a more premium design and upgraded interior materials. It really does make a difference in elevating the Encore above other small SUVs, including the mechanically related Chevrolet Trax.

Now, the Encore may still not be for everyone. At less than 170 inches in length, it's shorter than some subcompact sedans, and you may need more interior space than it provides. Its available engines, although reasonably efficient, produce rather anemic acceleration. Both mainstream and luxury competitors will be noticeably quicker. But that might not matter if you're just looking for a comfortable, quiet and well-equipped suburban runabout. And if you are, the 2017 Encore could be a great choice.

What's New for 2017?

The Buick Encore gets its first major update for 2017, including a handsome restyling that is not only better looking than what it replaces but brings it more in line with newer Buick models. The interior also gets a welcome upgrade in terms of quality, design and functionality. The latter includes a new tech interface that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity and control.

What We Like

Comfortable ride and upscale interior; abundant features for the money; good fuel economy for an SUV; smaller and more maneuverable than the typical SUV

What We Don't

Small cargo area and back seat; pokey acceleration, even with upgraded engine

How Much?


Fuel Economy

The Encore is offered with two engine options. Most models come with a 138-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which is mated to a standard 6-speed automatic and offers front- or all-wheel drive. With this engine, the Encore returns 27 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. Opting for all-wheel drive lowers those figures to 26 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.

Available on all but the base and Preferred trim levels is a more powerful version of the standard engine, which produces 153 hp. That's still not a lot for an SUV, even one this small. Its fuel economy is still decent, though, with estimates of 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive lowers those figures to 24 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The Encore comes in six trim levels. Base-level models are dubbed simply Encore, while the remaining trims are Preferred, Sport Touring, Preferred II, Essence and Premium.

The base Encore ($23,000) is well-equipped for a base model. It includes 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless start, LED running lights, rear privacy glass, a power driver's seat, an upholstery combination of cloth and simulated leather, a rearview camera, OnStar emergency communications, a Wi-Fi hot spot and Buick's 8-in IntelliLink touchscreen interface that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There's questionable value in the Preferred trim ($24,400), which really only adds a cargo cover and some floor mats. Therefore, the first trim to realistically step up to would be the Sport Touring ($25,600). It gains fog lamps, remote ignition and sportier styling elements (the only trim that does). It can also be equipped with a more powerful engine, which brings with it single-zone automatic climate control. The Safety package, consisting of a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert, is optional.

The Preferred II trim ($26,900) adds dual-zone automatic climate control, the Safety package and a 120-volt household-style outlet.

The Encore Essence trim ($29,000) adds driver memory settings, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, a heated steering wheel and leather upholstery.

Finally, the Premium trim ($30,500) adds forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers and a 7-speaker Bose sound system (optional on all but base and Preferred).

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


All 2017 Buick Encore models come standard with dual front airbags, front-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. The top-of-the-line Premium trim is the only one available with forward-collision and lane-departure warning. A blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on the top three trim levels and optional on the Sport Touring as the Safety package.

The 2017 Encore received a 5-star score for overall, frontal and side crash protection from the government. In tests carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2017 Encore received the best-possible rating of Good in all crash tests.

Behind the Wheel

Climbing inside the Encore, you should be impressed by its handsome cabin featuring high-quality materials. It was upgraded for 2017, and we think it makes a big difference in terms of both appearance and functionality. The previous jumbled array of buttons has mostly been replaced by Buick's large, user-friendly IntelliLink touchscreen interface.

We also appreciate the Encore's commanding driving position -- especially considering its small size. More importantly, it really does feel like a Buick. That means it offers a supple ride thanks to soft, cushy suspension and a supreme level of quiet due to an abundance of sound-quelling materials and a standard active noise-cancellation system.

Performance continues to be an issue with the Encore, however. The standard engine's acceleration is anemic regardless of whether you compare the Encore to mainstream or luxury models. A 9.5-second 0-to-60 time just doesn't cut it. Now, there is a more powerful engine available on most trim levels, which certainly does improve things. We recommend it, but it merely brings the Encore closer to par as opposed to being what we'd consider sufficient -- especially when the car is loaded with people and luggage.

And speaking of which, the Encore may not have sufficient room the back for your needs. Currently, the crossover has a tight back seat and a fairly small cargo area, a function of its small size. Once again, we think many shoppers won't mind, as some -- especially those who rarely carry passengers or lots of stuff -- will flock to the Encore specifically because of its size.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Honda HR-V -- The HR-V isn't as comfortable or as quiet as the Encore, but it is more spacious, offers similar feature content and can be surprisingly luxurious inside if you select its uppermost trim level.

2017 Lincoln MKC -- The MKC is pricier than the Encore to be sure, and it's also a bit bigger, but it's also one of the few small SUVs that shares Buick's emphasis on a comfortable ride and a quiet cabin.

2017 BMW X1 -- Among those SUVs that are similarly sized to the Encore, the X1 would be your best bet. It not only offers the most spacious interior, but it also boasts legitimately premium trappings, a very strong engine and sharp driving dynamics. It does cost considerably more, though.

Used Acura RDX -- If you like the Encore's luxurious appointments but want more power or space, the Acura RDX is a great compact luxury crossover that offers both. Prices are higher, though, so you may want to consider a used model.

Autotrader's Advice

The Encore is an excellent crossover for shoppers who are really just looking for an elevated seating height, a comfy ride and a quiet premium cabin. When choosing a trim level, we would essentially go high or low. Really, the base trim is so well-equipped that the next two trims up only add token extras at a cost that doesn't make much sense. At the same time, we would also consider a loaded Premium model with the upgraded engine, as it does provide sufficient extra feature content to warrant its higher price.

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2017 Buick Encore: New Car Review - Autotrader