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Aaron Gold

First impressions: Buick Encore

By December 7, 2012

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2013 Buick EncoreI'm just back from test-driving the new Buick Encore for our SUVs site, and I can't remember the last time I was this excited about a car* -- let alone a Buick. Why do I like the Encore? Besides the fact that it's *seriously* cute, this is the type of vehicle -- actually, two types of vehicle -- that I've been eager to see in the States.

(* Okay, maybe that's not entirely true, because when I got off the plane from the Buick drive in Atlanta, there was a red Porsche Boxster waiting for me. And that was pretty darn exciting.)

The Encore is based on the Opel Mokka, a Euro-market mini-SUV. In terms of length and width, the Encoreisn't much bigger than a Chevrolet Sonic,not that you realize that standing next to it, because it's as tall as any other crossover. From behind the wheel, it feels like a proper SUV... at least until you slip into some impossibly small gap in traffic. The light really came on for me when a bus up ahead stopped at a light, his left side about a foot into my lane. I was able to slip up next to him with plenty of room on my side of the double-yellow. The Dodge Durango following me couldn't fit and had to wait behind the bus.

The other aspect of the Encore is that it is a proper luxury vehicle, at least as Buick defines it. You all know that I was a bit disappointed in the Opel-based Buick Regal. It drives beautifully, but inside it's a bit cold and stand-offish -- an Opel, not a Buick. That's something they've managed to work around with just the right combination of trim -- the Encore's cabin is warm and welcoming, as a Buick should be.

Rounding out the Encore is a firm but quiet ride and a 1.4 liter turbo engine that delivers acceptable (if not stunning) fuel economy -- all stuff I'll detail in my full review, which should be posted next week. Suffice it to say it will be largely positive -- I think this is a great little vehicle. The fact that it's a Buick is all the more surprising. -- Aaron Gold

Photo General Motors

December 7, 2012 at 2:26 pm
(1) Zdravko - Toronto says:

This actually looks like a very nice car. I just hope they don’t ruin in in Canada with much higher prices than in the US (the sad reason why I don’t drive a GTI right now…).

Aaron, please try to compare this car to a Mini Countryman/Tiguan/Fiat 500L/Ford C-max/anything small and tall. That would be great!

December 7, 2012 at 4:01 pm
(2) Eric says:

Having spent a couple of years in Europe, and having seen all the cool little cars they have running round over there, the only question I have is: Why did they need to make an SUV out of this car? Guess the price of gas isn’t quite high enough in this country yet.

December 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm
(3) Jim C says:

Eric, SUV is a relative term in this case. Admittedly, this is this first picture I have seen of this vehicle. Looking at the greenhouse and the roof line, I’d say it’s closer to the Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix than an SUV. I’m guessing more of a tall wagon, presumedly with AWD.

December 8, 2012 at 5:36 am
(4) Hawaiian Don says:

I’ll take a leather version of the sharp edged AWD Hyundai Tucson over this bulbous CUV and keep thousands in my pocket and have a better warranty, thank you!

December 8, 2012 at 8:26 am
(5) Kent says:

I have seen this car at two auto shows and I am really interested in driving one. The angle of this picture does make it look smaller than it really is. The interior is very nice! Can’t wait to read your full review!

December 8, 2012 at 6:33 pm
(6) No Service from Buick says:

I’ve got a 2011 Buick LaCrosse that has frequent Anti-Theft false alarms and the dealer tells me they cannot identify. The GM Regional Service Rep tells me I’ll need to leave indefinately with the dealer and pay for a rental car to MAYBE get fixed…Not the kind of customer service I expected when I paid the price for a Buick.

December 8, 2012 at 8:29 pm
(7) GRRRR32 says:

Why are Buicks so ugly. The cars I have seen and driven are nice but their exterior designs are a flop. GM seems to have a strangle hold on the mundane.

December 8, 2012 at 10:44 pm
(8) bryanska says:

This thing is NOT comparable to a Hyundai Tucson. You may have thousands more in your pocket if you purchase a Tucson, but you’ll also have horrible NVH, thinly padded armrests, a tinny sound system and painted (instead of molded) interior colors.

How do I know? My wife demanded a new Tucson and it’s so cheap throughout as to be embarrassing. It checks all the spec boxes but is low rent for sure. Even the early Day 1 reviews of the Encore put it in a different league.

December 9, 2012 at 1:12 am
(9) Hawaiian Don says:

For your more discerning tastes bryanska, may I suggest a Santa Fe and you’ll still probably stash a few. I like the nimbleness of the Tuscon. And with my pedestrian tastes, there are no issues with those items you mentioned. Then again as “No Service” blogged up above, there is the longer warranty issue.

December 10, 2012 at 10:02 am
(10) bryanska says:

Perfectly accurate on all counts Don, but it’s still arguable that neither the Tucson nor the Santa Fe are directly aligned opposite the Encore. For now it has the segment all to itself. Until Nissan launches an Infiniti version of the Juke.

December 10, 2012 at 10:08 am
(11) Brian says:

I find it interesting why they are branding it as a buick and not a Chevy. To me it looks more like a competitor for the Suzuki SX4, but I suppose you can’t those on your side of the border anymore, can you?

December 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm
(12) Aaron Gold - Guide to Cars says:

Brian — There is a Chevrolet version called the Trax that will be sold in Canada and Mexico, but not in the United States. Which isn’t such a bad thing for Buick…


December 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm
(13) Hawaiian Don says:

Bryanska, one Juke is enough, just like, one Edsel, one Pacer and one Aztek were enough!!!

December 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm
(14) Aaron says:

The synopsis/tease in the “About Auto & Wheels: Ford’s Super Duty Platinum Edition Pickup Trucks” mail I just got contradicts the write-up on this page. It implies Buick got the conversion from a cold Opel wrong, but the actual article says they got it right (referring to how they got another car wrong).

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