DETROIT -- General Motors today unveiled a compact Buick crossover that executives say will carve out a new market niche: the small luxury crossover.
The Encore is Buick's fourth brand-new entry in the past five years and its latest bid to attract younger buyers.
Buick executives predict that the petite crossover's maneuverability will appeal to young, active urban dwellers who want the versatility of a compact crossover without giving up amenities like parking assist and a plush, quiet interior.
"This vehicle is going to play in white space," says Tony DiSalle, vice president of Buick marketing. "There aren't direct competitors in a luxury small crossover in the United States today."
Built on a version of the same front-wheel-drive platform that underpins the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact, the five-seat Encore is 168.5 inches long. That's nearly 20 inches shorter than a Chevrolet Equinox. The Encore's 70-inch width is 2.5 inches narrower than that of the Equinox.
The Encore most closely resembles two small luxury crossovers sold overseas but not in the U.S.: the BMW X1 and Audi Q3.
BMW may introduce the X1 here this year. Audi said Monday it will sell the Q3 crossover -- shown as the Vail concept -- in the U.S. market with annual sales targeted at 8,000 to 10,000. It did not provide a time frame for the Q3's launch here, but it will go into production in late 2013 in Europe.
The closest U.S. competitor to the Encore in terms of dimensions is the Mini Countryman, says Jim Hall, principal of 2953 Analytics Inc., a suburban Detroit consulting firm.