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2018 Buick Encore

$22,990 - $32,100
Price Range (MSRP)
Buick Encore

2018 Buick Encore Review

by Gabe Beita Kiser

The subcompact crossover segment is booming, with every major brand presenting at least one offer to tempt buyers with. Buick's in on the party too, with the premium brand offering the Chevrolet Trax-based Encore. But unlike the Trax, the Encore moves upmarket and offers an impressive list of equipment and safety features to tempt buyers that might be looking at offerings from other premium monikers. Priced from $22,900, a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine offers two different states of tune, the base model producing 138 horsepower and the more potent of the pair producing 153 hp. Buick offers six different trims in the lineup to provide numerous alternatives to the Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Kona, and on the more expensive side of things, the Mini Countryman.

2018 Buick Encore Changes: What’s the difference vs 2017 Encore?

There have been no major updates for the 2018 Buick Encore, with only a couple of minor product adjustments made. River Rock Metallic is no longer available as an exterior color, though Coppertino Metallic has been added in its place. Painted and custom-molded splash guards are now available, and Buick has added an ionizing air cleaner and capless fuel fill to the mix.

Pros and Cons

  • Exceptional ride quality on poor surfaces
  • Good noise insulation at highway speeds
  • Classy interior with a great infotainment system
  • Impressive list of safety features available
  • Good economy from low displacement, turbo engines
  • Underpowered base engine
  • Not enough cargo room compared to rivals
  • Price of some trims places it against competition in a higher segment
  • Devoid of driver enjoyment
  • Cramped rear seats

Encore Exterior

After the design upgrade for 2017, the Encore's exterior remains unchanged for 2018. As a result, you've still got the same shape as last year, along with the double-L shaped LED daytime running lamps up front on the tall façade of the Encore. A sculpted front bumper houses fog lights on the Sport Touring trim, while underbody guards on the front bumper are more visual than functional. The subcompact proportions of the Encore are emphasized in its side profile where the 6.2-inch ground clearance gives it the appearance of being short and upright in build. This design is amplified at the rear, where the Encore seems to narrow dramatically from the LED taillights upwards, while the base remains squat in stance with a single chrome tailpipe located on the right-hand side of the rear bumper. All models feature an array of black plastic cladding, lending the Encore a chunky, masculine look hinting at its offroad performance.

2018 Buick Encore Front View
2018 Buick Encore Front Angle View
2018 Buick Encore Front Angle View
See All 2018 Buick Encore Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The Encore holds typical dimensions for a subcompact crossover SUV; at 168.4 inches in length, 65.3 inches in height, and 69.8 inches in width, its almost identical to the Chevrolet Trax which measures a length of 167.6 inches, a height of 64.8 inches, and a width of 69.9 inches. Both crossovers ride with a ground clearance of 6.2 inches and even share a wheelbase of 100.6 inches, being a typical case of badge engineering. A FWD Encore carries a curb weight of 3,237 lbs, about a 100 lbs heavier than the base Chevrolet Trax, while equipping the AWD system will bring with it an extra 121 lbs for a curb weight of 3,358 lbs.

Exterior Colors

Buick offers nine exterior color choices for the 2018 Encore with availability dependent on the trim; Summit White is the only price inclusive option, while the metallics, featured in Graphite Gray, Black Cherry, Coastal Blue, Ebony Twilight, Quicksilver, Winterberry Red and the new for 2018 Coppertino Metallic all carry an additional charge of $395. The White Frost Tricoat will set one back $995. The new Coppertino Metallic option emphasizes the Encores semi-rugged SUV side and is also just a unique color.

Encore Performance

In terms of performance, the Encore exhibits capability typical to that of a casual city commuting vehicle. Its engine options are suited to the low-speed conditions primarily experienced by daily drivers and show no interest in being pushed to their limits. Nevertheless, the Encore's acceleration times are on par for the segment; equipped with the default 138 hp 1.4-liter turbo engine, the Encore launches from 0-60 mph in around ten seconds. Equipping the Encore with the available more powerful 153 hp engine shaves off a second from that sprint. The Encore isn't exactly a sprightly performer, and those looking for more engagement would be better off looking at a Mazda CX-3.

