It’s not like I have something special going on with the Buick folks but the only coincidence that my last few reviews here are of Buicks is that they have made available their newest vehicles for me to test drive even before they hit the market. And I happen to like them all including the new 2013 Encore, a mini-crossover that packs a lot of punch into a pint-sized package.
The Encore is an early entrant into the next hot market segment: subcompact luxury crossovers. Prices for the 2013 Encore start at $24,950 for a front-wheel drive model. All-wheel drive is a $1,500 option across the line. All Encores come with a 138-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. It goes on sale in February.
I tested a front-wheel drive Encore with leather seats, lane-departure warning (THAT is what that audio beep was!), front-collision alert, heated steering wheel and front seats, sunroof, nav system, 18-inch chrome wheels and a very sweet Bose audio system. The sticker showed a cost of $30,780, excluding destination charges.
I am inherently a tech guy so I appreciated the Intellilink controls for the phone, audio and navigation. The voice-recognition worked well and the Bluetooth phone quality fooled a few of my friends who thought I was talking directly via a handset.
I got to play, er, drive the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine and six-speed transmission through a mountainous range outside of Atlanta and had no issue with power. The Encore’s EPA fuel economy has a rating of 25 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway and 28 combined. That matches or beats the BMW X1, Ford Escape 1.6L, and Volkswagen Tiguan.
The interior is similar to Buick’s new Enclave mostly because it was designed by the same team. It has a lot of room for a smaller vehicle including expansive headroom which fit my 6’1″ frame. The leg room in the front and back are both good. The hatchback opens onto a large cargo space with 18.8 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 48.4 cubic feet available with the seat folded.
Parking the Encore was not only easy but also kind of fun. The size of this small SUV is perfect for teaching my son how to parallel park as he prepares of his license.
I have yet to drive other vehicles in this relatively new category but I am guessing manufacturers will be quick to follow Buick’s lead on their new little superstar.