A few years back, the idea of a subcompact crossover from Buick, of all brands, might have seemed almost radical. Since its debut as a 2013 model, the Encore has become a mainstream player with plenty of fans. In fact, it’s been the best-selling Buick model. After all, you get the footprint of an economy car, coupled with access to a selection of luxury and convenience features that would ordinarily be associated with larger, more expensive vehicles.
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2017 Buick Encore Overview
What's New for 2017
After introducing a more powerful Sport Touring model for 2016, Buick has given the 2017 Encore a freshened exterior and reworked interior layout. The sculpted front end has a redesigned fascia and winged grille, with new headlights, taillamps, and signature LED lighting. Front fenders and the hood are new. Inside is a redesigned instrument panel with a 4.2-inch information display, plus an 8-inch touchscreen for the IntelliLink infotainment system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now available. Keyless ignition is newly standard.
Buick has renamed three trim levels: the former Base model is now Preferred, Convenience has changed to Preferred II, and the previous Leather trim is now called Essence. A lower-priced, special-order base model also is available for 2017.
Choosing Your Buick Encore
Considering its petite exterior dimensions, the Encore's interior is more spacious than might be expected. Cargo space behind the back seat totals 18.8 cubic feet, which is more than you get in Buick's largest sedan. With that seat folded, volume grows to 48.4 cubic feet, which is comparable to a compact wagon. The front passenger seat folds down as well – a nifty feature that lets you carry long objects (up to 8 feet) and still close the tailgate.
The Encore's turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder base engine produces 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. An alternative version of the engine, standard in the Sport Touring model, boosts output to 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet. All-wheel drive is available for each Encore, for an additional $1,500, in place of the standard front-drive layout.
With front-drive, fuel economy of base-engine models is estimated at 25 mpg in city driving and 33 mpg on the highway. All-wheel drive drops the figures to 23/30 mpg (city/highway). Despite its more powerful engine, the Sport Touring version is thriftier, estimated at 28/34 mpg (city/highway) with front-drive, and 26/31 mpg with all-wheel drive.
Bose active noise cancellation is standard. So is GM’s OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity and a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Like other Buicks, the Encore is rather generously equipped in base form, and becomes almost luxurious as you move up the trim levels:
Moving up each trim level doesn’t add too much to the total price, considering the extra features you get at each step. In our view, the Preferred II and Sport Touring versions provide especially good value. In addition to a little extra power, the Sport Touring offers better fuel economy. Preferred II trim adds a pair of useful active safety features.
2017 Buick Encore Review
As one of the first premium subcompact crossovers, the Buick Encore quickly set the trend for the segment when it rolled out in 2013. A weak standard engine has since been joined by a more powerful variant.
Pricing and Equipment
Premium subcompact crossovers choices are still few in number, giving the Buick Encore an important edge in an effort to reach buyers. This model is powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is the standard and all-wheel drive is available for a $1,500 upgrade. Shoppers have their choice of five trim levels.
Beginning in 2016, Buick released an upgraded turbo engine available in the all-new Sport Touring edition. The new engine includes direct injection, increasing standard performance from 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque to 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Standard, convenience, leather, and premium editions are equipped with the base engine.
The 2017 Encore offers a long list of standard equipment, including painted 18-inch aluminum wheels, a rearview camera, a WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth connectivity, and 10 airbags. The convenience group or trim brings in dual-zone climate control, a 110-volt outlet, rear cross traffic alert and blind zone alert, and a remote vehicle starter system. The leather group brings in a heated leather steering wheel in addition to leather seats.
The Sport Touring edition provides the more powerful turbo engine, therefore this trim should be considered for that reason alone. The enhanced turbo is peppy and delivers sufficient power around town and on the highway.
A tight turning radius makes the Encore easy to park, especially on city streets where parallel parking is your only option.
The suspension is soft, but that isn’t a bad thing. Similar small SUVs don’t provide the cushioned feel over rough roads that the Encore delivers.
The base engine is thrifty, but it isn’t especially powerful. Choosing the Sport Touring edition provides a more robust powertrain for this diminutive crossover. Making this engine standard across the model line would go far in eliminating that concern.
The better fuel economy rating comes with the more powerful engine. The base engine is EPA-rated at only 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway in all-wheel drive models or 2 mpg less than the enhanced engine.
Buick has brought its “quiet tuning” experience to its smallest model and that’s no small feat. Besides the quiet, shoppers will find premium touches throughout, including soft-touch materials, available leather, and metal accents.
The Buick IntelliLink infotainment system is one of the better ones out there, offering accurate turn-by-turn navigation along with overall ease of use. An all-new frameless 8-inch color touchscreen is a welcome addition.
A tight back seat means adult passengers will find that space cramped, especially for legroom. The 60-40 split-folding bench seat offers seat belts for three, but two is ideal.
Standard cargo space measures just 18.8 cubic feet and that means luggage room is limited. At the same time, flipping down part of the rear seat and the front seat means you can accommodate items up to eight feet long inside the SUV.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
The Buick Encore comes well equipped. The larger touchscreen is visually appealing and the infotainment system is both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
Offering an enhanced turbo engine with the Encore was a wise move on Buick’s part. That it is available on only one trim level is a disappointment.
The Bottom Line
With the pending demise of the Verano compact sedan after 2017, the low-cost mantle for the Buick brand will transfer to the Encore. Stiff competition in the segment means shoppers should weigh this model against top-trim crossovers from mainstream brands.
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