2015 Buick Encore: Small But Jam-Packed

2015 Buick Encore Awd
2015 Buick Encore AWD

Despite its size, the 2015 Buick Encore was great for a family camping trip.

I won’t ‘bury the lede’ as they say in the news biz: I’m writing this from the front seat of the Buick Encore- the premium car brand’s small SUV designed for urban drivers. That’s because Buick, like all GM brands, comes with 4G LTE Wi-Fi as a standard feature (data plan required) and it ROCKS.

2015 Buick Encore

The telescoping steering wheel in the 2015 Buick Encore . Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Who should consider this car

  • Singles, couples or small families who live in cities or urban areas where parking is tight
  • Drivers looking for good fuel economy with all wheel drive; the Encore gets up to 30 MPG on the highway
  • Drivers who want a small car but also lots of flexible interior space including fold flat seats
  • Drivers who want the latest technology and luxuries— for the price, the Encore delivers a lot
  • Anyone who wants Wi-Fi in the car: the 4G LTE service is far superior to my phone’s hot spot
  • Drivers who often work in the car; the telescoping tilt steering wheel gives you lots of room in the front seat, and the household plug on the back of the center console gives you great utility
2015 Buick Encore Awd

Front seat power ports in the Buick. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

What buyers should consider

  • The car’s only cigarette power port and USB port are located in a small-ish space under the center dash—if you have large hands it can be difficult to plug in your devices
  • A single arm rests does double duty for front seat passengers
  • Storage spaces are small—one over the glove box, one between the center front seats, the small space beneath the center dash
  • Back seat legroom is on the small side
  • Rear seat bottoms need to flip forward in order for the second row to fold flat
  • Infotainment system took some time to figure out (see our video)
  • MPG not as great when loaded with four passengers and luggage (we averaged 27 on the highway–still not too bad)
  • 1.4 liter 4-cylinder engine with turbo boost: powerful enough but still sounds like a 4-cylinder engine
  • Very similar in look and feel to the Chevrolet Trax, another urban SUV built by General Motors

The top thing to consider: The Buick Encore’s Wi-Fi just plain ROCKS.

As in, “let’s take the Buick so I can use the Wi-Fi,” which my 16-year old daughter said daily the week we drove the Encore. As in, get into the car, tap your Wi-Fi button and you’re connected (after your initial device pairing); no struggles or running down your battery to get on line. Or slide your seat back, telescope the steering wheel all the way forward, open your laptop and voila, you can work from the soccer tournament, Trader Joe’s parking lot or in my case, a KOA campground. And, because being able to chauffeur my kids AND get my work done really rocks.

Camping in the Encore. Yes, camping

2015 Buick Encore Awd

This is how we camp: check into a cute log cabin at a KOA campground. Not too rustic, but no extra equipment needed, either. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

The week we drove the Encore we went on a camping trip outside Mystic, Connecticut. All wheel drive was needed, while space for camping gear was not; the Encore suited us perfectly.

We packed up the back of the Encore with all we needed: our four bags, four chairs and a tote bag with blankets, towels and our dog Eli’s necessities; the girls brought small backpacks, too. All of it fit in the back of the Encore nicely once we removed the privacy shelf.

The drive up to Mystic was only two hours and luckily for us, pretty easy. The only missing component was Wi-Fi: I knew we had it—we could see it on our devices— but I couldn’t figure out how to connect it. So I called and found out the secret: the small button on the rear view mirror to the left of the OnStar button is the key. It lets you set your OnStar settings and also, set up Wi-Fi. Once I pushed the button and selected Wi-Fi settings, the Wi-Fi password was displayed on the screen so we could all log on. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to call for guidance on how to find the Wi-Fi password until we were already at the campsite, so my kids only got to take advantage of it on the way home and for the rest of the week. They had to tough it out with only phone data service the entire drive to Mystic. Boo hoo.

Encore versus Enclave: Siblings of different sizes

2015 Buick Encore

The 2015 Buick Encore next to its bigger sibling, the Enclave. Side by side you can see the Encore’s sportier exterior making it great for the city or country. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Once we got to Mystic I was delighted to see that one of the families in our group was driving the Buick Enclave, the larger sibling of the Encore. It was fun to put them side by side for comparison: Both have many luxury features inside, while on the outside the Encore has a sportier look and feel, with durable plastic panels covering its lower portions; the Enclave has a more refined look and feel. 

At the end of our trip we packed up and headed home in the rain, everyone settling in for the ride. For the two hour trip my teen daughters, who are 5’5” and 5’8”, found the space to be comfortable; they shared the back seat with Eli, our 18 lb. Rat Terrier. But for a longer ride they would have felt cramped. We were able to create more leg space for them by moving the front seats forward and in the driver’s seat, telescoping the steering wheel all the way forward, letting me move my seat up even a bit more.

Overall Impressions: Great car for the price

Coming in at about $31,000 for the base model and at about $32,000 for the model we test drove, and applying any dealer/manufacturer incentives, discounts and of course, researching what you should pay for all the features in the Encore, it’s a great value. Not only does it come with leather seating, premium features and some nice technology, the warranty is substantial and the price includes a whole lot of services that on their own add up to a lot (details included below under What We Loved).

How to set favorite radio stations and driver feedback

What We Loved

  • Wi-Fi via OnStar 4G LTE (with 3 months complimentary data)
  • Leather seats
  • Surprisingly large cargo space
  • Fold-flat center seats
  • Heated front seats
  • Telescoping steering wheel
  • Rain sensing wipers
  • Remote starter and keyless entry
  • Bluetooth
  • 120 V household plug power outlet
  • 5 year OnStar basic subscription (with 6 month full plan complimentary)
  • 3 month SiriusXM radio complimentary
  • 2 year /24,000 mile scheduled service plan included

What You Need to Know

  • Seating for 5, but really more comfortable for 4 or fewer passengers
  • Rear leg room is on the tight side
  • 4 year/50,000 warranty
  • 6 year/70,000 mile power train warranty
  • Base model price: about $31,000; price of the model we tested: about $32,000
  • Uses regular gas
  • Fuel economy: 23 city/30 Highway; we averaged about 27 PMG

    2015 Buick Encore Awd

    2015 Buick Encore AWD Monroney Part 1

2015 Buick Encore Awd

2015 Buick Encore AWD Monroney Part 2

Disclosure: Buick provided the Encore for review; opinions expressed here are all my own

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss