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.

Best Value

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

Performance

Buick Encore

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.

Style

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?

Buick Encore

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.