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First drive video: 2013 Buick Encore SUV blazes a tiny trail

First drive video: 2013 Buick Encore SUV blazes a tiny trail

The Encore boldly goes where no Buick has gone before. This diminutive crossover is the first domestic-brand entry in a newly-emerging subclass of sub-compact-derived SUVs from upscale marques.

Over the last few years, Buick has veered from traditional notions of building big boat-like sedans. While Buick has enjoyed great success in China, the brand seems to be trying anything and everything to rebuild here in America. A German-sourced sports sedan, rebadged as a Regal? Check. A small sedan based on the Chevrolet Cruze? Check. That resulting car, the Verano, is enjoying strong sales. The Regal, not so much. And now there’s the South Korean-built Encore, based on the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic.

Talk about a wake-up call.

This is somewhat unexpected. It certainly makes sense for Buick to have a small SUV, given that almost every luxury brand now has one. And you’d think Buick could do with a plusher version of the Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain. But given that a loaded Equinox tops $38,000, a Buick version would wind up costing as much as a three-row Buick Enclave. And since many Buick showrooms are paired with GMC, such a product would wind up being redundant with the Terrain.

So Buick went in a different direction, joining other subcompact luxury-brand SUVs like the upcoming Audi Q3.

Our first impression is that the Encore is likeable enough to drive, but rather cramped inside. Don’t expect the nimbleness of other subcompact SUVs like the Nissan Juke or the Mini Countryman—but the Buick rides better and is considerably quieter and plusher.

We bought the Encore AWD shown in the video for our test program. It stickered at $30,555, including an $800 power sunroof and $795 navigation system. At that price, unless you’d benefit from the Buick’s tiny footprint in tight parking situations, it makes sense to also cross-shop leather-lined versions of other larger-but-still-small SUVs, like a Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, or Toyota RAV4.

For more insights, watch our first drive video.

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