Ignored On Arrival, But Coming On Strong An image exists out there that perfectly conveys the fate we thought would befall the Buick Encore after its world debut at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. The shot shows the just-unveiled Encore on stage, basking in the glow of spotlights but surrounded by a large display area that's bereft of both cars and people. Two journalists are sitting on a couch over to the side, both facing the Encore but ignoring it as they inspect their swag, and a solitary custodial engineer pushes a vacuum back and forth across a sea of gray carpet. Like a kid with his birthday cake at a party no one came to, this little crossover's debut was largely, almost cruelly, ignored. Who can blame us, though? Two shows ago, the Motor City's main stage welcomed the redesigned Aston Martin-esque Ford Fusion, the 3 Series-assassin ATS from Cadillac and the return of Dodge to the small car game with the Dart. A fourth model for the wayward Buick brand, especially one so arguably un-Buick in form and function, did not seem to deserve the attention paid to its peers that year. In hindsight, however, maybe we were wrong. Perhaps Buick knew something the rest of us did not, that there exists a niche unfilled in the marketplace, one in which upwardly mobile Millenials are looking for economy, function, style and luxury in a single vehicle. But would they buy it with a Buick badge? While the Encore's coming out party was sparsely attended, it's been making friends in the marketplace. So we recently spent a week with one to find out why our snapshot failed to foretell the model's future. There the Encore sits, the dark horse option on many different shopping lists. The Encore is a crossover in the most literal sense, combining qualities from so many segments that finding competitors to fairly compare it with can be difficult. Buick might like it placed among the class of premium small crossovers that includes the BMW X1, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class. That's wishful thinking considering its smaller size, lower price and Buick's less sterling brand cachet. There are a host of crossovers that line up with the Encore's mid-$20k-to-low-$30k price range – the Kia Sportage, Chevy Equinox and even mainstream heavyweights like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, for instance. Those models, however, are also larger than the Encore, and generally aren't in the business of courting luxury dollars. Then there are vehicles that share a similar shape with the Encore, high-riding hatchbacks like the Kia Soul or highly functional five-doors like the Honda Fit. But they are priced far below the Encore, and again lack the luxury features a higher price affords. So there the Encore sits, the dark horse option on many different shopping lists. Being the wee-est one to wear a Tri-Shield emblem, the Encore dons Buick's now-familiar styling cues a bit awkwardly. The large headlights, for instance, take up …
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