New Car Previews

Preview: 2017 Buick Encore

After three years on the market and quickly becoming the brand's best-selling model, Buick's bread-and-butter Encore showed off its mid-cycle refresh in an early reveal at the 2016 New York International Auto Show. The bread hasn't changed – there are no major changes to chassis, suspension or powertrains – but the butter is new. The 2017 model receives an updated front: new bumper, new grille (marking a welcome return to the tri-shield logo in red, white and blue), standard LED accent lighting front and rear, and available full LED headlights on the top-spec trims. Also new are some extra shiny bits, like chrome exhaust tips and 18-inch wheels – huge wheels on a small SUV, but they look the part. Three new colours will be available: Black Cherry metallic (shown in the launch photos), Ebony Twilight and White Frost.

The 2017 Encore gets a fully revised interior, with higher quality materials, contrasting stitching, and more shiny trim.

The inside is where the real changes are. The 2017 Encore gets a fully revised interior, with higher quality materials, contrasting stitching, and more shiny trim. The instrument cluster is all new and gets a 4.2" colour driver information display. If you've driven a GM compact in the last four years or so, you'll appreciate the new display, which is a serious improvement over the current gauges. The existing steering wheel carries over and while it's functional and feels nice, it isn't the most appealing steering wheel around. It's the same one found in most small GM vehicles, and has been around since the debut of the Cruze. Considering the sweeping changes to the rest of the interior – especially the death of the microwave oven display – the steering wheel is an odd holdover. That said, this is one of the best interiors in the class. Cabin acoustics have been improved via increased noise insulation and Bose active noise cancellation. Buick makes a big deal of their QuietTuning philosophy, and quiet is one thing Buick does extremely well.

New in the infotainment system is the latest version of OnStar featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, with a 4G LTE hotspot that will connect up to seven devices. Keyless entry and ignition are now standard, and the doors unlock automatically when you touch the handle. The 2017 Encore boasts a suite of active safety systems: rear cross-traffic alert, side blind zone alert, rear park assist, forward collision alert and lane departure warning.

Interior dimensions are unchanged from the outgoing model, and it has seating for five plus 1,371L of cargo space. A bit of a neat feature: the front passenger seat folds forward flat, which allows you to carry longer loads (and also makes for a decent place to put your laptop and write a story).

Powertrain options are carried over from 2016. There is the base 1.4L turbocharged four, and an upgrade to the same engine which adds stop-start technology and direct injection. Both engines will be backed by a six speed automatic transmission. The addition of direct injection boosts power from 138hp to 153 hp and improves mileage – Buick estimates that the base 1.4L will hit 9.5 L/100 km city and 7.2 L/100 km highway, while the direct injected engine will reach 8.5 L/100 km city and 6.9 L/100 km highway. That's for the front-wheel drive versions; expect the available all-wheel drive to push those numbers down a little. Five trim levels will be available from launch: Encore, Encore Sport Touring, Encore Convenience, Encore Leather and Encore Premium, with both engines and both front- and all-wheel drive being available on all trims.

The Encore currently accounts for a significant portion of Buick's sales in North America, and this update helps keep its competitive edge. Buick's on a roll lately, with three new or refreshed models this year and more on the way. Pricing information is not yet available, but expect the 2017 Encore at dealers this fall.