2015 Buick Encore

What's new for 2015? All models now come standard with OnStar, which includes 4G LTE connectivity and a WiFi hotspot.

If there's an overarching trend in the automotive industry at the moment, it can be summarized in three words: Small is big. As proof, we offer up the 2015 Buick Encore. The fact that this seriously compact crossover comes from Buick, a brand once known primarily for building big, comfy luxury sedans, shows just how far-reaching this trend really is. Happily, the Encore possesses many of the essential qualities of Buick-ness

On the positive side, the Encore's list of standard features is long, including a new-for-2015 4G LTE connection with WiFi hotspot capability. The Encore also comes with a smart-looking 7-inch touchscreen that provides smartphone app integration. Additional luxuries, such as forward collision and lane-departure warnings and a heated steering wheel, are available on upper trim levels, putting the Encore on par with more expensive models. Throw in the optional leather upholstery and Bose stereo, and you've got a legitimately premium crossover in a petite package.

Exterior Highlights
Available in Base, Conveneience, Leather and Premium trim levels

The 2015 Buick Encore is offered in four trim levels: Base, Convenience, Leather and Premium.

The entry-level Encore comes standard with 18-inch painted alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors, roof rack side rails, air-conditioning, cloth and synthetic leather upholstery, a six-way partial power driver seat (with manual recline and power lumbar), a fold-flat manual front passenger seat, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, a rear cargo cover, OnStar telematics, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, a USB port and an auxiliary audio input jack. Also included is Buick's IntelliLink electronics interface, which features a 7-inch touchscreen and smartphone app integration.

Stepping up to the Convenience model adds foglights, a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a 120-volt household-style power outlet.

Not surprisingly, the Leather trim level adds leather upholstery, plus a six-way partial power front passenger seat (with manual recline and power lumbar), heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and driver seat memory settings.

The Premium adds front and rear parking sensors, a forward collision warning system, a lane departure warning system, rain-sensing wipers, a seven-speaker Bose sound system and a rear cargo net and mat.

The cargo net/mat is optional on all the lower trims, while the Bose system is also available on the Convenience and Leather trim levels. Other options, depending on trim level, include chrome wheels, a sunroof, roof rack cross bars and a navigation system.

Upscale look and feel, well placed gauges and controls, 7-inch touchscreen interface, IntelliLink infotainment system, slide-out drawers for storage

Step into the passenger cabin and you'll find that the 2015 Buick Encore offers an upscale look and feel, with attractive simulated wood and metal accents and soft-touch materials where it counts. Gauges and controls are well-placed, and everything ends up being fairly user-friendly, though there are a lot of buttons on the center stack that look similar at a glance. The 7-inch touchscreen interface for the IntelliLink infotainment system is also relatively intuitive, and its crisp, colorful graphics are a welcome touch at this price point.

The Encore's front seats are comfortable despite the lack of a height-adjustable passenger seat in lower trims, and the high seating position offers a sweeping view that many drivers will appreciate. The rear seats offer adequate head- and legroom for a pair of 6-foot adults. There are many useful places to stash smaller items, including a slide-out drawer under the standard front passenger seat that's ideal for storing a map book, an aftermarket navigation system or anything else you'd like to keep away from prying eyes. Unfortunately, this drawer disappears when the leather seats are specified.

Speaking of space for your stuff, the Encore provides a total of 18.8 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 48.4 cubic feet with those seatbacks folded down. The Encore does have a neat trick up its proverbial sleeve, however, in the form of the standard fold-flat passenger seat that will allow you to shoehorn in objects like 8-foot 2x4s with the rear liftgate closed.

Standard safety features for the 2015 Buick Encore include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat knee airbags, front and rear side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags and a rearview camera. Also included is OnStar, which provides automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking and stolen vehicle assistance.

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