This SUV offers a contemporary riff on the traditional station wagon.
Buick’s little Encore SUV is the automaker’s best-selling North American vehicle. The Encore actually has more in common with a station wagon than a rugged sport utility vehicle. It supplies some of the niceties of an SUV—a relatively high seating position for good forward visibility and a versatile cargo space—but it will never see rock-crawling duty in the boonies, especially in the as-tested FWD version. Nor is it rated to tow a trailer.
That said, the Encore is a dandy urban runabout. The mini-SUV is easy to maneuver around a crowded parking lot or through city traffic. Light steering contributes to the Encore’s agility, and the suspension delivers a compliant ride. The Sport Touring version, equipped with a more powerful engine, provides zippy acceleration. Despite the Encore’s small footprint, it’s big for its size in cargo-carrying ability: Folding down the front passenger seat and rear seats allows an 8-foot-long 2-by-4 to fit inside with the tailgate shut. However, shoulder room both front and back is a little tight.
The Encore made its debut for model year 2013. Since its introduction, it’s received the aforementioned larger engine option (in 2016), minor exterior and interior styling updates, and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Befitting a Buick, the Encore is generously equipped, including standard active noise-cancellation technology, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, and Bluetooth.
Unfortunately, the Encore is behind the times when it comes to advanced safety features. Blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning are standard only on the top (Essence) trim, an extra-cost option on the two levels below it, and unavailable on the base trim. Front and rear park assist, forward-collision warning, and lane-departure warning are optional on the Essence trim and unavailable on the other three. Forward automatic emergency braking isn’t available on any trim level.