Subcompact SUV Comparison: 2016 Buick Encore
As quiet and comfortable as a Buick.
Starting Price: $24,990 | Build
Above Average: Quiet refinement
Below Average: Lack of push-button start, small infotainment screen
Consensus: One of the class’s leading sellers for good reason
700 Miles in 87 Words
When the Buick Encore blazed the way for the all-new subcompact SUV segment three years ago, many scoffed that an American market for this kind of vehicle just didn’t exist. Since then the Encore has proven the naysayers wrong by becoming the sales leader in its category and, more shockingly, Buick’s bestselling vehicle. The fact of the matter is that other than its size, the Encore is a Buick in just about every way you can imagine. It’s comfortable, quiet and it offers a surprising measure of acceleration.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Over the course of our comparison, the 2016 Buick Encore continued to get more appealing the longer we drove it. While no one will mistake it for a sports car, it is nimble in traffic and tracks well on the highway, and we expect it to have above-average reliability as well.
While “quiet” isn’t a category, the Encore’s uncanny quietude figured in to our positive ratings. Here’s a quick look at how the Encore performed across our subjective categories, followed by deeper dives into each rating.
Highway Driving Okay, the Encore is no LaCrosse, but it does make interstate miles disappear in a distinctly Buick fashion. On the highway the Encore tracks easily without requiring constant steering corrections, and when you want to pass, a dip into the turbocharged powerplant provides more oomph than you might expect. And then there’s the supple ride and library-like interior. The Encore’s handling isn’t as razor-sharp as some of its competitors, but we think most buyers will make the trade for more refinement.
City Driving Perhaps we should invoke Will Rogers here because the Buick Encore has never met a city parking place it didn’t like. The vehicle’s upright stance and large windows enable you to grasp where every corner of the car is, so zipping into a tight spot is second nature to the Encore. The display from the backup camera is clear, and though the screen is small it is helpful, as are the audio alerts. The turbo power gives you the opportunity to dive into small holes in traffic.
Sporty Driving There are sportier small SUVs in this comparison, but a question to be asked is, who cares? If you are looking for sport-coupe handling the likelihood is you’ll buy a sport coupe or a small sedan. The 1.4-liter turbocharged Ecotec 4-cylinder that produces 153 horsepower in the Sport Touring model offers impressive pep, and we think the Encore’s ride comfort, quiet and parking ease are just right for those who shop this segment.
Interior Appeal The 2017 Encore (going on sale in late 2016) has a significantly revised interior, but those who buy the 2016 won’t be disappointed. Buick didn’t skimp when it came to design or materials, and the Encore seems a cut above most of its competitors inside. The gauges are traditionally round and easy to understand, although larger numerals might help overall legibility in some light conditions.
Infotainment This is an area where the soon-to-arrive 2017 model will trump the 2016. The infotainment system in the 2016 Encore is more than adequate, but the 7-inch screen is positioned a distance from the driver so it “acts” smaller than it is. The 2017 Encore will offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, perhaps good reasons to wait.
Rear Seat The Quiet-Tuned cabin offers room for up to five with a 60/40-split rear bench that easily accommodates two average-sized adults and three in a (literal) pinch. Entry is reasonably easy although the rear doors are small.
Cargo Utility A large hatch provides easy access to the 18.8-cubic-foot cargo bay, which expands to a surprising 48.4 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded. The hatch is manual but light enough to be opened and closed easily.
Fuel Economy The turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine delivers laudable fuel economy in both its 138-horsepower and its 153-horsepower forms. The base powertrain offers 28 mpg city/34 mpg highway in front-drive versions and 26/32 mpg in all-wheel-drive variants. The uplevel powertrain in the Sport Touring model delivers 25/33 mpg with front drive and 23/30 mpg with all-wheel drive.
Resale Value Owners like the Encore’s combination of features and reliability, giving it high marks. The Encore also scores well on our 5-Year Cost to Own measure, landing third among this group behind the Honda HR-V and the Mazda CX-3. Like many domestic vehicles the Encore’s resale value is not quite as strong as its top import rivals.
Inside and Out: Buick Encore Photo Gallery