Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2016 Buick Encore FWD Premium

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

With the plethora of new sub-compact CUVs now on the market, the Buick Encore offers something most of the others don’t. And that would be a hushed cabin, silky ride and near-luxury appointments. Especially in this upper-trim FWD Premium model that carries a list of $33,175. For those looking to downsize from larger cushy CUVs, stepping into the Encore will not amount to culture shock.

For a little tyke, there’s a surprising amount of room in here.

Most 2016 Buick Encores run with an EcoTec 1.4L turbo four making 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque from 1,850 rpm. The exception is the new-for-2016 Sport Touring model (MSRP $31,415) that gets a revised version of the EcoTec sporting 153 horsepower and 177 lb-ft thanks to the addition of direct injection, an extra 35 cc and an aluminum block. This fresh engine will be installed in all Encores for 2017. Both versions are hooked to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The 2016 Buick Encore starts at $28,505, with the base FWD model getting fabric front bucket seats with manual recline, OnStar with 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot, rear-view camera, and 18-inch five-spoke alloys.

The $30,120 Convenience adds a plethora of kit: dual-zone auto climate control, remote starter, auto-dimming inside mirror, 120-volt power outlet, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot detection and front fog lamps. Leather is another $1,000.

The $33,475 Premium nets seven-speaker Bose audio, leather, front and rear park assist, lane departure warning, forward collision alert and rain sensing wipers. This tester layered on the $1,790 Experience Buick Package that added navigation with 7-inch colour touchscreen, Buick IntelliLink and power sunroof.

All-wheel drive adds $2,000 to any model.

For a little tyke, there’s a surprising amount of room in here. The doors open wide, allowing for easy ingress both front and back. With the front seat set for my near six-foot frame, there was plenty of space to sit behind myself. Headroom in the front is Marge Simpson-grade but not quite so much in the back as that row gets “theatre seating” – the cushions are raised a bit for a better view out the front. Still, the 60/40 back seats are fine for two – comfy and decently contoured.

Folding them requires the lower cushions to be flipped forward and the head restraints lowered first. This creates an almost flat load floor. With the tall roof, you can pack a lot of stuff in here.

See also: 2017 Buick Encore Preview

Driving the Encore is a relaxing experience provided you’re not in too much of a hurry. Power from the 1.4L Ecotec can be best described as adequate. It’s reasonably zippy around town and holds its own under most conditions – just don’t expect to perform any heroic passing maneuvers. That said, even when caned this wee turbo four-pot keeps its composure, never thrashing or moaning but delivering its goods in a smooth, unruffled manner.

The transmission plays along too, avoiding the scourge of constant gear hunting that plagues many modern small-displacement turbo drivetrains. And unlike some other eco-badged turbo engines (cough… Ford EcoBoost) this GM unit turns in impressive real world fuel economy numbers. My week of mixed driving concluded at 7.2 L/100 km, and that folks, is something to smile about.

The Encore’s steering is light yet suffers no dead spots, and the ute’s handling is nicely predictable. The structure feels rock solid, outward visibility is good and for in-town maneuverability, this little legume with the tri-shield badge triumphs.

While you won’t mistake the Encore’s interior for anything from Audi, there are enough soft-touch surfaces and nice-looking metallic bits to send a message of quality. The dark faux-wood trim doesn’t scream “fake!” and the supple leather on the steering wheel is Range Rover–grade.

There are a few ergonomic missteps that date this interior. The front seats have power everything except for their annoying manual rake adjustment. The lack of proximity key and push-button start means you have to insert the key into a slot on steering column and actually twist it to start the engine. How quaint.

And figuring out some functions on the infotainment interface is no picnic. It’s an obtuse mess of buttons. Coming for 2017 is an all-new dash and 7-inch touchscreen.

For 2016, the IntelliLink infotainment system has a faster processor, enhanced navigation and mapping, and support for Apple CarPlay but no Android Auto as yet. The seven-speaker Bose audio gets a “medium” rating.

Overall, the Encore is a user-friendly, low-stress device. Other than its dearth of giddyup, it has no foibles or annoyances. And damn, with standard noise cancellation and what must be a ton of sound insulation, this thing is quieter than a Scottish pay toilet. By way of illustration, sharing my driveway with the Encore was a 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLS 400 4Matic, and the pint-sized Buick trumped the swoopy Benz for cabin isolation and ride compliance.

That said, it looks as though the 2017 Buick Encore with its modernized interior and modest power gains will be worth the wait.

4 years/80,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 6 years/160,000 km corrosion perforation; 6 years/110,000 km roadside assistance

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Model Tested 2016 Buick Encore FWD Premium
Base Price $33,175
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,700
Price as Tested $36,765
Optional Equipment
Optional equipment: Experience Buick Package (7-inch monitor, navigation, Buick IntelliLink, power moonroof)  $1,790