2013 Buick Encore HD Video Review

Let’s get the obvious cliché out of the way immediately; the big news at Buick is a small crossover.  Not Honda CR-V small or even VW Tiguan sized.  Think smaller.  Seriously.  The 2013 Encore is the same width as a Kia Soul, two inches higher and six inches longer.  It’s one the most diminutive cars Buick has ever offered.

2013 Buick Encore

Considering the runaway success of big brother Enclave, Encore is the perfect name for a small follow-up performance (and you have to believe GM made sure the name isn’t owned by Chrysler, who bought AMC years ago).  The question is- can Buick do small?

They Already Do

Enclave and LaCrosse are the only classic-sized models in the fleet these days, Regal and Verano sport European dimensions.  Encore tips the balance toward the brand’s new compact approach to premium cars.  Making Encore smaller than the others might even be a brilliant move to make Buick more appealing to younger shoppers.

Encore isn’t just different for Buick, it’s unique to the American market.  The closest cross-shop competitors are MINI Countryman, VW Tiguan, or the upcoming (and more expensive and powerful) BMW X1 or Audi Q3.  The Tri Shield folks have positioned their “fun-sized” ute in a slot with no real direct rivals.

2013 Buick Encore

Small Details

At the press event in Atlanta, GA, the first glimpse of the car takes a second to get used to.  It’s small but the tall stature and Buick design cues give it some visual heft.  The waterfall grille and (nonfunctional) portholes are here. Wouldn’t be a Buick without those, huh?  All Encores get contrasting color lower cladding.

It’s tough to do elegance on a small canvas but swoopy strakes on the lower rear door panel and D pillar give Encore some grace. Blue headlamp rings pop nicely on all paint colors and if you look closely, you’ll see the Buick logo in the reflector. It’s a fun car to look at, cuddly and upscale at the same time. The roof rack is standard, so is a rear-view camera.  As long as I’m on safety, know that there are 10 airbags on board and loads of structural protection with 65 percent of the cabin made of high and ultra high-strength steel.

2013 Buick Encore

Gaining Traction

Encore is powered by the front wheels.  Plunk down $1,500 for all-wheel drive.  It’s an interesting Borg Warner system that always kicks into all-wheel mode when accelerating from a stand still.  If sensors detect that traction is good, it immediately decouples the back drive wheels for better fuel economy.  When conditions are slick, it can divvy up the power 50/50 depending on which tires have the most traction. It’s perfect for the dirt roads and snow day duty a Buick will see. With just over six inches of ground clearance, Encore is not a true off-roader. This should surprise no one.

Under the signature hood ventiports is a torquey 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine.  That’s not a typo, and please, no jokes that the Grand National had more oomph in its power windows.  The engine is turbocharged and puts out 138 horsepower with 148 lb-ft of torque available at a low 1,850 rpm.  A six-speed automatic is the only transmission, the manual shift operation is done on top of the console lever.  Keyless push button start is not available.

2013 Buick Encore

You Were Expecting An NSX?

Weighing in at 3,190 pounds for a front-drive model the small turbo motor gets the baby Buick to sixty in a little over 10 seconds.  It sounds smooth when pushed during on-ramp merging maneuvers but the engine is definitely heard working.  Encore is more about fuel economy than power, front-drive models are EPA rated at 25 city, 33 highway.  Of course AWD drops that to 23/30.  Good news, it drinks standard grade gas.

The six-speed transmission is a smooth operator, good thing because it shifts often to keep the engine in the best power band when traveling the rolling backroads of Georgia.  Dynamically, the engine is happiest bopping around urban habitats.  It feels peppy when doing chores and it scores cramped parking spots that others utes can only dream about.  In city situations Encore is fun to fling about with a 36.7 foot turning radius that’s less than a MINI Countryman.

2013 Buick Encore

Libraries Wish They Were Buick Quiet

Encore’s short wheelbase doesn’t hurt it when cruising the interstate, there’s little hopping and bucking.  It’s easy to creep up past 80 miles an hour.  Officer.  This is due in part to Buick’s Quiet Tuning approach.  Encore gets an acoustically laminated windshield, thicker side glass and lots of sound deadening material in the pillars, frame and instrument panel.    There’s also an acoustically treated roof panel.  The cherry on top is standard Bose active noise cancelation.  Using tech from their ubiquitous headphones seen on airplanes throughout the world, three ceiling-mounted microphones sample the interior noise, processors create a reverse waveform and pump it out through the speakers to quiet the cabin.