With the exception of the solely front-wheel-drive 1SV trim, all other Encore trims are optionally available in either FWD or AWD. Most rivals in the segment offer the same.

2018 Buick Encore Front View Driving
2018 Buick Encore Top View
2018 Buick Encore Wheel

Engine and Transmission

The Buick Encore is powered in all forms by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, available in two states of tune. In its base format, the 1.4-liter features multi-port injection and produces 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. The second variation of the engine, available on Sport Touring and higher trims, offers direct injection and ups the power figures to 153 hp and 177 lb-ft. Only one transmission is available regardless of engine, a six-speed automatic, though buyers have a choice between drivetrains with Buick offering the Encore in either front-wheel-drive in all trims or all-wheel-drive guise on all trims except the 1SV.

The base port-injection motor is underpowered for the weight of the Encore, with pull-off feeling strained and overtaking requiring level ground or immense momentum. The direct injection offering is vastly more potent, though still doesn't endow the Encore with lightning performance. It does, however, get up and go far quicker off the line and offers superior overtaking ability – even if feeling a little flat while doing so. Buyers should opt for the direct injection motor offering 153 hp, despite the additional cost.

  • Engines
    1.4-liter Turbo, 1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    6-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Though the Buick Encore is one of the oldest subcompact crossovers in the segment, it's still surprisingly good to drive. While certain competitors cut costs on insulation, the Buick offers truly premium insulation from the world outside. Key to this is the suspension that, while soft, is capable of ironing out both large and small bumps in the road surface and provides ample handling ability. On all surfaces, the Encore turns rough roads into smooth sailing with impeccable ability to filter out any imperfection thrown its way. It maintains this composure at all speeds, but it's only when you reach highway speeds that you realize just how composed the Encore is. Even at speed, wind and road noise seem just about non-existent as the Encore cossets you in silence and comfort – largely due to the active noise cancellation.

Of course, the comfort-bias of the suspension has its flaws, key to which being it's no hot-hatch in the handling stakes. While it maintains extreme composure, the tall ride of the Encore means there is a fair amount of body lean when cornering. Pair this with a steering setup not exactly oozing feedback, and the Encore is what we'd place firmly in the "not a driver's car" section of the market. In fact, the steering is kind of dead as well. It steers directly enough and responds well to inputs, but there's zero feedback from the front wheels, and when combined with the complete separation from the road due to the impressive insulation, the Buick Encore is devoid of all driver feel and enjoyment, making it the automotive equivalent of a sensory deprivation tank.

Encore Gas Mileage

The 153 hp motor isn't just the quicker and more powerful option, it's also the more frugal of the two motors on offer. EPA estimates for the 138 hp engine are 25/33/28 mpg city/highway/combined with the front-wheel drivetrain, which when combined with the Encore's 14-gallon tank should see up to 392 miles on a single fillup. With the all-wheel-drive system equipped, those figures decrease to 24/30/27 mpg. The higher-powered offering, however, has estimates of 27/33/30 mpg in FWD guise and 26/31/29 mpg in AWD form, boosting overall range per tank to 420 miles. As to which engine is better, it's a no-brainer really.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    14.0 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 25/33 mpg
* 2018 Buick Encore Base FWD

Encore Interior

On design and feel, the Buick Encore presents itself as a true luxury crossover, but it's let down in a couple of key aspects. Some hard plastics on the doors and lower center console, and gloss-black trim on the center stack of some models make the Encore feel very commonplace. However, on the whole, it's an impressive interior with many soft-touch appointments to bolster the luxurious impression it gives off. Panels feel solid and well put together and dash rattles are non-existent, while noise insulation is exceptional even at highway speeds. On higher trims, leather upholstery is available to complement the soft-touch materials elsewhere, though the standard kit is cloth and leatherette trim on base models. The ergonomics are sound as well, with straightforward controls all easily within reach and tactile knobs for controlling the climate control systems. But the Encore's design is bearing its age a little, as the wealth of buttons on the dash more than just hints at an era before touchscreens ruled the world.

