Meet the Buick Encore, the marque’s compact luxury SUV.
Looking for a subcompact SUV for city driving? Put the 2021 Buick Encore on your short list of cars to test drive. It’s small without seeming small. It’s sporty, and very tech forward. I give this one an A for being so darn fun to drive — but if you’re looking to cart around a growing family, this might not be the vehicle for you.
Before I test drove the Buick Encore, I had an image of what it was like to drive a Buick in my head. My grandad Hudkins was a Buick guy. Every three years, whether he needed to or not, he traded in his large Buick sedan for a new, equally large Buick sedan. The sleek, compact Buick Encore I drove might be a distant relation to my grandad’s Buick, but I did not see the family resemblance. The company has completely upgraded its former image to become something modern and exciting.
Good things come in small packages 0f style and comfort
I drive a larger SUV or a minivan on a daily basis. I’m admittedly parking challenged. Squeezing into something I perceive as a small parking space makes me anxious. Especially if I have someone riding with me who is going to judge my parking challenged-ness. The Encore is a total game changer. It’s easy to maneuver in and out of tight spaces or parallel spaces. That’s going to be a huge benefit if you’re located in an urban area, where everyone is trying to squish as many cars into as few spots as possible. It has a small car feel while still giving you subcompact SUV space.
There’s a definitely luxury feel to this one. The premium leather interior has a first class cabin look and feel to it. While the Buick Encore might be in the subcompact category, they’ve made very efficient use of the space and nothing about this drive experience feels cramped, even if it’s not as roomy as your larger, full-size SUVs. This isn’t a vehicle that’ll transport your furniture, but it’ll get you and your family around town without an issue.
What I loved about the Buick Encore
I loved the ease of driving this car — the seamless steering and maneuverability stood out the most to me. It’s a nice change from driving a full-size SUV, but it still feels like you have the flexibility that an SUV provides when it comes to space.
I also liked the idea of having a small car without feeling like I was driving a small car. I’m tall, and I’m uncomfortable in most subcompacts if I have to be in them for any length of time, but the Encore doesn’t have that claustrophobic feel. It’s not so big that it’s unwieldy, but the car’s designers have ensured that it won’t feel like you’ve been squished into a clown car.
While I did only urban and a little bit of highway driving in the Buick Encore, I could easily see this being a comfortable ride for longer trips. It would be a perfect road trip car for a couple, since it can easily store luggage for two people. More than that might be tricky, though. That’s where that family-friendliness factor comes into play; if you’re opting for the traditional nuclear family, the Encore may not be your best bet for longer trips.
Buick also worked hard to reduce cabin noise, if that’s something important to you. It’s a really quiet drive in a way that feels peaceful and relaxing.
I was also fascinated by the rear camera mirror. I’m the first to admit I’m entertained by small things, and this was the first time I’d driven a car with a rear camera mirror. It was a little bit disconcerting at first because I’m used to seeing my eye in the review mirror when I glance to see what’s behind me. Even thought I’m focusing on the rear view and not myself, it still threw my equilibrium off a little bit. But once I got the hang of it, it became one of my favorite features.
You can disable this feature with an easy touch of a button, although the image won’t be as sharp. I will say my kids who rode in the back seat were massively entertained by watching the rear view while I drove.
Who is the Buick Encore for?
There is a surprising amount of room in the back seat. My two kids are still required by law to sit in booster seats, and they were both able to sit comfortably in the Buick Encore without feeling cramped. I was able to keep my seat exactly as I like it and they had plenty of room. The room in the rear seat was what surprised me most about this car.
That said, I don’t think it would pass muster for a family car… at least not for our family, and not right now. I need a car with more room for gear, luggage, and uber-large Costco runs than the Buick Encore offers. I’d have to move up to the Enclave to have the room I need to cover all my bases. If you’re a small family living in a city where those long hauls aren’t as important, then you could get by with the Encore. But don’t buy this one expecting it’ll have room for both your family and your luggage for longer journeys.
However, it would be great as a second car, a commuter car, or a car for a single person, or for empty nesters. While the Encore comfortably seats four passengers, I found it doesn’t have room for four people’s stuff on a regular basis. I could easily see it being a daily driver for small families while a bigger vehicle lies in wait for when you really need it.
What else do you need to know about the Buick Encore?
- Four trim levels: 1 SV, Preferred, Sport Touring (pictured in this article) and Essence.
- Starting MSRP is $23,200 with options and premium trim taking it up to $30,800.
- Fuel economy: 25 city/30 highway with an average of 27 mph.
- Seats up to five (but three people in the rear seat would be really tight)
- Nine paint color options (pictured here is Summit White, which is the only standard paint color — all the rest have an upcharge, but there are some really pretty ones that would make it worth the extra coin, in my opinion.)
- Standard safety features include: lane keep assist, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, rear camera mirror, and surround vision.
Disclosure: Buick provided me with an Encore to test and review. All opinions are my own.