With MacPherson struts up front and a rear torsion beam in back, Encore’s suspension provides a good blend of comfort and control.  Really people, Buick did away with the floaty pillowy dynamic years ago.  The view out the front is great, small windows block rearward visibility  (probably why the rear-view camera is standard).   Remember, Encore rides high so chucking it hard into curves is not overly rewarding.  Electric power steering doesn’t help either.  For a small vehicle though, it’s a great road trip car.

2013 Buick Encore with Saddle interior

Encore uses 18” wheels on all four trim models.  Using the same sized Continental low rolling resistance tires across the board makes it efficient for the engineers to dial in the precise ride quality they wanted.  This Buick is assembled in Bupyeong, South Korea from a global platform that’s also used for the Chevy Trax crossover (a vehicle that, sadly, the US doesn’t get).  Perhaps Buick wanted a model all to itself… There’s confusion that Encore is built on the same Gamma platform found under Chevy Sonic.  It isn’t.  It’s built on Gamma II.

Room Enough For Four

Generally, small vehicles mean big sacrifices in style, quality, and features.  Encore’s upscale interior keeps empty nesters in their familiar accoutrements.  The cabin feels roomier than you might imagine due to an instrument panel that curves away and a driving position that’s fairly high.  Inside, Encore feels a size larger than it is.  Soft touch materials look good, petroleum sourced wood trim is shiny.  Available dual-zone climate control will keep couples happy.  There are cubbies scattered everywhere including small dual gloveboxes.  You might just loose stuff.

2013 Buick Encore

The leather seats on my tester are quite comfortable even after 170 miles of driving.  Driver and passenger thrones get power operation with generous height adjustment, the pilot’s has a two-position memory.  The seatback rake is adjusted manually though.  The chairs are heated as expected, so is the steering wheel, a wonderful luxury for Northerners.  Blind spot warning is not available but other safety tech such as forward collision warning and lane departure warning is part of the Premium package.

The center stack gets a cluster of buttons that rivals the confusion found on Honda products.  Encore gets GMs IntelliLink user interface.  The overall setup is easy to use, but with the screen located up closer to eye level, it is not a touchscreen.  A small rotary knob has to be used to select the stuff you want.  Connect a smart phone and its data plan lets you stream music from Pandora and Stitcher (hope you have unlimited data).  It also allows you to check out the weather forecast, score low gas prices and find movie show times.

2013 Buick Encore

A Bose sound system is standard.  Audiophiles will want to upgrade to the premium seven-speaker version.  You can also take hands free calls and stream tunes over Bluetooth.  As on all GM products, the terrific OnStar system is along for the ride.

The Back Seat Doesn’t Take A Back Seat To Comfort

Being a small car you might expect cramped rear quarter.  There are belts for three, keep it to two adults and it’s surprisingly accommodating.  Since Encore is vertically oriented, the high seat cushion helps to create decent foot and legroom.  Headroom is generous too.  I rode in the rear for 10 miles with no issues at all.

Storage in the door panels is handy, both seatbacks get pockets.  A three-prong 110-volt power outlet in back makes computer charging on the way to work a snap.  Nice touch.  I’ll nit pick and grouse that the seat tracks could be better finished off.

2013 Buick Encore

No Baggage, Unless You Bring It

Since I’m on a press launch I can’t do the usual TP trunk test but using my luggage to judge scale I’d say it’s a three packer, maybe four.  Buick claims six bags of groceries will fit back here.  There’s a small storage cubbie and grocery bag hooks.  The security cover gets it’s own storage slot if you need to haul something on the tall side.  Not all cars get spare tires these days, Encore does.

The expected split rear seatbacks open up a generous 48.4 cubic feet of room (the cushion has to be raised up before the back drops flat).  To help owners live with the smaller size, Buick added a folding front passenger seat.  Hauling ladders or an eight-foot long rug can be done inside.

So, who’s going to buy Encore when it hits dealers in February?  Couples without children are the obvious target.  That can be older folks, or if recent history is any indication, they’ll be younger pre-kid professionals.   2013 Buick Encore blue-accented projector beam headlamp  Since 2007, conquest sales from brands other than GM have risen significantly and the demographic has dropped to the point of closing in on the average age for the industry.  Who’d a thunk it?  A base price of $24,950 with destination should help that trend.  Well equipped it’s about 28 grand; check every option box and the price shoots up to 33.7.

