The 2017 Buick Encore Premium is designed and engineered for heavy rain and moderate snow, but it’s not meant for truly off-road rough stuff, columnist Warren Brown says. (Buick/ Buick)
Columnist

There was ease of mind. I did not worry about where I would park it in the city, or how. Small size is worth that convenience, especially in something regarded as a sport-utility vehicle.

To me, it’s a little station wagon. But few people use that term or know what it means anymore.

Few of them really know what an SUV is, either. Put it this way: If your mind is bent by current automotive marketing, you’ll get in trouble in the off-road wild in this one, the 2017 Buick Encore Premium All-Wheel Drive. It is designed and engineered for heavy rain and moderate snow. It is not meant for truly off-road rough stuff.

If you are willing to accept that reality, you can prepare to be reasonably happy. The Encore, on sale since 2015 as a 2016 model, has received cosmetic and technological updates for 2017. It is a pretty little vehicle, as quiet as most modern Buicks.

But this little Buick is swimming in a sea of aggressive compact SUV competitors from every country producing cars and trucks across the globe, supplied by every automotive parts company selling automotive parts worldwide, bought practically everywhere.

Competitors include (from the same General Motors that produces Buicks) the quite likable Chevrolet Equinox. Throw in the equally appealing Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-5 and CX-3, and the Fiat 500X — not to mention all of the worthy and affordable rivals from South Korea.

I mention all of the foreign rivals because I get annoyed by the Trump administration’s sophomoric nonsense about “keeping automotive jobs in America.”

You want to keep those jobs here? Do what GM and Ford finally have decided to do. Design and build cars and trucks that Americans and everyone else want to buy. It’s the “free market” that the president and pals constantly are ranting about.

Certainly, that is what GM is trying to do with the Encore. It speaks to a universal automotive consumer need — likable, sustainable size.

In Japan in many cases, if you don’t have some legal space to park your car, you don’t buy it. In Italy, some streets are so narrow, it is much better to own a motorcycle. Try to drive downtown in London in the morning rush hour? Ha! It makes a morning Interstate 66 East commute from Northern Virginia to the District of Columbia seem almost pleasant.

So, yes, I welcome Buick’s little Encore. It is quiet, loaded with all available advanced electronic safety equipment. It has a turbocharged 1.4-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine (138 horsepower, 177 pound-feet of torque). That will get you where you’re going for most of the places I’ve driven in the United States.

Ahem: Be aware that during this Memorial Day weekend in our lovely country, when law enforcement officers are on high alert, that too much engine power easily could lead to a traffic ticket anywhere you go.

The little Buick Encore is a nice car. Enjoy the ride. Drive responsibly.

Nuts & Bolts
2017 Buick Encore

Bottom line: The Buick Encore is a good, compact wagon/SUV for urban commuting. It is safe (a five-star federal crash rating in collisions with vehicles of similar size), reasonably comfortable and affordable for many of us when bought at the Preferred I trim level. It is sold in six trim levels, each increasing in expense: ISV, Preferred (I), Sport Touring, Preferred II, Essence and Premium.

Ride, acceleration and handling: The ride is comfortable. Acceleration is mediocre. Handling is decent.

Head-turning quotient: It is pretty. You can have pride in ownership here.

Body style/layout: The Buick Encore is a compact, front-engine, front-wheel-drive, gasoline-fueled SUV with four side doors and a rear hatch.

Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 18.8 cubic feet. Please note that the interior width is a tad narrow and might be a bit uncomfortable for larger bodies. The fuel tank holds 14 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: I averaged 30 miles per gallon in highway driving.

Engine/transmission: It is equipped with a turbocharged 1.4-liter, inline four-cylinder, 16-valve gasoline engine with variable valve timing (138 horsepower, 177 pound-feet of torque). The engine is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually.

Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes, ventilated front and solid rear; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; traction and stability control; side and head air bags; blind-spot and lane-departure-warning accident avoidance systems; and a post-collision safety system.

Note: A full suite of advanced electronic safety systems is available.

Pricing: The 2017 Buick Encore Premium All-Wheel Drive starts at $31,965. The price as tested is $36,175, including $3,285 in options (special exterior paint, power glass roof, Bose sound system and optional advanced safety items) and a $995 factory-to-dealer shipment charge. You can bargain.