A Trax with a touch of classI really think Buick is making meaningful progress at the task of shedding its blue hair-piloted, traffic slowing image.
A GM guy at heart, I’ve always had a soft spot for the soft cushy Buick land yachts of days gone by. I really think Buick is making meaningful progress at the task of shedding its blue hair-piloted, traffic slowing image; an image which I always thought had earned a rightful place in the automotive world. However, the image likely didn’t promote a very sustainable business model. The release of the 2013 Buick Encore, based on the Chevy Trax, is another welcome step in this re-birth of the brand.
As a young professional and daily commuter into the city I fall right into Buick’s new younger target market for the Encore. However, when it comes to the small crossover segment, the biggest deterrent for me has always been the styling. By the very nature of the category, the style of offerings has been plagued by the tall and narrow requirements of such a vehicle. I think the Encore does a very good job of overcoming this hurdle. The slightly raked back stance, large waterfall grill, lower body cladding and smoked 18-inch alloy rims my tester came with really help lower the eye giving the Encore more of a “mini-SUV” look. A few exterior details, such as the legendary Buick portholes and intricate headlight projectors help give the Encore a more distinguished look, and along with its tall elevated seating position and high ground clearance contribute to its SUV-like appearance.
That’s about where any similarity with a proper SUV ends. My tester, with an as tested price of $26,895, was a basic front wheel drive “Convenience” model powered by a turbocharged 1.4L engine putting out 138hp. The motor definitely felt like it would be much more at home in a tiny subcompact. The engine really is the weakest link in the Encore; power delivery was anything but smooth. Passing at speed requires careful planning and even the idle felt rough while waiting at stop lights. The handling was not much better and the steering offered very little feel and limited response.
That said, what the new Buick Encore lacks under the hood, it makes up for in comfort and efficiency. Once I was able to resolve myself to the fact that spirited driving in any form, was not really an option, I was pleasantly surprised at just how quietly and smoothly it puttered along. Like most Buicks, the Encore rides exceptionally smoothly for what it is and the triple sealed doors, acoustically laminated windshield and noise-cancelling technology incorporated into the Encore’s speaker system make for an extremely quiet interior. For another welcome surprise, in the spirit of conservative driving, I was able to manage an average of 7.8L/100km throughout my weeks’ worth of rush hour commuting – really quite impressive, even for a small crossover.
I also found the interior to be one of the better interiors in this segment; even the base model’s cloth and leatherette seats were comfortable for long hauls and along with the leather wrapped steering wheel adds a touch of class to the Buick’s interior. While the interior materials were certainly not top shelf quality, the overall fit and finish is well executed and it does feel more luxurious than the cabin of the Encore’s close cousin, the Chevrolet Trax.
The interior space of the Encore is also utilized quite well, it will comfortably seat four adults, offers an abundance of handy storage compartments and with the rear seats folded almost flat should easily handle most cargo. The Buick IntelliLink™ system is simple and easy to navigate and easily integrates with an iPod using just a basic USB cable. My only real gripe with the interior is the stereo, traditionally Buick’s have always impressed me with decent quality sound, but the basic 6-speaker system in my Encore really lacked any punch. However, there is a 7-speaker Bose system available for an extra $775 which very well might be worth the cash.
All in all, the 2013 Buick Encore is definitely a competitive player in this segment and a great step in an important direction for Buick. The all-wheel drive option which adds about $2000 to the purchase price would be a must in my mind to make the Encore truly relevant. In front-wheel drive form, I just cannot see any real worthwhile benefits over something like a Mazda 3 hatchback or even a VW Golf, which also happen to be much more fun to drive. For a young urban couple or family looking for something roomy, comfortable and efficient to confidently get them through winter’s worst, the Encore AWD very well may be a worthy option.
2013 Buick Encore Gallery