2018 Buick Encore

Slotting into the Buick SUV lineup beneath the garage-hogging Enclave and the middle-child Envision, the Buick Encore distills the almost-luxury ambience of its big brothers into a bite-sized niblet. Its interior is comfortable, well designed, and more premium than most of its rivals, but it never quite reaches full-luxury levels of comfort. High-tech infotainment features abound, and the Encore has room for four adults, so long as each one packs lightly. This baby Buick aims high but ultimately falls short of competing with luxury-branded crossovers with similarly diminutive footprints such as the BMW X1 and the Lexus NX—but then it’s not nearly as expensive as those models, either. Instead, it makes a case for itself as an in-betweener by outluxing subcompact crossovers from mainstream makers Nissan, Honda, and Chevrolet. With the Encore, you pay more, but you get more.

What’s New for 2018?

Buick’s petite SUV kicks off the new year with a handful of changes. An ionizing interior air cleaner enhances the Encore’s climate-control system, HD radio joins the list of features in the infotainment arena, and last year’s gas cap is ditched in favor of a capless fuel-filling system. A coppery-gold hue called Coppertino Metallic is also new for 2018.

Trims and Options We’d Choose

We’d spring for the mid-level front-wheel-drive Sport Touring trim for $26,595. It’s our choice not only because it adds a visual punch to the Encore’s appearance by way of a rear spoiler, 18-inch gray-painted aluminum wheels, and fog lamps, but because it’s the least expensive trim that can be spec’d with the optional 153-hp turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder. Checking the box for the upgraded engine adds $895 to the bottom line, but its performance benefits are worthy of the price. No matter which Encore you choose, high-end options are included, such as:

• 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot
• Passive entry with push-button start
• Active noise cancellation

Only one of the Encore’s paint choices is a no-cost option; the rest of the paint colors cost at least $395. If you’re good with Summit White, then the Sport Touring with the more powerful four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive costs $27,490. All-wheel drive is $1500 more.

The Encore has EPA estimated fuel-economy ratings near the top of the class when equipped with its optional and more powerful engine, which earns slightly better ratings than the standard powerplant. Most of the other crossovers in this segment, however, outperformed the Encore in our real-world testing.