Fuel efficiency and versatility, that’s what makes the compact sport utility vehicles (SUVs) so appealing. Buick entered the segment in 2013 with the Encore, now Buick’s best-selling vehicle. Latino Traffic Report recently test-drove the 2018 Encore at a time of year that put its versatility to the test.
Offered in Encore, Preferred, Sport Touring, Preferred II, Essence, and Premium trims, I drove the latter that also included the available all-wheel drive.
The Encore arrived for testing in December, just in time for Christmas tree shopping. While it took three steps to fold the 60/40-split rear seat flat, once done it exposed 48.4 cubic feet of storage space, plenty of room for the six-foot Frasier Fur that I selected. Though I didn’t need to, I could have folded the front passenger seat flat to fit longer items. Cargo carrying also includes people and the Encore can seat up to five.
While all SUVs offer versatility, smaller ones navigate urban settings with greater ease. The Encore was no exception, performing handily, particularly when maneuvering through Austin’s holiday traffic.
Powered by a choice of two 1.4-liter turbocharged engines, the test model came with the more powerful of the two that can produce 153 horsepower and 177 lb.–ft. of torque and included Direct Injection with a subtle start/stop mode to conserve gas. It had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 26 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. I averaged 25.2 mpg during the weeklong test drive.
Tech features, like OnStar 4G LTE with a Wi-Fi hotspot, now standard across the brand’s model line sold in the United States, help the Encore stand out in a crowed field. The hot spot allows passengers to connect up to seven devices to high-speed wireless Internet.
Improvements for 2018 include high-definition radio, capless fuel fill, and the ionizing interior air cleaner (standard only on the Premium trim), Universal Home Remote (Essence and Premium trims) and a new exterior color Coppertino Metallic.
Standard convenience features on all Encores include push-button start, keyless unlock via the exterior door handles and an eight-inch color touchscreen, as well as Keyless Open and Start. As the top-of-the-line trim, the Premium test model also included a few more posh features like heated front seats and steering wheel, dual-zone air conditioning, and the Bose premium audio.
For added confidence, standard safety features include a rear-vision camera, StabiliTrak stability control system with full-function traction control, the OnStar basic plan for five years, and a theft deterrent system. The test model included blind spot and forward collision alerts, front and rear park assist, and rear cross traffic alert.
While pricing for the 2018 Encore starts at $23,915, stepping up to the Premium trim adds lots of dollars as well as stuff. The as-tested price that included the Experience Buick Package ($2,390) with navigation, a power moonroof, an eight-inch touch screen, and Apple Carplay and Android Auto capability, came to $36,820.
Sí: Roomy and nimble, the Buick Encore offers the versatility required of an SUV, especially a little one, and its fuel economy is competitive in the segment.
No: The Buick infotainment system was a little clunky, especially for selecting presets, and the price climbs quickly when adding features.