Cars

2020 Buick Encore: The Big Little Crossover

DETROIT — The 2020 Buick Encore was a big little crossover.

We thought the smallest of Buick’s utility vehicles was spot-on in terms of performance.

The Encore was powered by a 1.3-liter engine that made 155 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Our all-wheel-drive model got 26 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined.

We hear a lot about you really don’t need much horsepower. The Encore proves that point.

This vehicle had plenty of oomph. It could and did accelerate with authority. Though small compared to midsize crossovers, it did not drive small and it was not overshadowed on the roads by bigger vehicles.

That is a long-winded way of saying it was easy to drive. There just wasn’t any strain on the engine.

The secret to the Encore’s performance, well it is in the specs, is all the torque is available at 1,600 rpm. That puts power to pavement early in the torque curve and that means better than average acceleration from just about any speed.

Inside, the Buick Encore had a spacious passenger compartment fore and aft. We found that there was plenty of headroom in the back seat. And even though our test vehicle was all-wheel-drive, the tunnel was not that tall. In other words, it was not that much of an effort to straddle the hump. We believe three people could sit abreast in the back row. They would be close, but it could be done for relatively short hauls.

Up front, Buick used analog instruments with a TFT screen between the odometer and the speedometer. There was an infotainment touch screen behind plexiglass which gave it a nice fit and finish.

There were three pods: the info screen, the audio controls beneath and the climate controls beneath that. It was a very simple but clean look. But don’t get it twisted, this vehicle was chock full of equipment.

Buick is a premium brand; thus, its vehicles must be equipped to reflect that. The first thing that struck us was that the Encore had keyless entry on all four doors. That is significant and something usually found on luxury cars.

Somebody at Buick was thinking about the customer. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to unlock and open the front door and then reach inside to unlock the rear doors.

The Encore had what was labeled a head-up display but it was a flip-up screen atop the steering wheel. From a pragmatic point of view, polarized sunglasses negate HUDs, you can’t see them. But this flip screen display can be seen with those types of sunglasses. It is the little things that make a driver comfortable and make the big difference.

We also found the driver information informative. The Encore would tell us how much brake life was left in the pads, 95 percent. It did the same for the air filter and the oil.

This crossover was equipped with voice controls, it had a power liftgate, in the front there were normal USB jacks, a mini USB jack and a 12V plug. Of course, we had satellite radio and stop-start.

Creature comforts included heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. It had lane-departure warning, a rearview camera with cross-traffic alert, its own Wi-Fi hot spot, wireless charging, and a surround-view camera.

The base price was $30, 500. Add $4,225 worth of options and a $995 freight charge and the total came to $35,720. That was not bad for what we got.

Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.

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