2018 Buick Encore Dashboard
2018 Buick Encore Steering Wheel Detail
2018 Buick Encore Start/Stop Button
See All 2018 Buick Encore Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The Buick Encore is capable of seating five occupants, though only two adults can sit in the back seats without too much complaint. Front occupants are treated to decent amounts of space with copious amounts of headroom. A high seating position is comfortable on long-distance journeys and ensures good forward visibility, while the large windows ensure minimal blind spots to the sides of the Encore – and available blind-spot monitoring helps overcome whatever there may be. The driver benefits from six-way power adjustment with height adjustment on all trims, though on base models the front passenger seat doesn't offer height adjustment. The rear seats offer ample space and legroom for most adults, with headroom and decent legroom allowing for taller occupants to ride along as well.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

Through the six trim lines on offer in the Buick Encore, a range of upholstery colors can be selected. On base 1SV models, Ebony cloth with leatherette upholstery is the standard, though the marginally more expensive Preferred trim expands the offering to include Shale-colored cloth with leatherette trim. These two offerings remain the only available colors for Sport Touring and Preferred II trim lines. Full leather trim is only available from the Essence trim line upwards, which also adds heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, along with a six-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, with leather available in three shades; Ebony, Shale, and Brandy. The range-topping Premium trim makes do with the same upholstery and trim options as the Essence model.

Encore Trunk and Cargo Space

The Buick Encore offers just 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, more than the 12.4 offered by the Mazda CX-3, but less than the 19 found in the Hyundai Kona and Toyota C-HR. However, it's enough room for a week's worth of groceries or your golfing equipment for weekend excursions. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split, though they require more effort than should be necessary, increasing storage volume to 48.3 cubic feet. Adding to the Encore's practicality is a fold-flat front passenger seat allowing for even the longest items to be loaded provided you're traveling on your lonesome.

In-cabin storage solutions consist of wide door side pockets on all four doors, with an additional door side compartment featured on both the front doors. There is a small-item storage console ahead of a sizable storage compartment in the center stack, and a moderately sized passenger-side glovebox. In the rear cabin are two cupholders and seatback map pockets on both front seats.

2018 Buick Encore Trunk Space
2018 Buick Encore Side View Driving
2018 Buick Encore Rear View Driving

Encore Infotainment and Features

Features

The standard features list grows longer with the ascension of each trim level; starting with the 1SV standard features include keyless entry and ignition, leather-wrapped steering wheel, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, single-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, active noise cancellation, six-way power-adjustable driver's seat, flat-folding front passenger seatback, and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. The Preferred throws in front and rear color-keyed floor mats and a retractable cargo shade. The Preferred II is further outfitted with a 12-volt power outlet, dual-zone automatic climate zone, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and remote start. The Sport Touring regresses back to the Preferred's features, only keeping the remote start. Moving up to the Essence sees a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, a six-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, and driver-seat memory settings. Finally, offered with the Premium are front and rear parking sensors, a forward-collision warning system, and a lane departure warning system. A rear-vision camera is standard across the lineup, while the Preferred gets rear cross-traffic alert and side blind zone alert.

Infotainment

The Encore features a standard eight-inch touchscreen system that borrows from Chevrolet's MyLink system, dubbed IntelliLink in the Buick. It offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, and a 4G LTE data connection with onboard Wi-Fi. It also features SiriusXM satellite radio and can accept audio input via auxiliary jack, USB input, or Bluetooth media streaming. A six-speaker base audio system is utilized as standard in most trims while a premium seven-speaker Bose audio system with amplifier and HD radio is standard in the Premium and optional for the Sport Touring, Preferred II, and Essence. Navigation and live traffic updates are optionally available for the Sport Touring upward.

Encore Problems and Reliability

In our excursions with the Buick Encore, not once did it cast any concerns over potential issues with reliability. The base engine has a proven history – used in numerous Buick and Chevrolet products over the years – and the direct injection upgrade continues in the same vein. There have been no recalls for the 2018 Encore and J.D. Power back the reliability up with an above-average predicted reliability rating of 4.5 stars. For added peace of mind, Buick covers the Encore with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty and six-year/70,000-mile drivetrain warranty – marginally better than those offered on the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3.

