Buick is known for their large cars rather than their small ones, but that hasn’t stopped them from throwing their hat into the crossover ring. The 2019 Buick Encore carries the torch largely unchanged, a miniature Enclave for the masses. So far, Buick’s bet has been a good one: the Encore is their best-selling vehicle in North America. The Encore lags behind the competition in a few areas, but it still offers refined features in a compact package.
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2019 Buick Encore Overview
What's New for 2019
The biggest change for 2019 is in the trim lineup, which has been simplified to four. Certain safety technologies are now more widely available, and two new exterior colors (Deep Azure Metallic and Satin Steel Metallic) join the stable.
Choosing Your Buick Encore
All Encores come with a choice of two engines, both 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder units. The base engine produces 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, while the upgraded engine has stop-start technology and boosts numbers to 153 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is a $1,500 option on the upper three trims, although it’s not always available with both engines.
These numbers make the Encore a bit slow next to other crossovers, but the blow is eased by strong fuel efficiency. In front-wheel-drive models, the EPA estimates that the stop-start engine will get 27 miles per gallon city, 33 mpg highway, and 30 combined. The base engine may be smaller, but it labors more and lacks stop-start, so mileage drops to 25/33/28 mpg (city/highway/combined).
Rear cargo space is a mediocre 19 cubic feet, though it opens up to 48 with the seats down. The seats are a little cramped as well – passengers in the rear may find that head and leg room aren’t exceptional. But, generally, the interior is well-outfitted, with keyless entry and start, an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen, a rearview camera, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The remaining features and tech are divided across four trims: Encore 1SV, Preferred, Sport Touring, and Essence.
The upgraded engine is worth springing for, as the base unit struggles under load. This means moving up to the Sport Touring trim, which also opens up more important options. Don’t go too overboard – the 2019 Buick Encore has a pleasant interior, but it can easily push well north of $30,000 with too many options.
2019 Buick Encore Review
Since the Encore first showed up at dealerships in 2013, the pipsqueak crossover has managed to be Buick's best-selling car in their lineup – a far cry from the days when the lumbering LeSabre would reliably take the top spot year after year. In fact, the Encore is everything the old Buicks weren't – small, affordable, and good on gas. It's these traits that have made it such a popular choice, and the 2019 Buick Encore still delivers what it does best in a big way.
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.
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