Buick has pulled a complete 180 in the past five years, revitalizing its lineup with well-crafted models and attracting younger buyers. These younger buyers apparently want smaller, more efficient premium vehicles and Buick plans to keep chasing the trend with its compact 2013 Encore crossover.
Based on the same Gamma platform as the European-market Opel Corsa subcompact hatchback, the Encore is tiny. At 168.5 inches long, the Encore is roughly 15 inches shorter than the compact Verano sedan. Extremely short overhangs, a skinny 69.9-inch width, and large, 18-inch wheels pushed to the corners give the Encore a stubby look from some angles. However, a strong character line, sweeping lower surface detailing, and a rising beltline lend the Encore a graceful, sporty look. Despite being a crossover, the Encore comes within an inch of Audi's compact A3 hatchback in length and width.
The A3 is a good benchmark, as the Encore is gunning for the same kind of customer: those in the market for compact, luxurious, and somewhat sporty all-weather transportation. While the Audi's lines are of Teutonic minimalism, Buick has given a more flowing and organic look to the Encore. The exterior design is distinctly Buick with the blue-accented projector-beam headlights, hood-mounted portholes, and wide waterfall grille. Contrasting lower body cladding and subtle chrome trim around the base of the windows, the rear plate frame, grille, and fog lights add visual interest without straying too far towards bling.
Inside, the cabin is swathed in a palette of rich browns and sharp blacks along with wood trim and chrome detailing. Buick has yet to announce full color choices for the Encore, but it says there will be nine exterior options and three interiors: a caramel-colored hue that is almost identical to the choccachino interior in the Verano with medium-colored wood, a redder version of the choccachino, and an all-black interior with grey wood. Leather will be available, while a cloth and leatherette combination will be the standard seat trim.
For those familiar with the Regal and Verano, the Encore's interior will feel familiar. The center stack is topped with a seven-inch color LCD-display screen for Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system. The stack's buttons for audio and climate are surrounded by a U-shaped chrome trim and ice-blue ambient lighting. Buick eschews a single controller like Audi's MMI for a cascade of traditional buttons and large knobs for volume, media selection, and temperature. The ice-blue lighting accents appear throughout the rest of the interior -- lighting the gauges, along the dashboard trim, and on the door switches.
An Ecotec 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-four cylinder powers all Encore models. Power numbers for the newest Buick have yet to be finalized, but the manufacturer estimates around 140 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission Buick will offer is a six-speed automatic, developed specifically for use in front- or all-wheel drive small cars and crossovers; the Encore will come with front-wheel drive and be available with all-wheel drive. Standard are five-spoke 18-inch aluminum wheels, while seven-spoke chrome wheels of the same size (pictured here) will be optional; however, both wheels will be wrapped in low rolling resistance P215/55R18 tires.
Despite the downsized engine and diminutive footprint, Buick will be filling the Encore to the gills with luxury touches. It will include dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start, a Bose premium audio system, rain-sensing wipers, and a heated leather steering wheel.
Buick is also packing the Encore with loads of safety technology: a backup camera, front and rear parking sensors, and a forward collision alert with lane departure warning system are all available as options. Ten airbags will be standard -- driver and front passenger frontal, driver and front passenger knee, front and rear thorax, and front and rear side curtain airbags -- and more than half of the body structure is composed of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels.
Pricing has not been announced yet for the 2013 Buick Encore, but we expect to see prices start in the mid-$20,000 range and build up from there. Encores are expected to arrive in dealerships in the first few months of 2013.