2013 Buick Encore road test: Cute, comfortable and easy to drive

2013 Buick Encore

2013 Buick Encore

The folks at Buick recently introduced a new baby, a cute compact crossover vehicle that they have named the 2013 Buick Encore.

The  Encore. available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive,  brings to five the number of nameplates in the fast-growing family and puts Buick squarely in one of the most hotly contested segments of the automotive market.

Taking on heavyweights like Toyota and Honda in the small crossover field is difficult for any new entrant, but the job is made all the tougher because a proliferation of cute utes, as they are affectionately called, is springing forth seemingly from almost all manufacturers.

Buick is staking its claim in the marketplace with a vehicle that combines Buick’s luxury-car demeanor with practicality and excellent fuel efficiency.

Buick Encore instruments

Buick Encore instruments

Even a quick look at the outside of the Encore confirms that it is a member of the Buick family. Its overall lines are not exactly that of a diminished version of big brother Buick Enclave, but the grille gives away its Buick identity immediately.

The Encore is definitely small, measuring in at 168.5 inches, and that is about 10 less than a Honda CR-V or a Ford Escape. The surprise is that the cabin doesn’t feel particularly small, providing adequate room for up to four average-size people in around-town cruising.

On the other hand, when you fill the 2013 Buick Encore up with people, you leave only 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, which is not very crossover-like. Fold the rear setbacks forward, however, and cargo space jumps to 48.4 cubic feet.

What this means, I suspect, is that the 2013 Buick Encore’s appeal will be more to empty nesters than growing families.

Hop into any Encore and you’ll find a generous amount of standard comfort and convenience features. Upgrade to the test car, a front-wheel-drive 2013 Buick Encore Premium Edition, and you’ll find yourself ensconced in comfortable leather seats and surrounded by soft-touch materials and upscale plastics.

Encore trunkUnder the hood is General Motors increasingly common turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that churns out 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque.

Teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission, the engine provides adequate, but certainly not exhilarating thrust. The run from a stop to 60 mph will take nearly 10 seconds. Once up to speed, however, the Encore cruises easily on the open road.

Obviously, the engine has to work hard in certain traffic situations, but Buick’s Quiet Tuning keeps harsh sounds and vibrations from finding their way into the cabin and preserves the ambience of a small luxury vehicle.