The 2018 model year marks the Buick Encore’s fifth here in the United States, and the song remains the same for the swanky subcompact, a cheerful chipmunk that promises pint-sized driving dynamics, a near-premium charm, and a nimble, manageable footprint. And unsurprisingly, considering its success, things aren’t changing much for 2018.
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2018 Buick Encore Overview
What's New for 2018
Buick bumped the 2018 Encore’s price by $50 across the board, but added a new capless fuel filler as standard and made the more powerful version of the brand’s 1.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder – previously only available with the Sport Touring trim – an $895 on the Sport Touring, Preferred II, Essence, and Premium trims.
Choosing Your Buick Encore
Buick offers the 2018 Encore in six trims, ranging from the $23,965 Encore 1SV (including $995 destination) to the aptly-named – and priced, at $31,490 – Premium in front-wheel drive forms, with various options and packages available on all but the bottom model. Similarly, if one prefers to have the sure-footedness the Encore’s shape suggests, they’ll need to at least select the $25,340 Preferred trim and then add $1,500 for the all-wheel-drive system.
Built into all Encores, however, is “QuietTuning”, a combination of mechanical and electronic systems – including an in-cabin microphone and active noise cancellation system – that’s sure to please most of Buick’s old-school buyers, yet – as will quickly become apparent – doesn’t come at the cost of meeting the tech demands of those new to the brand.
All Encore’s come with at least 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque as standard, thanks to a 1.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder. Customers that need more speed can grab an uprated version of this engine with 153 ponies and 177 lb-ft, although six-speed automatic transmissions are the only way to go, regardless of output.
The most affordable path to Buick ownership, the Encore 1SV rings up at just $23,965 (including a $975 destination charge). But as it’s a Buick, there’s nothing “base” about this Encore.
Included in its impressive list of standard comfort and convenience items are an eight-inch color touch screen infotainment system with Sirius XM, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, proximity entry with push-button start, an enhanced 4.2-inch multicolor driver information center, a rear-view camera, six-way power driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with phone and audio controls, and 18-inch ten-spoke alloy wheels.
Customers aren’t likely to spot the Encore 1SV at dealerships, though. Instead, this model is reserved largely for fleet use – of the 45 Encores at a local dealership, not a single one is from the 1SV grade. That’s probably for the best, since this base trim is only available with front-wheel drive, the low-output version of the 1.4-liter, turbocharged engine, and in just three different colors.
While the 1SV does its time in rental fleets, the Preferred is the effective base trim for most consumers, ringing up at $25,340.
The big news here is that consumers can grab all-wheel drive, which adds $2,875 to the price tag. Beyond that, the Encore Preferred is mostly identical to the base model in terms of equipment – the only additions are a rear cargo cover and carpet floor mats, and the introduction of a few dealer-installed cargo and protection accessories. The Preferred also opens up the Encore’s color palettes, offering customers more choice for exterior shades and a second interior color scheme.
It’s at this $26,540 level that the uprated engine option first appears, as does the benefit of its automatic stop-start system – look EPA figures of 27 and 33 mpg in front-drive trim and 27/33 and 26 and 31 with all-wheel drive. Besides granting access to the more powerful engine – which itself is an $895 extra – the $1,200 step up to the Sport Touring adds fog lamps, remote start, an exclusive rear spoiler and Midnight Silver wheel finish.
Adding navigation to the Sport Touring’s infotainment system requires a dual-zone automatic climate control system and an auto-dimming rearview mirror for a total price of $850 – oddly, both the navigation system and the auto-dimming mirror are listed for separate prices, even though they can’t be configured separately. A $595 Bose seven-speaker sound system, a $900 power tilt/slide moonroof, and the $495 Safety Package (blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert) are the only other notable changes.
The Preferred II trim rings up at $29,340 and adds the auto-dimming mirror, Safety Package, and dual-zone climate control as standard. The navigation system remains a $495 option, although it’s also available as part of the $1,940 Experience Buick Package, included alongside satellite radio, a power moonroof, and 18-inch chrome wheels.
The Encore Essence is where Buick starts to show its more traditional luxury features, including leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a six-way power passenger’s seat, driver’s seat memory, and LED headlights. It’s also where the Encore exceeds the $30,000 mark – by $40 – even without AWD, the peppier powerplant or other options. Aside from the upgraded features and upholstery, the Essence carries on with the same optional extras as the Preferred II and for the same prices.
