2013 Buick Encore Review | Toronto Sun
By Daniel Barron, Toronto Sun
Entry-level luxury vehicles are common and compact crossovers are practically a dime a dozen, but how many entry-level luxury compact crossovers are on the market right now? A lot less than you may think, which makes the 2013 Buick Encore a thoroughly intriguing new entry to General Motors’ line-up.
GM never hesitates to describe Buick as a luxury brand, but the automaker knows Buick is different from the Cadillacs, Audis, and Infinitis of the world. It’s not an exclusive club, so to speak. It’s down-to-earth, with more than just the super-rich invited to become part of the family. You don’t have to think twice about hopping into a Buick on a Sunday night while wearing track pants and driving to Pizza Pizza for a walk-in special.
This is made clear simply by considering the prices of Buick vehicles, and the Encore is certainly no exception. While small luxury crossovers such as the BMW X1, Audi Q5, and Range Rover Evoque demand a price premium, the Encore begins in the mid-$20,000 range – several thousand dollars less than the lowest-priced versions of any of the aforementioned models.
Look closely and you’ll see there were concessions that had to be made but taken as a whole, Encore makes a compelling package.
The first thing I can’t help but notice is just how small Encore is. One of them scoots past me on an Atlanta freeway and I have a hard time believing this is made by the same company that once created some of the largest, most over-the-top passenger vehicles on the road.
It shares platform with two other new GM vehicles, Europe’s Opel Mokka, as well as the new Chevrolet Trax. While the Encore isn’t particularly long, it has a generous wheelbase considering its overall length, and it’s a tall vehicle.
Sure enough, there is plenty of room inside even for four full-sized adult males. I hear numerous “you have enough room back there?” questions directed at rear seat passengers throughout the day and every one is met with an “I’m great, thanks,” or some version of that. My only complaint is the lack of foot room in every seating position.
There’s great use of space for cargo as well. Even with the back seats in the upright position, there’s a flat, roomy area behind them for luggage, groceries or what-not, and when larger items need to be transported, the 60/40 split rear seats and front passenger seat fold flat, no matter which Encore trim level you opt for.
Regardless of how loaded up the vehicle is, I’m as surprised by its peppiness as I am by its size. It uses the same tiny 1.4-litre turbo engine found in the Chevrolet Cruze and Sonic, and though it makes a modest 138-horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. of torque, acceleration is never inadequate.
At worst, the engine tends to noticeably whine during wide open throttle – even with Bose’s active noise cancellation that comes standard on every Encore – but it eagerly moves the Encore past other vehicles on the road when used in tandem with the standard six-speed automatic transmission in manual mode.
Buick makes no secret that performance isn’t meant to be the Encore’s forte. During research into the vehicle, customers wanted, and liked, its manoeuvrability, adaptability, and technology the most. I tend to agree, as it’s easy to park thanks to its diminutive size and rear camera; it can carry lots of stuff, as outlined above; and, technology is covered thanks to GM’s IntelliLink, OnStar, and more.
It does a decent job handling the few twisties we encounter during our journey, but it’s not as focused on performance as German rivals, such as the aforementioned X1 or Q5. The Encore is best at upholding the Buick staples – quiet, snazzy interior and a smooth ride.