Encore is a gutsy move for Buick but my gut believes it’s a bet that should pay off well.  Would I like more power?  Sure, but the petite size, original design and well-executed interior attracts a lot of attention and queries from the good people of Atlanta (frustrating when you have a very limited time for photography).  Really, the expected move would have been to build something off the Equinox/Terrain platform and go after the Lexus RX players.  Good to see them thinking outside the two-box segment.

2013 Buick Encore

It will be interesting to see how it does in the marketplace and what it does for Buick’s image.  Apparently there are already a lot of hand raisers and Buick’s website is getting far more hits than expected.  If you’re looking for quiet comfortable urban transportation with style, you can go straight to the Encore.

FULL GALLERY BELOW.  ALL STILL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY BUICK.  THE MOVIES WERE SHOT (QUICKLY) BY TOM.

37 Comments

  1. ggru0196 says:

    Does anyone know if the new Encore has the turn signals integrated into the side mirrors and if the lift gate is automatic open and closing.

    Great review on the new Encore.

    • TV says:

      I don’t believe there are side mirror signals. Same with power lift gate. It’s light, you don’t need it unless there a special disability involved.

  2. adrunk says:

    Just leased one today, partly because of your great review.

    • TV says:

      Please let us all know how it works out for you. If you can post here occasionally and let us know your likes and gripes it helps everyone. Thanks! TV

  3. Nihad says:

    Hi Tom. I was wondering if you could do a video on the new Volkswagen Tiguan. Please let me know. Thanks

  4. SamShaw says:

    What do you think about this vehicle being used for more… shall I say… drivers that have advanced in their driving experience? I know an older couple that may want to step down from their 2008 Town and Country Limited, It is fully loaded with everything. DVD, NAV, Swivel n Go. What they seem to want is the Navigation, Parking sensors (And now want sensors on the front), Leather, and a power tailgate. Also must have better mpg. Would you recommend this to those drivers?

  5. jchasp says:

    I would enjoy a vehicle of this size and with these features, but I believe that the powertrain will be overburdened. I own a 2012 Chevy Sonic with the same engine, but the 6 spd manual transmission. The power of the turbo 1.4L is well suited to my Sonic’s 2,794 pound curb weight, but it doesn’t get close to the claimed 29 City/40 Hwy mpg. Also, as I understand from online posts, Chevy Cruze owner’s with this engine get even worse mpg and slower acceleration with it’s 3,029 pound curb weight.
    A bit more power would probably improve both performance and mpg for a vehicle of this weight (3,190 FWD/3,309 AWD)

  6. Facepalm says:

    I was driving behind a Mitsubishi Outlander Sport earlier today and I realized just how small it really is (don’t see them too often here in southern California), and one of my first thoughts was that it might stack up well to the Encore in terms of size. Everything else between them, however, is different (quality, targeted audience, etc.). Relatively similar engine outputs and fuel economy, though.
    Every time I see the numbers for the Encore I can’t help but wonder why the Chevy Trax wasn’t given the green light to be sold here in the States instead. Still, it looks like a fun little vehicle to drive. If I was shopping for a small crossover, I might go with the Encore, especially if Mitsu doesn’t fix up the transmission and improve/replace the engine in the Outlander Sport, which are the main things holding it back. Either way, I’m interested to see how well or poorly the Encore sells. Could be the next big hit for Buick for all we know.

    • TV says:

      Wow, if the Outlander Sport isn’t popular in SoCal then I don’t know where it would be. Truth be told it was completely off my radar screen when writing this review and a quick check of the stats finds it within an inch of Encore in dimensions.

      The hairs on the back of my neck are telling me Encore is going to go over well. A lot of younger people in Atlanta were curious about it when I was photographing it, a few of my friends have asked me about it, and the views on my site are running well ahead of most videos. We will see…

      • Facepalm says:

        Maybe Outlander Sports sell better in Los Angeles or San Diego, but in my place of residence, Pasadena (which is a bit above LA and in LA County and where you checked out the Lexus LS600hL a few years ago), I hardly see Mitsubishi vehicles when compared to Hondas, Toyotas, and BMWs (lol). Most Mitsus over here are older Galants or SUVs, with some Evos and Lancer variants here and there. Outlanders and Outlander Sports are pretty rare. They might be more common in the neighboring Glendale which has a Mitsubishi dealer, but I don’t go there often.

        When I was visiting family in the Northeast earlier in August I saw plenty of Mitsus (as well as Suzukis; the cheapest AWD cars in the US). On the drive from PA through NJ to JFK Airport in NY I saw more Outlander Sports than I’d seen all year here in SoCal. I’m guessing that they serve as relatively cheap, simple vehicles featuring solid AWD with decent warranties over in the Northeast. Still, I wish they fared better over here as well because their products can be pretty good but they are completely overshadowed by the other more-established Japanese car brands.

