Full 2014 Buick Encore Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Buick Encore picks up an optional blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alerts.
Crossover SUVs come in all sizes and capability levels, but so far only a few automakers make truly small utility vehicles aimed at consumers who drive in crowded cities. The Buick Encore is one of these crossovers. At only 168 inches long, it's 10 inches shorter than the compact Honda CR-V. The Buick's petite dimensions pay dividends when it's time to squeeze into undersized parking spaces, but don't assume that this less-is-more philosophy extends to the Encore's equipment list. Even base versions of this small crossover come with Buick's IntelliLink touchscreen interface and a rearview camera, so the cabin ambience is decidedly upscale considering its sub-$30,000 base price.
In addition, the Encore's interior offers flexibility, as you can fold both the front passenger seat (a standard feature) and the rear seats flat. So done, there's room to stack lumber or anything up to 8 feet long inside the Encore and still close its liftgate. Meanwhile, there's just enough legroom to accommodate 6-footers in the backseat, but as you might expect, hiproom and shoulder room aren't particularly generous.
The primary drawback to the 2014 Buick Encore, though, is its sluggish acceleration. It takes close to 10 seconds to get to 60 mph. Not only is this slower than most similarly sized competitors in this price range, including the Fiat 500L, Mini Cooper S Countryman and Nissan Juke, it's something you'll notice as soon as you hit the gas pedal to merge onto the highway. Until Buick sees fit to upgrade the Encore's engine, this could be a limiting factor for many buyers. On the upside, the Encore returns above average fuel economy for its class, and it's exceptionally quiet once you're up to speed.
If you're looking for a handsome, fuel-efficient crossover to drive in the city, the 2014 Buick Encore is worth considering. If your plans include frequent road trips, however, we'd encourage you to test-drive at least a couple of its competitors, as well as larger crossovers like the CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4, which offer significantly more space and, in most cases, better performance for similar money.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Buick Encore is offered in four trim levels: Base, Convenience, Leather and Premium.
The base Encore comes standard with 18-inch painted alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories, a six-way power driver seat (manual recline), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a rearview camera, split-folding rear seats, a fold-flat front passenger seat, OnStar telematics and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack. Also included is Buick's IntelliLink control interface, which features a 7-inch touchscreen and integrated smartphone apps.
Stepping up to the Convenience adds foglights, a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alerts, remote ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 120-volt power outlet and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
As you'd expect, the Leather trim level adds leather upholstery for the front seats, a driver seat with power-adjustable lumbar support, a six-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and driver memory settings.
The Premium adds rain-sensing wipers, an upgraded Bose seven-speaker sound system, front and rear parking sensors, a forward collision warning system, a lane departure warning system, and a rear cargo net and mat.
The cargo net/mat is optional on all the lower trims, while the Bose audio is also available on the Convenience and Leather trim levels. Other options, depending on trim level, include chrome wheels, a power sunroof, a navigation system and roof rack cross rails.
Powertrains and Performance
All 2014 Buick Encore models are powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic with a manual-shift feature is the only transmission offered, but all versions of the Encore give you the choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
Front-wheel-drive Encores receive EPA fuel economy estimates of 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined, while those with all-wheel drive rate 23/30/26. In Edmunds performance testing, a front-wheel-drive Encore accelerated to 60 mph in 9.8 seconds, which is slower than most other crossovers in this price range.
Standard safety features for the 2014 Buick Encore include front-seat knee airbags, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags, a rearview camera, antilock disc brakes and traction and stability control. Also included is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking and stolen vehicle assistance.
A blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alerts is available from the Convenience trim level on up, while forward collision warning and lane departure warning systems are standard on the Encore Premium.
In government crash tests, the all-wheel-drive Encore received five stars for overall crash protection, while the front-drive Encore received four stars. Both versions received five stars in the frontal-impact and side-impact protection categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Encore the highest possible rating of Good in its moderate-overlap front-offset and side-impact crash tests, as well as its roof strength test. However, the Buick received the agency's lowest rating of Poor in the new small-overlap frontal-offset crash test (most small crossover SUVs earned a Poor or Marginal rating in this test).
In Edmunds testing, a front-drive Encore stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, which is average for this class.
Interior Design and Special Features
Fit and finish throughout the Encore's cabin is generally pretty good, and well-placed soft-touch materials and splashes of simulated wood and metallic accents provide an upscale look. Buick's standard IntelliLink system and its 7-inch control touchscreen dominate the center stack. There are plenty of buttons here, but we like the added redundancy they provide, and overall, the Encore's IntelliLink is fast, reliable and easy to use as infotainment and smartphone app integration systems go.
Up front there's plenty of room all around, and the wide seats prove comfortable. Those seats are also pleasantly high, providing a commanding view around and above traffic as well as easing entry and exit. In back, there's ample legroom even for 6-footers, though there's less rear shoulder room and hiproom than in most other compact crossovers. Rear-facing car seats will be a tight fit back here.
When it comes to carrying cargo, the Encore is ready. The rear seats and the front passenger seat fold flat, allowing transport of longer items up to 8 feet in length. With all seats in place, there are 18.8 cubic feet of space. Folding the rear seats down expands that to 48.4 cubes. This is more capacity than the Mini Countryman offers (42.2 cubic feet), but noticeably less than you'll get from the next-size-up compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, which offers a comparatively cavernous 71 cubic feet.
In contrast to their boatlike forebears, today's Buicks drive with a sort of relaxed, composed comfort, and the Encore is no exception. However, due to this small crossover's short wheelbase, the ride tends to get bouncy over bumpy pavement, which can be an annoyance on long trips. The cabin stays quiet at high speeds, though, thanks to a number of "quiet-tuning" tricks, including an active sound-cancellation system by Bose.
Handling is not sporty, but the Encore is nonetheless enjoyable to drive around town, as it goes where you point it and fits into small parking spaces. The steering is reasonably precise, and a tidy turning circle makes for easy U-turns.
The 2014 Buick Encore's dynamic liability is its 138-hp 1.4-liter engine. This just isn't enough engine for a crossover SUV, and although the Encore feels adequately powerful in city driving, it feels strained when merging onto the highway or making any sort of passing maneuver. Not helping matters is the six-speed automatic, which is quick to upshift into its higher gears. This helps optimize fuel economy, but it also blunts the Encore's responsiveness.