JAMIE LaREAU

Buick's mini crossover enters a white space that could be red hot

Automotive News | January 10, 2012 - 12:59 pm EST

At auto shows I often eye vehicles and ask myself if they might one day be my next ride.

Sometimes the answer is: definitely, maybe.

General Motors introduced the Buick Encore compact crossover at the Detroit auto show today and I had that definitely, maybe feeling.

I'm not the typical Buick customer -- I'm under age 65. But there is currently no mid-luxury, subcompact crossover in the United States. So the Encore is competing in "white space," Buick marketing chief Tony DiSalle says.

So it could be red hot.

For one thing, it's a really good looking vehicle. And it stands out because it's different.

The only other vehicle that might touch the Encore now is the Mini Countryman -- another favorite of mine.

Mary Barra, head of product development at GM, introduced the 2013 Buick Encore on Tuesday at the Detroit auto show.

Photo credit: GM

I can't predict how the market will react. But knowing my peer group, the Encore might be the one Buick we'd be eager to own. And that would take Buick into a customer space the brand desperately wants to tap into -- a younger, likely single, urban professional, DiSalle says.

The Encore is small and sporty, which equates to decent fuel economy (GM expects it to get 30 mpg highway) yet roomy enough to accommodate my athletic lifestyle and my 90-pound dog, who travels with me just about everywhere.

But it has a touch of elegance that other small crossovers lack. It comes in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive along with a heated steering wheel for those of us who live in cold snowy Northern climates.

Its plush interior offers leather seating and GM's "active noise cancellation."

All this comes at a price that GM isn't naming yet. And price will be a factor for me.

Another plus for me is the Encore's 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. It will deliver 140 hp and 148 pounds-feet of torque. That's 41 hp less than the Countryman's turbocharged 1.6-liter engine earns.

When I test drove the Countryman it felt a bit too sluggish for my lead-foot ways. So the Encore might leave me cold in terms of its performance.

But I sure can't wait until early next year when it goes on sale to find out.

Jamie LaReau covers Ford Motor Co. for Automotive NewsJamie LaReau covers Ford Motor Co. for Automotive News

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