  7. bikebudha1 says:

    Almost the perfect car for my wife and I. Three big negatives. No manual (Spokane, need the stick for winter driving); Need a bigger engine (we are looking at the mini countryman, it’s peppy and we like that); Poor rear visibility, why? why? why? It seams almost an industry standard to put ‘tank slits’ on cars these days. Call me crazy, but I like a nice open airy cabin with great visibility. Safer in traffic, nicer views on road trips. Question: While I doubt Buick will revise the rear windows anytime soon, do you think they will offer a manual and/or a bigger engine for 2014? Or will we have to wait and see if the 2013 does well? Thanks in advance…

    • TV says:

      Yeah, obviously the greenhouse won’t be revised. I doubt it will come with a manual or larger engine any time soon either. From what I understand, this is the largest powerplant they can get into the Gamma II architecture and really, a manual doesn’t fit the intended demo. You might try driving it, in the city it feels pretty good with the torquey turbo engine. It’s only during maneuvers such as two-lane road passing does it feel underpowered.

      The AWD system is fairly sophisticated for a CUV, I don’t know that a manual would be much better.

      Good luck!

  8. pereflight says:

    As a 2009 Toyota Matrix owner this car really appeals to me.

    I love the utility of being able to load lots of big gear into the Matrix with all the seats folded down including the front passenger seat, but still have a small vehicle with good fuel economy, and ability to fit in small parking spots.

    The Matrix really falls short concerning road noise, comfort, sound system, and overall fit and finish.

    The Buick Encore seems to me to be a much more mature and refined car that still maintains all the things I love about my Matrix.

    This just might be my next car.

    Tom, what did you think about the sound system? Does it include bluetooth? I generally like Bose stuff ok, so I’m assuming it’s pretty rocking.

    I ended up going after market stereo in my matrix which sounds good, but it’s an added expense and hassle I’m hoping to avoid in my next vehicle.

    Love all the killer reviews! This is my favorite car site!!

    • TV says:

      There are two Bose systems, go with the premium version, it’s definitely better. Since Encore is very quiet, you can appreciate it more. Yes it has Bluetooth, I don’t mention that as much these days unless a car DOESN’T have it.

      I know what you mean about the Matrix. My brother-in-law had one. Love the size and hatchback utility but many parts of it do not live up to the Toyota reputation. Handles like a noodle.

  9. 42long says:

    Hmm, the shape kinda reminds me of the Nissan Murano. Just a bit of course. Nice size, interior is nice, exterior is very cool. Bet it looks great in black but Tom I’m with you on the power. I wish it had more. Maybe if they gave it the same power plant as the Buick Verano Turbo. Ya think they’ll ever boost the power on this Encore? Ever? How did acceleration feel to you? Would it suffer with more than two people?

    • TV says:

      In town the acceleration is fine since there’s torque available down low. It’s one of those cars that feels faster than it is when driving in urban situations. On ramp merging is where you’ll hear the engine working. It’s not the most confident vehicle to drive when passing on two lane roads. Loaded with four adults and AWD I would think 0-60 time would be in the 11.5 second range (I think that’s addressed in the Autoblog review, check it out). It cruises very well at highway speeds though, much like a larger car.

      Seems to me the engineers on hand were saying the 2.0-liter would not fit in the bay. It’s something I’ll have to check into though to be accurate.

  10. Shabanger says:

    I may be in the market for a hatchback or small SUV such as this. A couple quick questions. Would you prefer a rear view camera over an ultrasonic sensor when backing up? In rain or snow, can the rear view camera be somewhat of a nuisance over the ultrasonic sensors? Which do you prefer or recommend?

    • TV says:

      A visual guy might go for the camera but the ultrasonic sensors warn you even if you;re not looking. Yes, the rain can get to the camera occasionally. It’s something you have to determine for yourself I think. Go with the Encore Premium model and you get both systems.

  11. neel says:

    Tom I was wondering when you might put up the top 11 list of 2012? Any idea

    • TV says:

      Just before the end of the year. FYI, it won’t be a video this year. It takes a lot of work and it never performs well in the number of views.

  12. 68mlo says:

    I like the exterior design, as Buick’s current design language is very attractive and elegant. The interior also looks nice, and appears to be roomier than I expected.

    My only gripe is that the beltline sweeps upward so high that it has to hurt visibility and possibly make rear seat passengers feel claustrophobic.