Encore Safety

The 2018 Buick Encore scored an overall safety rating of five out of five stars from the NHTSA, while the IIHS scored it with the best available scores of Good in all areas bar the passenger-side small overlap and child seat anchor tests where it only scored 'Acceptable'.

Key Safety Features

A decent list of standard safety equipment includes ten standard airbags, ABS brakes, stability control, and all the regular necessities. However the available features are impressive too, with optional blind-spot monitoring incorporating rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert warning you of impending crashes, and lane departure warning keeping you on the straight and narrow. However, it's OnStar we rate highest for its range of features like roadside assistance and automatic crash response, ensuring that when things don't go according to plan, the Buick Encore still looks after you.

Verdict: Is the 2018 Buick Encore a good SUV?

The Buick Encore is not a driver's car, but if it's supreme comfort and a long list of features you're looking for, then it's a superb vehicle. The comfort bias and ability to separate occupants from the goings-on outside the cabin give the Encore the unique ability to see you arrive at your destination even more relaxed than when you set off, which lends true credence to the premium badge on its nose. While some trim elements might not exude a truly premium feel the overall feel is one of class and quality, and the added reliability is a bonus. Neither of the two available engines is particularly potent, but the $895 premium for the more powerful engine is worth the extra investment, if not for the extra power, then for the extra economy. The Encore might be pricier than some of its rivals, but after six years on the market, it's proven to be one of the best subcompact crossovers money can buy. However, if you are price conscious, the Mazda CX-3 is just as comfortable, just as classy, but is on offer for less and could well be a fine alternative.

What's the Price of the 2018 Buick Encore?

The 2018 Buick Encore starts with a base MSRP of $22,990 for the base 1SV model in front-wheel-drive guise. Following the base model is the $24,400 Preferred, while the Sport Touring is priced at $25,600 and the Preferred II at $26,900. The top-tier Premium trim breaks through the 30k pricing barrier with a sticker price of $30,600. An additional $1,500 upgrades your chosen trim from front-wheel to all-wheel-drive, with the exception of the 1SV that is a front-drive only model, while $895 is all the extra you'll need for the higher-powered engine from Sport Touring trim onwards. Prices are excluding tax, registration, and licensing fees as well as Buicks $995 destination charge.

2018 Buick Encore Models

There are six trim options that form part of the 2018 Encore lineup; the 1SV, Preferred, Sport Touring, Preferred II, Essence, and Premium. A 138 hp 1.4-liter turbo engine and FWD setup is standard across the lineup, with a 153 hp 1.4-liter turbo engine optional from the Sport Touring trim upward and an AWD setup available for all but the 1SV.

At the base level, standard features include keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, single-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, active noise cancellation, rear vision camera, six-way power-adjustable driver's seat, flat-folding front passenger seatback, and 60/40 split-folding rear seats.

The Preferred builds onto the 1SV's features with front and rear color-keyed floor mats and a retractable cargo shade as well as with rear cross-traffic alert and side blind zone alert.

The Sport Touring offers a sportier aesthetic and is outfitted with a remote start functionality.

The Preferred II is further outfitted with a 12-volt power outlet, dual-zone automatic climate zone, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and remote start.

Moving up to the Essence sees a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, a six-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, and driver-seat memory settings.

Finally, offered with the Premium is a seven-speaker Bose audio system, front and rear parking sensors, a forward-collision warning system, and a lane departure warning system.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Base
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front Wheel Drive
$22,990
Preferred
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front Wheel Drive
All Wheel Drive
$24,400
Sport Touring
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front Wheel Drive
All Wheel Drive
$25,600
Preferred II
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front Wheel Drive
All Wheel Drive
$26,900
Essence
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front Wheel Drive
All Wheel Drive
$29,100
See All 2018 Buick Encore Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

Options packages are limited to just a few, with the main package available being the Buick Experience package, available on the Preferred II, Essence, and Premium models. The Buick Experience package is priced at $2,390 and includes 18-inch chromed alloy wheels, a sunroof, and an eight-inch infotainment system.

