For 2019, Buick makes things easier by scaling back the total number of trim levels, with the six available trims last year now pared down to four. Of the available trims, the second-from-the-top Sport Touring hits the sweet spot. To the already well-equipped model, we'd add the Safety Package, the optional navigation system, dual-zone climate control, and auto-dimming mirrors. Once this puzzle is pieced together, the Encore becomes a well-equipped subcompact crossover that's sure to coddle and cosset. Here's our Encore as it'd look on delivery day:
- Model: 2019 Buick Encore Sport Touring
- Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
- Output: 138 hp / 148 lb-ft
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
- Fuel Economy: 21 City / 26 Hwy
- Options: Dual-zone automatic climate control ($355), Navigation ($495), Safety Package ($495, 120-volt power outlet, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring)
- Base Price: $26,795 (including a $995 destination charge)
- Best Value Price: $28,140
Once upon a time, people referred to certain Buicks as "banker's hot-rods." Spoiler alert: the Encore is decidedly not a banker's hot-rod.
Struggling to motivate this baby Buick is a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, offered in two different iterations. The first makes 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, and is a bit weak in the knees – don't expect 60 miles per hour to roll around sooner than 9.5 seconds. Add the optional all-wheel drive into the mix, and 60 mph doesn't arrive until about 10 seconds after you mash the gas. In return for sacrificing performance, the motor delivers decidedly thrifty gas mileage of 26 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg highway, and 28 combined, according to the EPA.
We're bigger fans of the optional 1.4-liter engine on the books, pumping out slightly better numbers of 153 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. The additional power is welcome, even if it's available within a narrower powerband. This engine also has stop-start functionality, which (thankfully) is relatively unobtrusive in operation.
Out on the road, the classic attributes of a quiet Buick ride come through with aplomb. For such a small and affordable crossover, it does an excellent job of metering out the road's various imperfections when puttering about in any urban locale. On the highway, however, the short wheelbase doesn't jive well with expansion joints or other rhythmic jolts at high speeds. But even in these scenarios, the QuietTuning sound-deadening process keeps things appropriately hushed.
It's hard to massage a narrow, tall box into something attractive. The Encore, though, has managed to maintain an air of elegance and tastefulness in the design. The pleasing aesthetics are no doubt helped by the use of a subtly squared-off roofline and hoodline, lending the tiny crossover a bit of an SUV-like shape, though no one will be confusing one of these for an old Blazer or Samurai. The pushed-out wheels, short overhangs, formally-sloped hatch, and front end using horizontal design cues all work to make this Buick look genuinely good rather than contrived. It may not be regaled as beautiful, but it sure looks better than some other crossovers it competes with.
Of course, if you're buying an Encore, you'll be spending more time inside it than looking at the sheetmetal. Which makes it a good thing, then, that the cabin of the Encore is an attractive and comfortable place to spend time in. Quality materials abound, and the layout of the buttons and controls are straightforward and easy to reach. We imagine that the learning curve for most buyers will be quick and painless.
Also impressive is the space that GM has managed to carve out of the Encore. The 35 inches of rear leg room and 50 inches of rear hip room is generous for a car of this size; the similarly-sized Toyota CH-R, for example, musters only 31.7 inches of rear leg room and 48 inches of hip room. This doesn't mean that three adults will have stretch-out room in the second row, but it makes the Encore a better choice for people hauling than the competition. Still, we'd cap our passenger count at two in back unless the passengers in question are children or pets.
Cargo space is decent as well, with 19 cubic feet behind the back seats and 48 cubes with the second row folded flat. To return again to the CH-R comparison, the wee Toyota also has 19 cubic feet of space behind the second row but only 36 cubes when the rear seats are folded down.
The Best and Worst Things
Well equipped and attractive, the Encore makes a strong case for the buyer looking for a crossover of this size.
Unfortunately, those weak-chested powertrains leave a lot to be desired performance-wise. If Buick could add a little more gusto under the hood, it would be much appreciated.
Right For? Wrong For?
This is the perfect ride for young couples, singles, and urban dwellers needing a city runabout.
If you have a family, do lots of highway jaunts, or just need a lot of space more often than not, this isn't the vehicle for you.
The Bottom Line
The 2019 Buick Encore at first might seem like a lot less automobile than other choices out there, but take a minute to get to know this scrappy crossover and it becomes apparent it offers nearly everything an apartment-living, city-dwelling millennial or boomer needs. With an attractive style, good gas mileage, and just enough space, the Encore makes a strong case that sometimes less really is more.