The all-new Buick Encore turned a few heads at this year’s North American Auto Show. Pre-show chatter about the crossover SUV had led many to believe that General Motors would present a rebadged Chevrolet Equinox to slot below the full-size Buick Enclave. Instead, the five-passenger, four-cylinder Encore dropped a couple weight classes to duke it out with a select class of fighters that includes the Cadillac SRX, MINI Cooper Countryman and, sometime soon, the Audi Q3 and BMW X-1.
The Encore is so tiny that it rides on the same Gamma II platform as the Chevrolet Sonic — albeit with a few modifications. But the rear-seat passenger room rivals the larger Equinox and the cargo capacity is impressive: a hair more than 18 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and with the rear seat and fold-flat front passenger seat tucked away, more than 48 cubic feet at maximum.
However configured, the interior is near-luxury at its best. Much like the new Verano sedan, the Encore’s stylish and well-organized cabin is outfitted with leatherette-and-cloth or optional all-leather upholstery. Designers put an emphasis on a quiet ride, adding an acoustic-laminated windshield, a noise-cancelling Bose audio system and “quiet-tuned” Continental tires on 18-inch aluminum or chrome rims.
Buick’s dash-mounted IntelliLink multimedia system is standard. Optional add-ons include heated front seats and steering wheel, navigation, a backup camera, forward-collision and lane-departure warning, front and rear park assist, remote start, automatic wipers and more.
The exterior can best be described as “Buick, abbreviated.” GM’s designers made efforts to offset the Encore’s bubble shape by sweeping the shoulder line up toward the rear pillars and adding every Buick-brand accessory in the shop: dynamic, blue-tinged headlights, waterfall grille and hood portholes all found a spot on the sheet metal.
The Encore will be powered by an Ecotec 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-four that delivers 140 hp at 148 lb.-ft. of torque; there was no mention of another engine at press time. A six-speed, shiftable automatic transmission is standard and all-wheel drive is optional.
The driving experience should be inspiring: The Encore’s short undercarriage includes a MacPherson front strut suspension, advanced torsion-beam rear suspension and further noise-dampening technology.
Pricing is not yet available for the Encore, which will roll into showrooms in the first quarter of 2013.