The $31,490 Encore Premium almost has it all. It adds Bose audio, rain-sensing wiper, and front and rear parking sensors. If those aren’t enough to attract you, the presence of standard forward collision warning and lane departure warning – which are both exclusive to the Encore Premium – should at the least appeal to the safety conscious. The Experience Buick Package, navigation, and moonroof remain optional extras, even on this range-topping model.
You want the more powerful engine, so plan on budgeting for at least the Encore Preferred and then setting aside an extra $895 for the uprated, 1.4-liter turbo. From there, the Essence provides a good mix of content without breaking the bank. We’d pass on any of the optional extras, though – the moonroof isn’t that special, while the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make the $495 navigation system obsolete.
2018 Buick Encore Review
The 2018 Buick Encore, available in six trims, boasts attractive styling, a smooth ride, and available all-wheel-drive on all but the entry model. But a smallish interior, lackluster base engine, pricey upper trims, and lack of advanced safety features keep it from being a top pick.
The 2018 Buick Encore pricing begins at $23,915 for a front-wheel-drive model in base trim and tops out at $36,570 for the all-wheel-drive Premium level finished in available Winterberry Red Metallic and equipped with the optional Experience Buick Package (moonroof, chrome wheels, 8-inch touchscreen with navigation) and more powerful direct injection 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
Given Buick's near-luxury marching orders, all Encores are equipped with the usual power features plus a rear view camera, 4G wifi hotspot, push-button start, 18-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power driver's seat, and cabin active noise cancellation.
We'd skip the base, Preferred, and Sport Touring trims due to limited content; and pass on Essence and Premium models that are priced at or near the Envision's level and instead opt for the Preferred II trim that allows access to the available direct-injection turbo and comes with standard rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, 10-spoke alloy wheels, fog lights, and remote start. The only no-cost color option on this trim is Summit White, so we'd also suggest budgeting anywhere from $395 to $995 for one of the metallic paint shades.
Here's how we'd build it:
- Model: 2018 Buick Encore Preferred II
- Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
- Output: 153 horsepower / 177 lb ft
- Transmission:Six-speed automatic with start-stop
- Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
- MPG: 28 City / 34 Hwy
- Options: Uprated 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbo ($895), metallic paint ($395)
- Base Price: $27,790 (including a $925 destination fee)
- Best Value Price:$29,080
The Encore features a capable chassis that produces a comfortable ride and predictable handling, even over most poor road surfaces, while the optional direct injection, 1.4-liter turbo with standard start/stop not only provides better acceleration, but better EPA-estimated fuel economy numbers than the base engine. On the highway, acoustic glass and noise-cancelling technology keep tire, road, and engine noise at bay.
But the ride is more competent than sporty. This may be a small car, but it's also a relatively tall one, and it wallows like it when pushed through a tighter corner. Likewise, the base 1.6-liter turbo, with only 138 horsepower on tap, struggles to get up to highway speeds quickly and passing on freeways requires advanced planning. If you can, grab the more powerful option.
Wrapped in swoopy sheetmetal, last year's updates included a simpler grille and cleaner front fascia while Buick dropped its traditional, but non-functional, portholes. Inside, the cabin is nicely finished with supportive front seats and a clean, graceful dashboard with a central eight-inch touchscreen placed high for easier access.
But perfection is eluded as larger adults may find the narrow interior confining, there's no central armrest for the front passenger, accommodations are tight in back, and leather seating is only offered on Essence and Premium models.
The Best and Worst Things
The Encore's refined ride and quiet, elegant interior make it an ideal highway cruiser.
On the flip side, while a rear view camera is standard, a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert is optional on the Sport Touring and only standard on models above it. In addition, forward collision warning and lane departure warning are only found on the Premium model, while adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking aren't even available.
Right For? Wrong For?
A polished ride, quiet, tasteful interior, hatchback versatility, and affordable entry price make the Encore a good choice for empty nesters.
Considering the Encore's near-luxury crossover status, the lack of a number of advanced safety technologies is surprising and could be a real turn-off for safety conscious buyers.
The Bottom Line
The 2018 Buick Encore is a fine choice for owners eager to get a taste of the luxury lifestyle without the price, but we advise caution when placing an order – make sure you grab the more powerful engine, and understand that while you're buying a Buick, this isn't the land yacht of yesteryear, and its snug interior reflects that fact.
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