Buick expands into small crossover segment
The Encore announced in Detroit will be one of the smallest utility vehicles on the market. But will it be too small?
2013 Buick Encore
Buick is expanding. It has to, as one of the four remaining General Motors brands. Buick has solid roots planted in the midsize and full-size car segments, as well as a strong large-crossover competitor in the Enclave. But not much else.
At the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Buick announced a baby Enclave called the Encore, which is aimed squarely at the subcompact-crossover market. This is uncharted territory for a luxury brand. The question is: Is it too small for American buyers?
TOP STORIES FROM THE DETROIT AUTO SHOW:
2013 Buick Encore
What is it? A really small crossover that's low on power but high on luxury.
What's hot? The Encore was developed in conjunction with the Chevrolet Sonic, and it should feature a similarly strong structure. Like other Buicks, the Encore will have a rich and inviting cabin, and by the looks of it, interior space will be well-used. Active Noise Cancellation will further expand upon Buick's already impressive QuieTuning. Notable interior amenities will include 10 standard airbags, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, a heated steering wheel, Bose audio and Buick's IntelliLink communications and entertainment system, which allows access to applications through owners' smartphones.
What's not? The Encore will be one of the smallest crossovers on the market, which will give it a unique market position. What's wrong with a midsize crossover? Buick doesn't have one, and a rival for the Lexus RX would likely be a strong seller. The Encore will share the Sonic's turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, only tweaked to make slightly more power: 140 horses. This engine is smooth and efficient, but it will likely be underpowered in a vehicle weighing at least 3,200 pounds.
How much and when? Starting at about $22,000; due first quarter 2013.
MSN Autos' verdict: Six inches longer than a Nissan Juke, the 2013 Buick Encore will be small and likely underpowered. Still, it should appeal to empty nesters, young couples and singles who care more about quiet and luxury than power.
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.