2019 Buick EncoreBuick Featured Test Drive Reviews 

Premium Feel on a Budget: 2019 Buick Encore Test Drive Review

Buick got a big jump on the competition when it launched its Encore subcompact crossover back for the 2013 model year ahead of today’s mad scramble for market share in the small SUV segment. At the time, the downsizing of SUVs and CUVs hadn’t hit subcompact proportions just yet, but GM took advantage of its Euro-spec Opel Mokka by rebadging it as the Buick Encore. Since then, the Encore has become Buick’s best-selling model, and not only has it helped grow Buick’s crossover lineup (that now includes the Enclave and Envision) but it also opened the door for the closely related Chevrolet Trax. Following a significant refresh for the 2017 model year, the 2019 Buick Encore looks to show that this baby Buick still has plenty to prove in a segment that gets hotter each year.

2019 Buick Encore

2019 Buick Encore Exterior

Not much is new for the 2019 Buick Encore in the styling department, but there are two new exterior colors including this tester’s Satin Gray Steel Metallic hue. This color is a $495 option, and interestingly, the only color that doesn’t require an upcharge is Summit White. No matter which color you choose, the Encore’s design has a youthful sportiness to it thanks to tight proportions and a modern design. The 2017 facelift worked wonders for this small SUV giving it trapezoidal headlights with LED daytime running lights across the board and a chrome-trimmed waterfall grille; it’s good to see Buick using red, white and blue version of its logo again! To tie the front and back together, the taillights have lighting elements that match the DRLs. All 2019 Buick Encore trim levels have black lower cladding and are equipped stylish 18-inch alloy wheels, while the Essence trim adds LED headlights, fog lights and two-tone wheels.

2019 Buick Encore

2019 Buick Encore Interior

Once inside the 2019 Buick Encore, it’s obvious where the extra money is going over lower-priced crossovers. Every inch of the cabin has the familiar Buick luxury to it with a cabin that is a step above vehicles like the Toyota C-HR, Fiat 500X and Ford EcoSport. The Buick Encore Essence trim brings added luxury thanks to the leather seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, Bose audio system and push-button start, but all trim levels get Buick’s QuietTuning process that employs numerous noise cancelling treatments to give the Encore a whisper-quiet cabin – not an easy task on a subcompact vehicle. The lack of the optional navigation system on this tester also afforded me the opportunity to dig deeper into the standard Buick Infotainment System, which unlike some high-end luxury CUVs comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

Despite such small dimensions, there is a decent amount of space for passengers. Up front, my only major complaint is that like many small vehicles, there’s only an armrest for the driver, which could have been remedied easily by ditching the pull-style parking brake in favor of an electronic parking brake. Another downside of the subcompact segment is the tight rear seat, which isn’t so bad if you don’t try to squeeze a center passenger. Not only does the Encore come with a 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot and two USB ports, but the Essence trim also has a 120-volt power outlet on the back of the center console to help keep rear occupants entertained with charged devices. Ditch the rear passengers, and you’re looking at 48.4 cubic feet of cargo volume.

2019 Buick Encore

2019 Buick Encore Powertrain

The 2019 Buick Encore features two versions of the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. In standard form, this engine is rated at 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, but if you want a step up, there’s a direct-injected version of this turbo engine putting out 153 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. It’s just enough of a power increase to make the Encore feel significantly better than the 2018 Chevrolet Trax we reviewed last year.

Like the Trax, the Buick Encore rides on the GM’s Gamma II platform (which underpins small cars like the Chevrolet Spark and Trax), and it provides the smooth compliant ride as its bowtie brother. The extra power didn’t leave the Encore as sluggish off the line as the Trax, but it’s not going to win many drag races either. Even though subcompacts tend to be excel in more city driving, the 2019 Buick Encore is still a great choice for long road trips as we found out putting about 400 highway miles on this crossover. Thanks to its small size and nimble steering, the Encore is actually fun to drive – a trait you’re not going to find on many other subcompact CUVs.

2019 Buick Encore

2019 Buick Encore Safety

The 2019 Buick Encore performed well in government crash tests receiving a five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All Encore trim levels come standard with 10 airbags, and the Essence trim adds side blind zone alert and rear cross traffic alert. New for 2019, the Encore Essence can be equipped with the optional ($940) Safety Package II, which consists of even more safety features like forward collision alert, lane departure warning, front and rear park assist sensors and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

2019 Buick Encore

2019 Buick Encore Overall

The biggest advantage the 2019 Buick Encore continues to hold in the small SUV segment is that has more of a premium feel than value-priced mainstream models (like the Honda HR-V) yet it’s not as expensive as a traditional luxury model (like the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class). As such, the new Encore is priced similarly with some compact crossovers with its starting MSRP of $23,200**, but the fact that it outsells the almost-identical Chevy Trax is proof that its upscale appointments work. All in, the Encore Essence AWD used for this test drive review carried an as-tested price of $34,875.

Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Buick dealership and test drive the 2019 Buick Encore today!

* Based on 2019 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

** MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

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