• Image Credit: Autoblog

Welcome to the new Buick, where less is indeed more.

In 2011, the brand launched the Verano, a smaller sedan that scored with valued-minded consumers who wanted fuel efficiency that comes with a compact vehicle in addition to a nice car.  Buick sold 41,042 Veranos in a breakout first year.

Executives are hoping to repeat the formula with the all-new Encore, a smaller crossover that takes aim at customers seeking fuel economy and versatility from their cars. In this case, they're stretching – or should we say, shrinking – the concept further.

How small is small? Considered that the Verano is compact at 183.9 inches long. The Encore is a full 15.5 inches shorter than its sedan counterpart, designed to appeal to city drivers who can wedge the petite crossover into tight parking spaces.

In terms of its competitors, only the MINI Countryman ranks shorter than the Encore on the length spectrum. The Encore, at 168.4 inches long, is shorter than the BMW X1 and Volkswagen Tiguan.

One of the big successes with the Encore is that engineers maintained the versatility of a larger vehicle. You wouldn't use this car to move furniture, but there remains ample room for luggage, groceries or golf clubs in the back.

Here's more on what I liked – and didn’t – with the all-new Buick Encore.

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How Much?
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How Much?

MSRP: $24,950 - $28,940
Invoice: $23,232 - $28,502

As Tested: $28,940

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Key Stats
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Key Stats

Engine: 1.4-liter I-4 engine

Performance: 138 horsepower at 4,900 rpm and 148 lb.-ft. of torque

Transmission: Six-speed automatic transmission

Seating: 5

Storage: 18.8 cubic feet with back seats up; 48.4 cubic feet with seats folded down

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Fuel Economy
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Fuel Economy

Here’s how the Encore’s fuel economy shapes up against some key competitors, according to data provided on their window stickers:

Buick Encore
25 city/33 highway for front-wheel drive models
23 city/30 highway for all-wheel drive models

BMW X1
24 city/34 highway for rear-wheel drive models
23 city/33 highway for all-wheel drive models

Volkswagen Tiguan (pictured)
18 city/26 highway for front-wheel drive models
20 city/26 highway for all-wheel drive models

Ford Escape
22 city/31 highway for front-wheel drive models
23 city/30 highway for all-wheel drive models

MINI Countryman
27 city/35 highway for front-wheel drive models
25 city/31 highway for all-wheel drive models

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What We Like

What We Like

Pete: Amid the beige, burgundy and other predictably staid colors available on the Encore emerges a bolder option – and an interesting behind-the-scenes story.

The Encore is also available in an electric blue exterior, one that Buick executives hemmed and hawed over whether to offer. The rich hue, a first in the Buick brand, was too much of a departure from the brand's normal conservative color approach, some said. Too bold. Too un-Buick.

Others argued it was exactly the sort of risk Buick needed to take in its efforts to woo younger buyers. The Encore's market is both empty-nesters who no longer need an Enclave-sized behemoth and young, pre-family professionals. They're right.

Not only does the electric blue exterior work, it works great.

It looks terrific on the car, while at the same time, not appearing overly trendy. Buick should consider rolling it out on other vehicles, perhaps starting with its sporty Regal GS.

Some other things about the car itself we like: Its value.

The Ford Escape will probably end up being a key competitor for the Encore. But for drivers who don't need that much space, the Encore is a much better value. It has a nicer interior offered at the same price.

I like the fact the rear-view camera comes in the base trim package, along with 10 airbags that protect drivers and passengers.

Another plus: Although they kept this car to its pint-sized minimum, engineers left plenty of head room for both front and rear passengers. And the Encore has a pleasant, smooth transmission.

Autoblog: At the end of the day, we're left with a smartly accoutered and serene little shoe of a crossover that offers good daily manners for urban living. Buick may not have the clearest idea of what vehicles the Encore lines up against, but it does seem to have target customers in mind – buyers on both ends of life's timeline who are mutually unencumbered by kids and their associated detritus. Young, childless professionals on one end and empty nesters on the other. This sounds just about right to us.

What We Don't Like
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What We Don't Like

Pete: The 1.4-liter engine that generates 139 horses is barely adequate. Acceleration is sluggish.

That's probably an OK tradeoff for city driving, where the Encore is expected to do the bulk of its transportation. But on the some of the gentle, rolling Georgia hills where I test-drove the Encore, it was lacking. It took between 10 and 11 seconds to go from zero to 60 miles per hour.

Not great for urban drivers who desire quick bursts of acceleration for weaving in and out of traffic. Buick went with a one-engine strategy across its four Encore trim levels, but may want to considering offering a little more power to those willing to pay for it.

One quibble with Buick which rankles across its lineup is its button-heavy center dashboard. The Encore is no exception. Stare at it too long and it can feel like you're sitting behind a keyboard at the office instead of driving a car.

Autoblog: The Ecotec just ain't country strong. Combine a lack of power with this CUV's stubby dimensions, high center of gravity and precise-but-unengaging electric power steering, and there wasn't much incentive to press on.


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Bottom Line
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Bottom Line

When it comes to the auto industry, "budget" and "luxury" aren't usually two words that cross paths. Buick in general and the Encore in particular find themselves at that unusual intersection.

Whether or not consumers join them there is the big question.

Buick says it's in uncharted territory with the Encore, offering a premium crossover in shrunken form. 

A prediction: the Encore will find its footing, appealing to cost-conscious customers seeking value for their money. It's going to offer a more refined interior than many crossover vehicles at similar prices. It's going to offer better fuel economy than most everything but the MINI Countryman.

Crossover customers might ultimately choose another car for a variety of reasons – namely, more space or more power – but they'd remiss if they didn't at least give the Encore a detailed look.

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