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Little Buick, big bang for the buck

For 2016, the Encore’s encore (sorry, I couldn’t resist) carries on relatively unchanged with just the usual annual adjustment of new colours and revised wheels. “But it’s a Buick through and through,”

  • Buick Encore 2016-main

THE PROS & CONS

    • What’s Best: Luxuries, amenities and an ample list of choices in a subcompact premium Ute with a tighter turning circle than a MINI.
    • What’s Worst: Labour intensive infotainment system. Too much button- stabbing and menu scrolling.
    • What’s Interesting: A 2017 model is on the way, dropping some of the last vestiges of ancient Buick tradition. Goodbye waterfall grille and portholes. But I think you can still buy the stick-on portholes at Canadian Tire.

This is the 2016 Buick Encore and, when it debuted almost five years ago, it was cited as the first luxury crossover of its kind.

The Encore filled a new slot in the Buick lineup with its versatile and very compact design.

It was outfitted as sort of a little luxury runabout, blending the relative roominess of a small but tall five-passenger cabin with a tight turning circle and nimble, easy-to-park maneuverability.

“But it’s a Buick through and through,” Ed Welburn, GM’s Vice President of Design, said at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show reveal, pointing out the emphasis on quiet luxury, upgraded interior features, and even a few traditional Buick styling cues – the waterfall grille and, yes, portholes.

Little Buick, big bang for the buck

The Buick Encore has done well since that introduction and when you combine the sale’s numbers of the Encore with those of its more econo-oriented Chevy Trax sibling, GM seems to have a solid hold on the number one sales position in the subcompact CUV category.

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For 2016, the Encore’s encore (sorry, I couldn’t resist) carries on relatively unchanged with just the usual annual adjustment of new colours and revised wheels.

The Encore comes in base ($28,505), Convenience ($30,120), Sport Touring ($31,415), Leather ($32,150) and Premium ($33,575) trim levels.

Under the hood, an Ecotec 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder engine makes 138 hp and 148 lb/ft of torque while offering a thrifty fuel economy rating of 9.5/7.2L/100km (city/hwy). This mill pulls well enough for daily driving chores and my real world fuel economy results worked out to 9L/100km (comb).

Buick added an optional engine choice for the Sport Touring model late in the 2016 model year – a same-size but slightly tweaked direct-injection 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder that bumps up the power level to 153 hp and 177 lb/ft of grunt while offering even better fuel economy with an assist from an electronic stop/start anti-idling system.

Both engines are mated to a Hydra-Matic 6T40 six-speed automatic transmission featuring a steep first gear and a tall overdrive, factors that combine for brisk acceleration and lowered rpm cruising at highway speeds.

Little Buick, big bang for the buck

Front-wheel-drive is standard but all-wheel-drive systems ($2,000) can be opted for in all models.

Because of its premium positioning, the Encore lineup starts with a very inclusive base model offering standard equipment that features four-wheel ABS disc brakes, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, 18-inch aluminum wheels, variable-effort electric power steering, ten air bags, roof rails and heated mirrors with signal repeaters.

The air-conditioned cabin strikes a refined note starting with QuietTuning insulation and Buick’s first use of Bose Active Noise Cancellation technology. The leather-wrapped steering wheel offers a full suite of infotainment and cruise controls.

And even the base model tops the content up with dual glove boxes, a rear cargo cover, a rearview camera system, ice-blue ambient illumination and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/Sirius XM (3 month trial) audio system with IntelliLink seven-inch HD display.

Little Buick, big bang for the buck

As you can imagine, that content list increases steadily as you climb the rungs of the trim level ladder, maxing out in our top-of-the-line Premium tester with extras that include leather appointments, fog lamps, heated seats and a heated steering wheel along with driver assist technologies like Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning and more.

And the extras just keep on coming with remote starting, dual zone climate, a 120V outlet, Rainsense wipers, front & rear park assist and upgraded seven-speaker Bose audio. If that’s not enough, an optional Experience Buick Package ($2,800) adds navigation and a power moonroof.

I think you’re getting the picture that when Buick says “premium” they mean “premium”.

It’s a big list of luxuries in such a small package. And with all those available extras, Buick customers can pick their own personal mix of dynamic technologies and amenities.

Little Buick, big bang for the buck

I would be inclined to weigh prices and priorities, keeping in mind the more frugal Chevy Trax (about $19K-$31K) compared to the Buick Encore price range (about $28K-$35K). And if I was leaning towards Buick, I would also be tempted to wait until later this summer or fall when a new and revised 2017 Encore shows up at dealerships.

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The new 2017 model drops the old fashioned Buick cues, losing the portholes and replacing the waterfall grille with Buick’s new winged grille.

A refined exterior treatment, new headlights and rear LED taillights will be complemented by an updated interior with a new gauge cluster, a bigger 8-inch infotainment touchscreen display and new Apple CarPlay/Android Auto interface technologies.

Waiting a few weeks might also allow a little bargaining room for those still interested in a 2016 model.

Either way, Buick customers have no shortage of selections when it comes to ticking the boxes on their Encore wish lists.

Choices, choices.

I don’t know if grandad ever had it so good.

Little Buick, big bang for the buck

Buick Encore FWD Premium 2016

BODY STYLE: Subcompact luxury sport utility crossover.

DRIVE METHOD: Front engine, front-wheel drive.

ENGINE: 1.4-litre turbocharged Ecotec four-cylinder engine (138 hp, 148 lb/ft of torque)

CARGO CAPACITY: 532 litres, 1,371 with 60/40 second row folded

TOW RATING: Not recommended

FUEL ECONOMY: 9.5/7.2L/100 km (city/hwy); As tested 9L/100km (comb).

PRICE: Encore FWD Premium MSRP $33,475. As tested $35,365 incl Experience Buick Pkg $1,790. Destination ($1,700) not incl.

WEB SITE:  buick.ca

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