A NYC cab fulfilled its stereotype, forcing my car to the body shop, forcing me into a new CUV. Did I hate it?
Aside from sampling them for review purposes, I don’t particularly have any affinity towards crossover SUVs. But I was unfortunately forced into one when a New York City cabby decided to fulfill its stereotype. Making a left turn onto a street from a busy Manhattan avenue, the cab failed to look ahead while pulling away from a fare, t-boning me in the process.
This meant my personal form of transport had to undergo the knife for repairs. So my insurance company set me up with a rental. The subject of my hard testing procedures: a fairly new 2015 Buick Encore crossover with only 1,500 miles on the odometer. But why? Surely, there was something nicer to choose.
Well, it was either the Encore, or a Corolla or a Sentra, so selection wasn’t really varied. Obviously picking from those, the Encore was the best and nicest choice. I figured it would at least be quiet and comfortable, especially being a crossover and above all, a Buick. So I gave them my information, completed the insurance work, and drove off with the Encore as mine for the next three and a half weeks. In case you didn’t get that, Buick and General Motors did not provide the vehicle for review.
2015 Buick Encore AWD
|Style:||Subcompact crossover SUV|
|Seating Capacity:||Four and a half passengers|
|Price As Tested:||$28,780|
|Engine:||1.4L DOHC EcoTec turbocharged 16-valve four-cylinder with double variable cam phasing – 138hp @ 3900-6000 rpm; 148 lb-ft of torque @ 1850-4900 rpm|
|Transmission:||Six-speed automatic with front- or all-wheel drive (AWD equipped)|
|0-60 MPH:||10 seconds|
|Top Speed:||120 MPH|
|Fuel Economy (City/Highway):||23/30 mpg city/highway; FWD 25/33 mpg w/ 14 gal. tank|
Just a good-looking CUV
Thankfully, this specific rental only had one minor stain on the back of the rear seat, presumably from when the seats were down for…uh…something. But other than that, this 1,500-mile rental Encore was as clean as rentals, and new cars, could get. Because I was spending an extended period with this Encore, I wanted to see if I’d end up loving or hating it by the time I had to return it. But more so, I figured a review of a rental car would help prove that it’s not the end of the world to be stuck with a rental heap these days. Cheap cars are getting better and better by each new generation, meaning rentals too.
The Buick Encore debuted at the 2012 North American International Auto Show as the company’s first-ever subcompact crossover SUV. But hardly a Buick it is. It starts life as an Opel Mokka. Opel is a part of General Motors’ global portfolio, much like Buick. Because Buick has a thing for rebadging and slightly reengineering Opels, the story is no different with the Encore.
This benefits the Encore in a variety of ways. The Opel Mokka scores well in Europe as a competent CUV. Being the same car in its roots minus some details, the Encore should be the same. And it is. The Encore’s handsome aesthetics establishes that rental cars don’t have to look awful and generic. Sure, it’s a bit off-putting to see the chrome Buick Trident badge on the grille. There are also cheesy non functional hood vents that look as if they’re taken straight from the accessories aisle at PepBoys. But other than that, it’s a good looking CUV.
Reasonably well-built too
Like many other of GM’s latest offerings, build quality strikes fairly well with the Encore. Some of the plastics and other interior design cues, such as the ancient and typical GM dashboard bong, remind you the car is still built to GM standards. But it’s a good standard because the Encore feels well-built for its price. The doors and sheetmetal are solid like a German-based Opel should feel. The cabin was free of any squeaks or rattles and quiet at any speed.
The interior amenities aren’t shy either. This particular rental came with the package spec one step up from base model. Heated seats and steering wheel, a moonroof, auto dual-zone climate control, Buick’s IntelliLink seven-inch color touchscreen infotainment screen, Bluetooth and USB connectivity are all standard. The radio is decent too, without being the upgraded Bose option.
Keeping the Encore quiet is Buick’s own standard active noise cancellation system. Utilizing ceiling mounted microphones, the sound system listens for engine noise. It processes and compensates for that noise by pumping sound waves of specific frequencies through the speakers and subwoofer, cancelling out that unwanted noise. Simply put, it works, making the Encore feel much more premium than its price suggests.
Competent and well-mannered
Ok, so the car is at least quiet and comfortable. Does that mean it’s a complete pudge in the corners like Buicks of yesteryear? Not at all. Like the interior’s quietness, the ride is equally as solid and properly ironed out. It’s even borderline firm yet compliant—surprising for a car its size and price point. Body roll is controlled and it negotiates off-ramps and mountain roads with competence. No, we’re not talking tire-roasting levels, but it won’t fall apart if the road is anything but straight.
The Encore’s 1.4L turbocharged EcoTec four-banger provides leisurely acceleration at best with 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque moving 3,370lbs. But it is smooth and refined with minimal turbo lag, thanks to its flat torque curve. The six-speed automatic behaves in the same relaxed manner. As expected, the numbers reveal nothing to shout about, taking around 10 seconds to hit 60 miles per hour.
Fuel economy figures are so-so, ticking the EPA figures at 23/30 mpg city/highway when equipped with all-wheel drive. Front-wheel-drive models benefit from a minor hike to 25/33 mpg city/highway. It’s not stellar, nor class-leading, which goes to examples like the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, and Mazda CX-5.
No, I didn’t end up hating it
So, did I end up hating the 2015 Buick Encore by the time I handed the keys back to the rental firm? Surprisingly, no. I actually ended up thinking I was going to miss the Encore’s comfortable, quiet and confident ride. Keep in mind, I daily a 2011 Honda Accord V6 Coupe with stiff Honda Factory Performance suspension. That might have put me at a disposition of relief from living with a more comfortable car for some time.
For someone looking into a small CUV, the Buick Encore is a likable option. Its base price of $26,490 is enticing entrance into the world of well-equipped crossovers. This rental’s specification with the Convenience Group package increases the value, equipping Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, blind-spot warning, fog lamps, just to name a few. The final price for this specific example rings in at $28,780.
However, considering the Buick Encore puts you right into the price bracket of some stiff competition. The many larger, better equipped, and better driving offerings from Japan, Germany, and Korea already make decision-making tough. Examples include the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford Escape, and the Mazda CX-5. Ironically there’s even the Encore’s cheaper, Chevrolet-branded platform mate, the Trax, and it nearly drives the same, broadening the spectrum of total value. At the Encore’s price point as well, Chevrolet’s larger Equinox is even a possibility.
So why else would you get the Buick? It’s a commitment to a near-luxury brand as Buick continues to market themselves as cheaper alternatives to the luxury status quo. But the catch is that it leaves the Encore in a very confused spot in the market.
|· Genuinely quiet||· Needs more power|
|· Excellent ride, competent handling and body control||· Could lose a couple hundred pounds|
|· Space efficient||· Fake hood vents from PepBoys…like, really Buick?|
|Verdict: I didn’t hate having to spend three and a half weeks with a 2015 Buick Encore. It is a likeable, well-built, well-designed crossover that does its job just fine. There are just so many other options to consider at its price point.|
– By: Chris Chin
Editor’s Note: This vehicle was not provided by General Motors or Buick. Instead, my insurance company rented the vehicle for me. I just decided to write about it since I never drove an Encore before.
Photos Copyright 2015 © C Squared Photography for egmCarTech.