Other packages include minor upgrades for specific lifestyles.

The Buick Interior Protection Package costs $175 and includes all-weather floor mats and a cargo area all-weather floor mat. The Active Package includes a cargo area tray and an accessory carrier hitch for $295. The Road Trip Package adds all-weather floor mats and roof rails for $350.

On Sport Touring models, the $495 Safety Package is a worthwhile addition comprising rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring.

What Buick Encore Model Should I Buy?

We recommend skipping the cost-saving measures of the lower-end trims and going straight for the well-equipped Encore Essence. Here, you get all the luxury features found in your more premium GM offerings, but at half the price. It also manages to stay just below the $30k pricing mark. This trim features a heated steering wheel and front seats and leather-appointed upholstery and cabin elements. To augment the luxury factor, option the available Experience package and gain a sunroof, navigation, and unique 18-inch alloy wheels.

2018 Buick Encore Comparisons

2018 Buick Encore
2018 Buick Encore

2018 Buick Encore vs Chevrolet Trax

The Chevrolet Trax is, in fact, almost identical to the Encore, sharing underpinnings and much of the Buick's design. But it's been positioned within the market as a slightly more affordable option. It is equipped with the same base powertrain but is without the dialed-up 153 hp engine option. Thus, the Trax only offers the weak acceleration and menial economy estimates of the base engine along with its lackluster mid-range power delivery. As is expected with the budget-friendly Trax, luxury-focused features are fewer than in the Encore, but its appeal is not utterly lost as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality are still there. Both models offer the same in terms of practicality and safety, however, the Encore does receive access to many more optional driver-assists. Even though the Trax is stuck with the menial 1.4-liter turbo engine, it's far better priced and is still available with many of the luxurious options found in the Encore. From a pure value for money perspective, the Trax is better, but the more powerful engine option available for the Encore trims is a significant consideration as it mitigates many of the default engine's drawbacks. Ultimately, the Trax is a bargain buy, the Encore, a more premium package with fewer drawbacks but at a higher price.

See Chevrolet Trax Review

2018 Buick Encore vs Honda CR-V

The Encore's luxurious features, high price, and abundance of space mean it begins to rival those in a higher segment. But if you're going to tackle compact offerings, you're going to come up against the Honda CR-V. It's around only a $1,000 more than the Encore at the base level and is equipped with a more robust 1.5-liter turbo inline-four engine with an output of 190 hp. Not only is the CR-V faster than the Encore in terms of acceleration, but also more economical with 27/33/29 mpg offered from the base engine. The CR-V also offers greater levels of safety than the Encore, having received a Top Safety Pick+ allocation from the IIHS. And with a towing capacity of 1,500 lbs and a trunk capacity of 39.9 cubic feet, the CR-V is also a far more practical option. To cut to the chase a little, the only aspects in which the Encore really does do better is in its infotainment system and luxurious finishes; where the Encore includes full functionality and screen size from the base trim upward. Contrarily, the CR-V's best system - which even then isn't particularly user-friendly - is only found on the upper-tier trims. It is clear that the Honda CR-V is the better option, in almost every regard.

See Honda CR-V Review

2018 Buick Encore vs Honda HR-V

Cheaper than the Buick from entry point to top of the range, the Honda HR-V is kitted with almost as many features at each level. It may be lacking in terms of infotainment, where the Encore truly leaves it for dead, but it boasts a wider array of safety features available lower in the ranks. Inside, the HR-V feels more premium, with the plastic touch panels feeling a little more high-class. It's vastly more spacious, too, and has more trunk space in both configurations. The Encore's turbo engines might offer more mid-range punch than the base HR-V, but the Honda is more enticing to drive. There are very few aspects in which the Encore is the better crossover, and with a higher price tag it's hard to recommend it. Buy the HR-V, you'll be far happier.

See Honda HR-V Review

Buick Encore Popular Comparisons

2018 Buick Encore Video Reviews