2013 Buick Encore: Subcompact Luxury Crossover, Drive Report Page 2

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2013 Buick Encore

2013 Buick Encore

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We'd also ask Buick's engineers why it's necessary to have the radio on to use the navigation. If you want a map without music, you have to take the extra step of turning the volume down to zero, but not turning off the radio (unintuitive, at least to us).

Who makes these decisions?

Small turbo engine

The 2013 Buick Encore is offered only with a single powertrain: a 138-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is optional.

It's a sign of the increasing push for fuel efficiency that an engine this small propels a 3,300-pound vehicle. It's the same engine, incidentally, used in Buick's Verano and Chevy's Cruze, both compact four-door sedans.

The engine performs fine, though getting it to provide power takes a push through much of the accelerator's travel.

Like many powertrains tuned for efficiency, getting maximum power for hard acceleration requires the transmission to shift down not just once but through two gears--and in one memorable fast merge, through three gears.

The Encore is very quiet inside at pretty much any speed, making it a restful way to travel. But the electric power steering is numb, and it tended to wander at highway speeds, requiring vigilance to avoid drifting to the outside of a lane.

It was also susceptible to side winds, perhaps not surprising in a tall car with a short wheelbase.

Three-quarter vision #FAIL

The 2013 Encore comes standard with 10 airbags, a large number for a small car. But it fails on another measure of safety: outward vision.

The little Buick's rear three-quarter visibility is atrocious, making us very glad the rear-vision camera is standard equipment. Between a tall passenger-seat headrest, a rising rear window line, and a very thick roof pillar, the Encore's blind spot is as large as any passenger car we've driven in recent years.

2013 Buick Encore

2013 Buick Encore

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GM seems to have some of the thickest pillars in the business--both windshield and roof--and we wish it could meet the new and tougher roof-crush standards without making its new cars impossible to see out of. Other makers can; why not General Motors?

We do give Buick credit for its fold-down rear seat headrests, though, which opened up the full expanse of rear hatch glass in the rear-view mirror.

We wish more makers would follow suit, so we don't have to keep pulling out rear-seat headrests (which roll around on the floor) just to be able to see out the rear.

Buick that should have been a Chevy?

The price of our 2013 Encore AWD with the Premium trim package was $29,690. On top of that, our test car added snazzy 18-inch chromed aluminum wheels ($995), white pearl tricoat paint ($745), and an AM/FM/satellite audio system with navigation and Buick IntelliLink, including a 7-inch touchscreen display ($795).

Add that $750 delivery fee, and the $32,975 sticker price is just 20 percent less than the starting price of the larger and undeniably more luxurious Lexus RX crossover.

Which leaves us wondering, who exactly is this Buick aimed at?

The 2013 Chevrolet Trax

The 2013 Chevrolet Trax

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We'd have considered the vehicle a much more sensible choice if it were sold as the 2013 Chevrolet Trax, which has different styling on the same basic vehicle--and is sold in Canada, but not the United States.

The base price of a front-wheel drive Chevy Trax in Canada is C$18,495, meaning it tops out in the mid-20s.

Which would make this subcompact crossover a much more understandable small utility vehicle choice.

Which would you pick, the Buick Encore or the Chevrolet Trax--and why?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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