The 2018 Buick Encore subcompact crossover SUV has two engine options and a six-speed automatic transmission is standard. The base engine 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine has an output of 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. For the Sport Touring and higher trim levels, their engine has a higher output of 153 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard for the base trim while all-wheel drive is only available for higher trim levels. With the more potent engine under the hood of the Encore Preferred II, there was immediate power for navigating busy city streets but it was lackluster in catching up with the highway pace. It took almost eight seconds to reach 60 mph, which is around the average performance of its segment. The transmission did not hesitate to shift down for that rush of power, but it wasn’t the smoothest. With its high seating position, body roll was more noticeable but it handled with good composure. The steering was responsive and maneuvering around was easy. The effort required to steer was weighted appropriately and didn’t feel cumbersome. The brakes performed reliably and the linear stopping force was strong. That was shown by requiring 126 feet to suddenly stop from 60 mph, which was among the top performers in its segment. The pedal felt firm and controlling the bite was very manageable.
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The base 1SV trim comes standard with automatic headlights, LED running lights, keyless entry and ignition, heated mirrors, cruise control, a power-adjustable driver seat, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi hotspot, satellite radio, two USB ports, and an infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker sound system. The Preferred trim is similarly equipped as the 1SV trim but now has the option of all-wheel drive. The Sport Touring trim adds foglights and remote start. Standalone options include a seven-speaker Bose sound system and advanced safety and driver aids. The Preferred II trim adds automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 120V power outlet, and additional advanced safety and driver aids. Starting with the Preferred II trim, the Experience Buick package adds a navigation system and upscale exterior appointments. The Essence trim adds LED headlights, a power-adjustable front passenger seat with power-adjustable lumbar support, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and driver-seat memory settings. The top-of-the-line Premium trim adds automatic wipers, a seven-speaker Bose sound system, and additional advanced safety and driver aids.
The 2018 Encore was tested by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) and it earned five stars in the frontal crash test, five stars in the side crash test, and four stars in the rollover test. Overall, it achieved a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA. It was also tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and it scored “Good” in all but one of the crashworthiness tests and only scored “Basic” for front crash prevention. Advanced safety and driver aids that come with the base trim only include a rearview camera. More features are added to higher trim levels and they include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert, front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, and parking assist.
The 2018 Encore has a length of 168.4 inches, a width of 69.9 inches, a height of 65.3 inches, and a wheelbase of 100.6 inches. The Encore has no sharp angles in its silhouette and it resembles a large hatchback. Its aesthetic is decidedly compact and its features are not exaggerated, which makes it look proportional to its size. All trims come standard with 18-inch wheels but there are no options for bigger wheels. Roof rails come standard with the base trim but the sunroof is only available starting with the Preferred II trim.
Entering the cabin was easy because there was no significant step-in height to overcome. There are two rows of seats which can fit up to five people. The first row offered decent space but passengers beyond six feet in height may feel cramped when their legs are against the dash. The second row felt the same as the first row but legroom was slightly reduced. The first and second rows were acceptable for all-day comfort but the cushion felt slightly small for larger passengers. The cloth upholstery was finished cleanly but leather upholstery only becomes available with the Essence trim. The number of buttons at the dashboard made it look dated, despite its organized layout and well-built feel. The ride quality was cushioned and impacts were dampened well. It was hardly unsettled by rough patches on the pavement. Road noise and wind noise were minimal and the interior ambiance still felt relaxed even at highway speeds.
There is 18.8 cu-ft of space behind the second row of seats, and folding those seats down opens up 48.4 cu-ft of space available for loading cargo.