Everything You Need To Know
It’s due for a facelift soon, but is the Buick Encore in its current state still worth buying?
To be brutally honest, this review is almost certainly going to need an overhaul in the next few months, and as such will be irrelevant to new car buyers. Why, you may ask? Because we’re getting an updated Buick Encore before the year is out, with lots of hopefully lovely tweaks that make this car an even more attractive ownership proposition. Until then, though, we have the current Buick Encore to play around with. But is it worth buying now, or is it more advisable to stay away from this compact crossover until the mid-life refresh is released?
Good quality. Shame about that cluttered center console, though
Buick Encore’s cabin is roughly half way quality-wise between the class-leading Audi A4, and less expensive alternatives such as the Kia Soul or Nissan Juke.
As expected from a car that straddles the pricing No Man’s Land between the mainstream and premium compact crossovers on the market, the Buick Encore’s cabin is roughly half way quality-wise between the class-leading Audi A4, and less expensive alternatives such as the Kia Soul or Nissan Juke. In layman’s terms, that all boils down to an interior that most buyers will feel highly satisfied with. Bar the slightly scratchier plastics in the harder-to-reach areas, the Buick Encore’s cabin is hewn from good quality plastics, and generally has a very solid feel. Gone are the days when Buick cabins felt like they were fashioned from the same material used in grocery store shopping baskets. Ergonomics are also, for the most part, fairly good, with the clarity of the main dials and gauges in the dashboard binnacle being particularly worthy of praise. Likewise, the touch screen multimedia interface is also intuitive to use and handy to have, if perhaps situated a bit too far away from the driver to be used with ease whilst driving.
Who Buys Buick Encore?Calculations are based on data from KKF, NHTSA and Department of Motor Vehicles using CarBuzz's proprietary algorithm.
66% men vs 34% women
Buick Encore Owners vs. US Average
African American -5%
If space is a main priority for you, chances are you’ll be mightily enticed by the Buick Encore.
That said, it’s far simpler to operate initially than the huge cluster of buttons on the main center console, which beyond being difficult to effectively use when driving is also a real eyesore in an otherwise smartly-styled interior. You can at least control a good bunch of the console controls through the touchscreen or the multi-function steering wheel, and those looking at buying a 2017MY Buick Encore will be pleased to know the button layout will be extensively streamlined in the upcoming facelift. What doesn’t need updating much, however, is the Buick Encore’s impressive practicality levels. Not only is the 18.8 cubic feet trunk impressively spacious (it’s one of the largest you’ll find in its class), but the wide opening and boxy shape means you can really make the most of its generous capacity. A special mention also goes out to the abundance of cubby holes dotted about the Buick Encore’s cabin, with our favourite feature being the double glove box – one where you’d expect to find it, with the other situated above in the dashboard. Having loads of cargo-carrying capacity will be all for nought if the Buick Encore can’t carry the people who’ll be bringing all of this stuff along. Thankfully, the Encore also impresses in this area, with the abundance of head, shoulder and leg room in the back making this compact crossover a very accommodating car for all but the tallest and broadest of passengers. If space is a main priority for you, chances are you’ll be mightily enticed by the Buick Encore.
Good to drive, and genuine off-road ability in all-wheel drive models
We’re pleased to report, then, that the Buick Encore does drive pretty well.
A concern with cars that have as short a wheelbase as a Buick Encore is that the ride can get a bit bumpy over rougher surfaces. With less distance between the front and back wheels than you’d find on a compact hatchback or sedan, and a usually firmer suspension setup to prevent body lean in the bends, there’s always the chance that compact crossovers tend to be noticeably worse to drive than more conventional cars. We’re pleased to report, then, that the Buick Encore does drive pretty well. Yes, it can get a bit fidgety over rougher road surfaces (especially if you specify the larger wheel options), but this crossover does flow down the road with a maturity more in line with a premium compact soft-roader like an Audi Q3 or Mercedes-Benz GLA. Granted, the margin to the more mainstream alternatives like the Nissan Juke isn’t massive, but it’s noticeable enough for us to mention it here.
Crossovers of this size do tend to excel more in built-up areas, though, and it’s here where the Buick stays true to that class standard.
Noise refinement levels also tend to suffer as a result of the bulky and chunky design of compact crossovers, but again the Buick Encore manages to buck this trend for most of the time. There is admittedly a bit of wind whistle around the large wing mirrors and front pillar at highway speeds, and those larger wheels do increase tire roar as well, but noise insulation is generally well contained in the Buick Encore, so buyers who rack up lots of miles on the highway shouldn’t be disappointed here – especially when you consider the Encore has some of the most comfortable and supportive front seats in this class. Crossovers of this size do tend to excel more in built-up areas, though, and it’s here where the Buick stays true to that class standard. Forward visibility is good and further aided by the car’s raised ride height, which makes the Encore easy to place when you factor in the light and responsive steering. If there are criticisms to be had, it’s that the ride can be a bit flustered over rougher surfaces, and we’d have preferred the rear window to be a little bit bigger. If you’re so inclined, buyers of the Buick Encore who specify the optional all-wheel drive system can even take their car off road. Of course, a crossover of this calibre will be eaten alive on anything more arduous than a rutted field, and those looking for a genuine compact terrain conqueror will want a Jeep Renegade with the Trailhawk package, but anyone who needs to tackle gravel trails and the like won’t be disappointed with the Buick Encore.
The engines are alright. That automatic transmission, not so much...
No matter which engine you go for, each will be saddled with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Buick’s decision to fit a 1.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engine in the Encore isn’t the bit that puzzles us about the car’s engine line-up. Yes, it’s on the small size, but the Encore isn’t a big car, and competitors like the Fiat 500X also come with similarly-sized powerplants. What confuses us about the Encore’ range of 1.4-liter four-cylinders is that there are two of them, with hardly any major attributes to differentiate them. In fact, the largest difference we can find are the power outputs – whereas one has 138hp, the other has 153hp. That’s a fairly sizeable advantage to the latter, given how small these cars are (the Buick Encore with the 138hp engine can, for instance, feel a bit bogged down when fully laden with gear and passengers), especially when you consider it has identical 25/33mpg fuel economy for the city and highway.
Pricier than rivals, but you do get a lot of kit
One option we can definitely recommend you drop unless you really need the extra traction, though, is the all-wheel drive system.
You know what we said about the Buick Encore sitting in between the mainstream and premium offerings with regards to its interior? That sentiment also extends to the pricing structure for the car, with the Encore range starting out at roughly the same amount of money you’d expect to pay for a mid-range Nissan Juke, and topping out well below the ridiculously steep MSRPs of the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA. In the Buick Encore, though, you do get quite a bit of equipment as standard. Touchscreen multimedia interfaces, reversing cameras, 10 airbags, , cruise control, noise cancellation software akin to the tech you find on high-end headphones and 60:40 rear seat backs that fold away completely flat (though only when you flip over the seat cushions) come featured on every single Buick Encore model – which isn’t bad at all, if you ask us.
A very good all-rounder – but it should be even better after the facelift
Overall, the Buick Encore is a pleasant car that covers a lot of bases really well. Hardly any crossover in this class can tough it practicality-wise, and the good equipment levels on entry-level and the mid-range trims do go some way to offsetting the steeper asking price in comparison with its more mainstream rivals, whilst also undercutting its more premium competitors.