The subcompact crossover SUV market is booming with makers looking to carve out a niche by being hip (i.e. Nissan Juke and Kia Soul) to more traditional downsized models (Honda HR-V and Chevrolet Trax). The 2015 Buick Encore is no Juke. It tends more towards the traditional side of the spectrum like the HR-V and Trax, but with a much more upscale aura.

It would be interesting to see what Harley Earl, the first head of design, would think of the Encore. Earl, a Buick man and proponent of longer, lower, wider designs, probably would think the tall and stubby Encore odd-looking. Then again, perhaps he would appreciate the brightwork in the waterfall grille and the Ventiport design cues on the hood. As for my own personal tastes, I could do without the extra latter filigree, which recalls the portholes on the front fenders of earlier Buicks.

The Encore difference 

Where the Encore stands out from its competitors is in its upscale appearance inside the cabin and above all, the quiet and smooth ride that has been a Buick hallmark. In fact, the Encore shares a lot of the same sort of tranquility and ease of operation found in its much larger sibling, the Enclave.

Equipped with a turbocharged 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, the 138-horsepower Encore has plenty of power for its diminutive size and is equipped with a seamless 6-speed automatic transmission. Combined EPA fuel economy is 28 mpg, but in mixed highway driving, I saw around 32 mpg.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2015

Utility and luxury

Following a recent move, I had a lot of old stuff to sell and carted it off to a swap meet. The Encore's flat folding rear seats provided plenty of room for a fold-up banquet table, collapsible book case, fold-up chair, umbrella and four huge boxes of stuff with plenty of room left over. The wide-opening rear hatch, easy-to-remove security shelf and low liftover made loading and unloading the vehicle a breeze.

And when taking a break from sales, or commuting back and forth from the fairgrounds, the leather-clad interior with dual-zone climate control was a comfortable oasis. The tall stance, low belt-line and high riding position give you the feeling of driving a much larger crossover and yet the Encore's subcompact footprint allows you to squeeze into small spaces with no drama.

The front-drive Encore starts at $24,065. Our test vehicle with the Premium Group featured a rear-view camera, steering wheel controls, blind-spot, cross-traffic and lane-departure warnings, Bluetooth connectivity, and a Bose premium sound system carried a $29,435 MSRP but also was equipped with the $1,690 Experience Buick package that includes navigation, a 7-inch screen, USB port and 18-inch wheels. With $925 destination less a $295 discount on the Experience Buick option, our test vehicle bottom-lined at $31,755. That's a pretty penny for such a small vehicle, but if you prize a quiet ride and the lap of luxury feel over sheer size, the 2015 Buick Encore merits your attention.

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