Buick thinks small with new Encore
Honey, they shrunk the SUV! Say “hi” to Buick’s new baby Encore, the sport-ute that’s big on “cute” and teeny everywhere else. Take the engine. When was the last time you heard of an SUV with a 1.4-liter four-banger under the hood? The Home Depot sells weed-whackers with bigger motors than that. And size? From chrome nose to curvy tail, the Encore measures just 169 inches. That’s a whopping 10 inches shorter than Toyota’s pint-sized RAV-4. Sit behind the wheel and the cabin is so narrow you’ll be rubbing shoulders with your passenger, which may or may not be fun.While it’s easy to dismiss this brand-new Korean-built Buick as just too teeny for American “throw-it-all-in-the-back” tastes, think about it for a sec. A lot of us are downsizing. The kids are gone and the house is too big, so more and more of us — my wife and I included — have sold the home and moved to a downtown condo. Then small is good. It means easier parking, less cash spent on fuel — the Encore averages 25 mpg in the city and a terrific 33 highway — and more nimble handling around city streets. Yet the baby Buick still checks all the boxes for our basic needs in an SUV, with its sit-up-high driving position, excellent all-round visibility, and plenty of load space for the weekly grocery shop, sports gear or pooch. And with that turbocharged four-banger driving the front wheels, the Encore is a surprisingly fun ride. While 138 horseys doesn’t sound like much, with a car tipping the scales at just 3,300 pounds, there’s less metal to move. Take your pick from four trim levels — Base, Convenience, Leather or Premium — though even the Base is nicely loaded. Prices range from $24,950 to $30,440. Add $1,500 for all-wheel drive. With its small, cute-ute Encore, Buick might just be on to something big here.