2013 Buick Encore – Test Drive and Review

By Paul Riegler on 6 August 2013
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When the 2013 Buick Encore arrived in my driveway,DSC_1746 I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  Like a blind date, it was a lot taller than I had expected yet still cute, in this case in a Mini kind of way.  On the other hand, a colleague here at the magazine described it as “bulbous.”

Indeed, this was a mini Buick, but not in the same mold as when Cadillac took an inexpensive Chevrolet Cavalier and tried to sell it as the Cadillac Cimarron.  This was designed and engineered from the bottom up to be a true, albeit small, luxury vehicle.

But the Buick Encore was also the antithesis of how I viewed Buick, i.e. as a maker of big cars.  Buick was traditionally at the top of the GM hierarchy, just below Cadillac (for those who are interested, it was Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac, in that order). Buick was also often referred to as the “doctor’s car” because, while similar in equipment and luxury to Cadillac, its smaller price tag meant that a physician wouldn’t look ostentatious when showing up for what used to be called a house call).

But I digress.  The Encore had a somewhat European feeling about it, and that’s no accident.  DSC_1747The little one, unveiled at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, was designed by GM’s Opel unit and is built in South Korea.  It’s sold as the Opel Mokka, the Vauxhall Mokka (U.K.), and as the Buick Encore in both North America and China, the latter being a market where the Buick brand is highly venerated.  It’s designed for the small streets of Europe yet it’s roomy inside and it’s Buick’s first subcompact crossover.  It bears no relationship to the briefly-marketed AMC Renault Encore of the mid-1980s, although that too was a world car, a Renault 11 reengineered for the U.S. market.

The petite Buick is also not related to the full-sized Buick Enclave, despite the familial “En” branding, and it’s unlike any other Buick we have seen.  You would have to go back to the short-lived Buick Skyhawk (ca. 1975) to find a shorter wheelbase (at 97” versus the Encore’s 100.6”) and even the Skyhawk was one foot longer overall.

When it comes to the competition, the Encore is noticeably shorter than the Audi Q3, BMW X1, and VW Tiguan.


The white Encore with the premium group package was well equipped, with comfortable saddle-colored leather seats, vinyl woodgrain trim, a heated steering wheel, rearview camera (very necessary with the thicker B and C pillars), Bluetooth support, and a decent but not great Bose sound system.  Navigation added $795 to the sticker.  I found the interface usable but not spectacular.

While the front was roomy, those occupying the rear might think they were in a budget airline cabin.  Behind the rear seats a total of 18.8 cubic feet (532 liters) of space was available.  Folding the seats down yielded 48.4 cubic feet (1,370 liters), making it a decent hauler.

Click here to continue to Page 2Driving the Encore, Driver Assistance Systems, and more

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