2014 Buick Encore Second Opinion
Aspiring to Be Too Much
The Buick Encore is a peculiar vehicle. Based on the Chevrolet Trax already on sale in other markets, the Encore is a sub-compact crossover designed to bring luxury elements to an otherwise frugal segment. The vehicle isn’t just small, it’s miniscule by crossover standards. At only 168.4 inches long, the Encore is shorter than an iPhone’s battery life.
|Engine: A 1.4 L turbocharged four-cylinder, 138 hp, 148 lb-ft.
Transmission: The only transmission available is a six-speed automatic.
Fuel economy: Officially rated at 23 MPG city and 30 MPG on the highway We averages 22.8 MPG.
Price: The Encore starts at a base price of $25,085 after destination charges, our test vehicle with the Leather Package and moon roof option came in at $29,210.
It gives up eight inches to the BMW X1 and is even smaller than the Kia Rio sedan. However, at a height of 65.2 inches, the Encore is just as tall as the Audi Q5. This short length, high height may lead to ungainly proportions, but it also offers a high seating position in a vehicle that requires almost no space to park.
To discover whether or not Buick has succeeded in creating a premium subcompact crossover, we gave it to my wife Amanda, our everyday consumer-turned car reviewer. Even as a connoisseur of small hatchback vehicles, it was not love at first sight for her.
Honey I Shrunk the Crossover
Although the front grille and rear design are nice styling elements in her opinion, she isn’t a fan of the Encore’s profile. She says it looks tall and squished: this coming from the owner of a Suzuki SX4 sedan.
See Also: 2013 Buick Encore Review
Buick’s little crossover carries a base price of $25,085 after destination charges, but the as-tested leather package and moon roof raise the price to $29,210. That’s a lot of money for a little crossover, especially one that is still not equipped with rain sensing wipers, navigation or front and rear park assist. At this price point, the vehicle does have some nice features like leather-upholstered, heated front seats with power adjustability, a heated steering wheel and memory seat settings for the driver side.
Amanda felt the interior to be high-end and was a fan of the dashboard’s overall design as well as the dark grey wood grain trim. The soft touch buttons in the center stack are easy to use and feel premium as well. However, the leather wrapping the steering wheel and seating surfaces feels disappointingly cheap.
Where’s My Options?
For a vehicle flirting within the luxury car segment, some features are oddly omitted. There is no smart key entry, push button start or built-in navigation. Then again, the latter can be had as a $795 stand-alone option.
Amanda found the rearview camera could use some improvement. She found the view was not very clear and the lack of parking sensors makes it difficult to tell how close you really are to bumping into something. The steering wheel mounted audio controls can also be frustrating in the winter with gloves on. She had a hard time because they’re small and difficult to press without bare hands.
Never Leaves You Out in the Cold
At the tail end of a winter that wouldn’t die, the fast warming heated steering wheel and seats can seem invaluable. The remote car starter is also particularly useful on cold mornings when a pre-heated car can make all the difference.
Overall storage in the vehicle is deemed adequate, but center console space is lacking. The double glove box is nice a nice touch, but Amanda couldn’t imagine using it very often. The cup holders could be a little more accommodating and are too small for larger water bottles and drink containers. Despite the Encore’s pint-sized stature, rear seat passengers still have 35.7-inches of legroom and full-grown adults can fit back there without issue. Storage space suffers to make that possible, as only 18.8 cubic feet of room is available behind the rear seats. That only expands to 48.4 cubic feet when the seats are folded down. For perspective, the Honda Fit offers more cargo space with its rear seats folded if only a little.
Poor Vision, Easy Maneuverability
Sightlines are surprisingly poor for a vehicle this small. Amanda says the two pillars in the back are hard for her to see around, although the blind spot detection system makes up for that somewhat. The narrow, high-riding Encore was easy to park in tight spots for her, yet felt much larger than it was when trying to reverse in close coordinates. Once parked, the doors can be left ajar at various angles without them trying to swing back shut.
Unlike many short wheelbase vehicles, the Encore is smooth on the highway and avoids the choppy ride plaguing many subcompact vehicles. The 138-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is sufficient for daily driving thanks in large part to the 148 lb-ft of torque it creates. Especially in city traffic, she finds it to be pleasantly responsive. Officially rated at 23 MPG city and 30 MPG on the highway, Amanda achieved an average of 22.8 MPG during a wintery week of driving.
Overall Amanda is impressed with the Buicks attempt to create a subcompact crossover with luxury features – except for the price. Thinking this vehicle listed in the low-to-mid $20,000s, she was shocked to hear as equipped it costs nearly $30,000. At that price, issues with the vehicles bad blind spots, equipment omissions, exterior design and some usability issues would prevent her purchasing one. To her, the Encore’s platform mate, the Chevrolet Trax, makes much more sense.