    Nice review, as always, Tom. :)

  13. augaug says:

    In Canada, we’ll be getting the Chevrolet version of this car. I’m assuming that it will compete with a Nissan Juke. Maybe not as athletic, certainly not as powerful, but that’s the size and pricing that I’m assuming this car is. The Buick is more upper class, and I assume that the Trax (Chevy’s version) will take more of the younger crowd, while the Buick will take more of the empty nester crowd. I see Buick’s point about young professionals liking this car, but the Trax looks a little bit more athletic in the pictures that I’ve seen.

    I’m with you though, Tom. Bump this thing up to about 160 to 180 hp, and you’ve got a Nissan Juke done right!

    • TV says:

      It’s roomier than the Juke, especially the back seat. Quieter too, remarkable for such a small vehicle. I have to believe the Trax will have a lot more road noise. I’ll have to bop up to Vancouver and take a test drive

  14. motorstreet says:

    I like the Encore. You can get one with AWD, leather, nav, and a heated steering wheel for under $30000. I can’t think of any small SUV’s with comparable features for that price and even if there are some they don’t have the fuel economy or comfort of the Encore. That being said, I would probably give up a little in ride quality and features for a Mazda CX-5. I can think of a lot of people who the Encore would suit very well though.

  15. 2T47 says:

    Best car review site on the web, Tom. Please keep it rolling.

    Since the Encore has no direct competitors, against what wagons would it get cross-shopped … and favorably compared?

    • TV says:

      Any small crossover really. Countryman, Tiguan, CR-V, Tucson, Sportage, ect, ect… Maybe the Lexus CT (though it doesn’t offer AWD). The thing is, the price is much lower than the luxury brand choices (X1 and eventually Q3) and the size is smaller than the vehicles I meantioned above. So really, it’s in a price/size/luxury slot of its own. With more power it would be a home run, though in city it’s fine. It will be fun to watch how it does in the marketplace.

      • KITT222 says:

        It could be a vehicle to get some former Pontiac Vibe owners back to GM, as they are both small, efficient, offer all wheel drive, have a household power outlet and roof rack, and can fold every seat except the driver’s seat to haul larger objects. The Encore even has the two-tone look of Vibe. It could work, too, as obviously Encore is a much nicer vehicle, and those who bought Vibe several years ago may have enough pennies saved for a more expensive, and mature, car.

        However, as an 04 Pontiac Vibe owner, I’d rather keep my Vibe than go to the Encore, even if I had the cash.

        • TV says:

          Ahhhh, the Vibe. That’s a car my brother-in-law had and one I’ve forgotten about. Yeah, their about the same size. The Encore is much more refined though.

          • KITT222 says:

            Not going to hear an argument about the refinement factor. I love my Vibe, but it isn’t too refined. You can tell they cheaped out on sound-deadening.

  16. denimourson says:

    I see this car as being targeted at the women demographic, like something you would see given away at a Mary Kay raffle or one of their top sales earner.

  17. mx5er says:

    I was wondering why GM isn’t selling the Chevy version, the Trax. But then again, we’re getting into badge engineering territory which got GM in trouble in the first place. Maybe $25K base price will attract Chevy buyers?

    BTW, are HID headlights available?

    • TV says:

      The popular theory is that Buick wanted an exclusive for once and so they got Encore. So Chevy, at least for the next year or two, will not get the Trax in the US. Trax looks quite a bit different from Encore (and Mokka as it’s known in Europe).

      GM has also claimed that selling it at a Chevy price wouldn’t be cost effective (even though they are currently made in Mexico). It would have to be priced significantly cheaper than the Equinox because we all expect to pay less for small cars. Remember, it costs the same to bolt on a wheel or door, it doesn’t matter how big a vehicle is. Chevy says they just can’t make the financial argument.

      I have to believe GM will establish the Encore, make the money off their premium brand, then introduce the Trax in a year or two. That’s IF Encore is a hit. Besides, they’ll need something to compete with when Honda releases the crossover version of the Fit. Just my theory.

  18. Lee says:

    looks like buick built this based on the discontinued saturn vue. nice review btw. :)

    • TV says:

      Not at all like the Vue (or Chevy Captiva). It’s smaller and much lighter.You’ll understand when you see it in person.

      • Facepalm says:

        Maybe Lee meant the Vibe? I personally get the two mixed up every now and then. When I see a Vue on the streets I’ll think “no way that’s the same size as a Toyota Matrix,” lol. And then eventually I will remember there’s a Vue AND a Vibe.