Compact Buick Encore crossover offers style, comfort, versatility

Buick Encore

Vehicle type: front-engine, front-/4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback

Price as tested: $32,595 (base price: $24,990)

Engine type: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, iron block and aluminum head, port fuel injection

Power: 138 hp @ 4900 rpm

Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 1850 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

Wheelbase: 100.6 in

Length: 168.4 in

Width: 69.9 in Height: 65.2 in

Curb weight (C/D est): 3300 lb

Fuel economy: EPA city/highway: 23/30 mpg

The Buick Encore is a small luxury crossover with style, comfort, versatility and adaptability to fit many busy lifestyles, from parents of small children to empty nesters and grandparents.

It’s offered in four trim levels – Encore, Convenience, Leather and Premium – priced from $24,065 to $29,450 for front-wheel drive models; add $1,500 to any level for all-wheel drive.

New for 2015, Encore now has OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot capability. Since the vehicle powers the hotspot, you won’t drain the batteries of your mobile devices.

Because of its compact size, Encore adapts to crowded streets and the open road, and looks effortlessly stylish doing it, with its sculpted body with luxurious chrome accents, jewel-like halogen projector beam headlights with signature Buick ice-blue translucent ring accents, striking chrome waterfall grille and chrome window surround.

The 18-inch wheels come in silver-painted five-spoke cast aluminum or an optional unique seven-spoke design with chromed alloy finish to make an even more-striking impression.

Inside, soft-touch materials make the Encore luxurious as well as flexible. The seats are shaped to support the natural curve of the passenger’s back. The front passenger seatback folds flat, and the second-row seats fold flat in a 60/40 configuration.

Encore comes with a standard fuel-efficient 138-horsepower Ecotec Turbo 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, connected to a six-speed automatic transmission with Driver Shift Control – using a toggle button on top of the shifter knob – to give the driver the feel of a sporty clutchless manual.

Front-wheel-drive models are expected to achieve 25 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway, while all-wheel drive models are rated at 23/30. During my weeklong test, I averaged 30.1 mpg, traveling over 500 miles mostly on the highway with cruise control engaged.

My tester was a front-wheel drive Leather edition in Quicksilver Metallic with Ebony interior, priced at $27,950.

Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Side Blind Zone Alert were standard on my Encore, along with 10 air bags. They helped the Encore earn a five-star overall score for safety, and recognition as an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 2015 Top Safety Pick.

Blind Zone Alert detects vehicles in the blind spot and gives a visual warning in the outside mirror on the appropriate side.

With the vehicle in reverse, Rear Cross Traffic Alert sounded a warning when a vehicle approached within 65 feet on either side. The backup camera view was also extended to each side to show pedestrians and objects as well as approaching traffic.

A driver information center, in the center of the instrument cluster, included trip functions, tachometer, speedometer, fuel and coolant temperatures, oil life, tire pressure, battery and key vehicle warning alerts. Ice Blue ambient light gave the instrument panel an air of modern sophistication.

Buick IntelliLink is standard in all Encore models and connects your smartphone to your vehicle to allow streaming of Internet radio such as Pandora and podcasts, and making and receiving hands-free phone calls, all using the latest in voice-recognition software.

The system includes a seven-inch color touch-screen display, AM/FM/SiriusXM (XM includes a three-month trial), CD/MP3, USB port and auxiliary input; iPhone users can use IntelliLink to command Siri as well. Controls on the leather-wrapped heated steering wheel allowed operation of the audio system, cruise control and hands-free phone functions.

My tester upgraded the IntelliLink system to include Navigation, a $495 option, to access real-time traffic data, get directions or save a favorite destination or route. Entering an address for directions was frustrating at first, due to the layout of the address screen.

The audio system was also upgraded, with a Bose premium seven-speaker system for $595. Advanced engineering and high-quality audio is Bose’s signature, and the Encore was filled with rich, clear, true sound with speakers positioned throughout the cabin, for a concert-like feel.

A 120-volt outlet conveniently located on the rear of the center console allowed passengers to plug in or recharge their portable electronics such as cell phones, hand-held games and laptops.

My smart-looking, nimble, efficient, versatile Encore delivered for $29,965, including $1,090 in options and $925 destination charges.