2015 Buick Encore

Starting MSRP: $24,065 - $30,935

Estimated MPG: 25 city / 33 hwy

2015 Buick Encore Review

With its quiet interior, peppy engine, high-tech features and small dimensions, the 2015 Buick Encore is perfect for those who live in the city. Still, we wish it had a bit more power for those times when you decide to leave the city and hit the open road.

By William Maley
Last Updated 05/03/2016

"Honey, I shrunk the Buick!" No, this isn't a remake of an '80s Disney movie. But it could be your first thought when you see the 2015 Buick Encore. This subcompact crossover was one of the first in the luxury class to go on sale when it was introduced for 2013. However, the past year or so has seen models from other automakers joining the fray. 

Exterior

Exterior
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Park the Encore next to the larger Buick Enclave and you can see a resemblance between the two models. The Encore boasts the trademark Buick waterfall grille, headlights with a blue tint and portholes on the hood. A choice of 18-inch wheels and a set of roof rails finish off the look.

Interior

Interior
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The Buick Encore gets most of the items you expect in a luxury model right. Step into the cabin and you're greeted with simulated wood trim that's paired with metal accents and soft-touch materials. You'll also find some cubbies around the center stack and two glove boxes for storage.

My test vehicle came with two-tone leather seats that not only looked handsome, but were also very comfortable. Oddly, the front seats have partial power adjustments: recline and lumbar are manual. This was surprising, since I expected a vehicle wearing the Buick badge to have fully power-adjustable front seats.

Those sitting in the back will find more than enough head- and legroom, but a small opening makes it slightly tough to get in. Cargo space is on the small side with 18.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 48.4 cubic feet with the rear seats down. At least Buick was wise to add some practicality to the Encore with a front passenger seat that can fold flat, enabling the subcompact SUV to carry items up to 6 feet long.

Buick has stocked the 2015 Encore with a load of standard equipment. All models get a 7-inch color screen, a backup camera, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth and a six-speaker audio system. Higher trim levels get dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start, a seven-speaker Bose audio system and a heated steering wheel.

Performance

Performance
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Only one engine is available for the Buick Encore and it happens to be the turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder from the Chevrolet Cruze. This engine produces 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission comes standard, along with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available as an option. EPA fuel economy estimates for the Encore are 25/33 mpg city/highway, or 28 mpg combined for the front-wheel drive model. Encores equipped with all-wheel drive see a slight drop in fuel economy to 23/30 mpg city/highway, or 26 mpg combined.

For urban environments, the Encore has more than enough squirt. The 1.4-liter engine gets up to speed in the city at a quick rate. However, when you take the Encore onto the freeway or into countryside, the engine struggles to get up to speed at a decent rate. Not helping the case is the six-speed automatic, which tries to get into the highest gear possible to save fuel. This only exacerbates the feeling of waiting for the power to arrive. As for fuel economy, my all-wheel drive Encore saw an average of 28.2 mpg during a week of driving.

While it could use more power, Buick got the ride characteristics right on the 2015 Encore. The suspension is able to deal with most bumps to provide a comfortable ride. Road and wind noise are almost non-existent thanks to Buick's quiet tuning, which includes a noise-cancelling system. The Encore isn't what you would call sporty, but the small size and quick steering does make it quite the nimble vehicle around corners.

Technology

Technology
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All Encores get Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system with a 7-inch screen as standard equipment. Unlike most Buicks, the Encore has an older version of IntelliLink. The system still looks fresh with a simple interface and vibrant colors. The same cannot be said for controls. The control knob and direction pad that provide access to IntelliLink are somewhat hard to find, thanks in part to a button-laden center stack. It took me a while to figure out how to make selections within the system. For example, I discovered how to confirm selections by accident when I pressed down on the control knob. After that realization the system became slightly easier to use.

New for the Buick Encore is OnStar 4G LTE with a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot. No longer just a telematics system, this new version of OnStar allows you and your passengers to connect smartphones, tablets and laptops to the Internet while in the car. I found the speeds to be comparable to what I get on my smartphone and coverage to be slightly better. A three-month trial to OnStar 4G LTE is included with the 2015 Encore. After the trial is up, subscription prices begin at $5 per month.

Safety

Safety
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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2015 Encore a Top Safety Pick award for its strong performance in all crash tests. When equipped with a forward collision warning system, the Encore received a Basic rating from the IIHS for front crash prevention. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Encore a top five-star rating for its overall performance in crash tests.

In terms of safety equipment, all Encore models get a full suite of air bags, traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, a rearview camera and the OnStar telematics system. 

Step up the Convenience trim and you get blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert. The top of the line Encore Premium boasts lane departure warning and forward collision alert.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
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The 2015 Buick Encore begins at $24,065 for the base model with front-wheel drive and climbs to $30,935 for the Encore Premium with all-wheel drive. This allows the Encore to undercut many competitors in the luxury class. However, it also puts the Encore in a tight spot since larger compact models are around the same price.

We would also recommend cross-shopping the Encore with subcompact SUVs from mainstream brands, including the Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Nissan Juke.

Overall

Overall
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If you are looking for a subcompact crossover to handle the urban environment the 2015 Buick Encore should be on your shopping list. Just keep in mind that you might be wishing for a bit more power if you take it out of its comfort zone.