The Buick Encore GX is a near premium offering among small SUVs.

SUVs are so popular that they come in a variety of sizes: extra small, small, medium, large and gargantuan.

The Buick Encore GX isn’t just small, but it’s almost premium, which is unusual for this class.

Now you might be thinking: Wait, the Buick Encore, that little thing? No, it’s the ultra-small SUV that the GX version will eventually replace. The GX is bigger, more powerful and more expensive. It actually costs close to the larger SUVs offered by Chevrolet, and more than similarly sized offerings from Honda and others.

What the Encore GX has to its credit is that the level of equipment is higher and the look is more premium. The Encore has a chunky look with a high waistline and short front overhang. The nicely styled wheels give it that premium look with the LED lights that come standard on my Essence model.

The interior retains the premium look with black accents, leather seat trim and premium fit and finish. All controls are great to the touch and operate with a premium feel. The gear selector has leather and metal trim. Directly behind the selector is a large center console that also serves as an armrest.

The seats are comfortable but could use some extra padding. The front seats fit well and can be adjusted to achieve the right level of comfort. The rear seat has enough room for three people, but it can be a bit narrow depending on the height of these people. Kids to average sized people will have the best time or just carry two people.

There’s a fair amount of tech, but even with what’s standard, Buick has made some odd choices. Blind spot detection is not standard, even on the Essence version. My test car didn’t have any. Due to the shortage of computer chips, some standard items and options are left out. It was not specified in my information if this is what happened.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were included, as well as automatic high beams, lane departure, eight-inch forward collision mitigation touchscreen, satellite radio, heated steering wheel, air ionizer in the cabin and the driver’s memory seat.

The Encore GX is powered by a 1.3-liter turbocharged engine developing 155 horsepower. This gives the Encore a lively feel when passing or merging into traffic. The transmission is a nine-speed unit that channels power to the optional all-wheel drive. While not sluggish, the transmission feels a little sluggish when you ask it to quickly drop a gear. It’s smooth, though, and it doesn’t get in the way.

Take the Encore on the road and you’ll notice that attention has been paid to the car’s driving dynamics. Push it into a curve and the lack of body roll is appreciated. You can hit 60 miles per hour in around 9.0 seconds and that’s pretty good for the class. The ride is comfortable, but there’s good communication with the driver as to what’s going on between the road and the car. It’s not a sporty SUV but the handling is well above average.

The Encore Essence has a lot going for it. It’s sleek, fast, comfortable, and offers better gas mileage than stated. You should get about 29 miles per gallon total. Got a little better than 30 mpg.

You can small SUVs for less money. Some may even be bigger and a little more refined. But none will have the Encore’s balance of excellent handling, a smooth, quiet ride on the highway, and standard tech. It’s a bit expensive. My Essence coupe Encore cost nearly $38,000, but it only lacked blind-spot detection. It’s also a Buick, which no longer means heavy or outdated styling. The company currently enjoys being one of the best initial quality brands available.

• Elegant exterior and interior

• Excellent maneuverability

• Smooth ride

• Great fuel economy

• Lots of technology

• Just enough space

• Good cargo space

Versus :
• A little expensive

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