My family just recently bought a new puppy. But this is no regular puppy, this is a teeny tiny puppy. As an adult this dog will only be about four to five pounds. What does this have to do with cars you ask? Well it’s apropos for a common theme within the auto industry. Vehicles are getting smaller. Case in point my tester this week – the 2015 Buick Encore.

Exterior

2015-Buick-Encore-007This micro crossover is small. It’s only 168.4 inches long and with a wheelbase of 100.6 inches. To put it in perspective, the Toyota Camry is 190.9 inches long with a wheelbase 109.3 inches. The curb weight of the Encore is a petite 3,237 pounds.

Categorized as a crossover it’s almost like a bubble on wheels because it’s about the same height as width. The tiny but bulbous Encore definitely has distinction on the road with styling. That styling may not resonate with all consumers, but there’s a growing segment of those who want to downsize their vehicles.

That downsizing comes at a cost as interior space is limited and generally, engines are smaller and sluggish.

Engine

That’s certainly the case with the Encore. A 1.4-liter turbocharged Ecotec four-cylinder engine is under the hood. It makes a mere 138 horsepower with 148 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is small and so is the performance. It won’t win any races, but it will more than make up for it on fuel economy (more on that later).

2015-Buick-Encore-006A six-speed automatic transmission is mated with this engine and my tester had all-wheel drive too. Front-wheel drive is standard for the Encore. One of the perks of driving something this small is the turning radius is unbelievable. It makes for maneuvering through parking spots and parking garages a breeze. For city dwellers, who usually shy away from SUVs, the Encore offers them a real option. It may not be fast, in fact it’s downright sluggish, but the Encore makes up for it with a spry and agile performance, that is only aided further with the addition of the all-wheel drive.

The Encore is one of the “hippest” and slickest looking Buicks on the road. It has a youthful type of whimsy to its overall design. It isn’t quirky like other comparable vehicles like the Nissan Juke or Kia Soul, but it definitely has personality. For a conservative car company that is trying to infuse youth into its product line, Buick has achieved that success with the Encore.

However, some of that styling does interfere with the sight lines and performance. From the driver’s seat, the sloping A-pillar (the framing that holds up the windshield) makes for a nasty and intrusive blind spot both directly in front and to the left of the driver. Additionally, the higher doors make for limited visibility over the shoulder and behind the driver. Thankfully the Encore comes standard with side blind spot detectors and a nice rear vision camera.

Interior

Inside, the Encore is very much a Buick, and that’s a good thing. It has that upgraded feel to it that you expect from the Buick brand. It isn’t lavish but it doesn’t feel like an economy vehicle either. The seats are comfortable and while the back seat has limited space it actually is comfortable enough even for adult passengers. Two passengers will be fine in the back seat, but adding a third will push the comfort limits.

2015-Buick-Encore-032Buick is an industry leader in noise cancellation. And it’s evident again inside the Encore. Road and engine noise is non-existent thanks to Buick’s Quiet Tuning technology and Bose Active Noise Cancellation technology. As a reviewer who harps on cabin noise as something important and noticeable, I give the Encore the highest praise possible in this area. All passengers will enjoy a quiet comfortable ride within the Encore.

GM continues to add WIFI technology to their full product line. For 2015 the Encore gets 4G LTE WIFI hotspots added and it’s easy to connect to devices and phones to this system and enjoy hours of entertainment.

Cargo space is limited in the diminutive Encore. With seats up, there is only 18.8 cubic feet of space which is smaller than many sedans. However, the second row seats do fold completely flat which expands cargo capacity to 48.4 cubic feet making that a little more versatile and useful.

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy for a FWD Encore has a rating of 25 mpg/city and 33 mpg/hwy. My tester with AWD had an EPA rating of 23 city and 30 hwy. In a week’s worth of mostly suburban driving and off the highway, I averaged an impressive 28 mpg. That ALMOST made up for the sluggish enjoy and showed one of the major appeals of this crossover.

Pricing / Trims

The Encore has four trim levels including Base, Convenience, Leather and Premium. My tester was the leather trim which included leather (big shock) seats as well as heated front seats, telescoping heated leather steering wheel, and remote vehicle start. MSRP for the Leather trim is $29,450, making this one of the most affordable Buicks ever. With a few extras like a power moonroof, advanced audio system and cargo net, my tester had a final MSRP of $33,620.

If you price out the encore per square foot, it seems pricey, but you also get a quiet, comfortable Buick vehicle for an affordable price. For today’s consumer that is obsessed with downsizing and small things (like tiny dogs), the Encore is worthy of its name and deserves an encore within a growing segment of shrinking vehicles.

Specs

2015 Buick Encore Leather AWD

Price/As tested price…………………………. $29,450/$33,620

Mileage…………………………………… 23 mpg/city; 30 mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 1.4-liter Ecotec turbo 4-cylinder

Horsepower…………………………… 138 hp/148 lbs./ft.

Transmission…………………………… Six-speed automatic

Drive Wheels…………………………… All-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point……………. Bupyeong, South Korea

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Jimmy Dinsmore

For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - jimmydinsmore@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @driversside.

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