Brand new for 2013, the Buick Encore is 168 inches long and 70 inches wide, which could be the reason Shaq does TV commercials for the Buick LaCrosse instead of the Buick Encore. The Encore may not be for 7-footers or the Brady Bunch, but it’s a great choice for small families or downsizing couples.

The Encore, which offers seating for five, is loaded with exterior chrome and interior appointments. It is right at home on city streets, scooting around with its 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-

cylinder engine that delivers a brisk 138 horsepower.

It’s good on the highway too, with a comfortable and quiet ride, thanks to GM QuietTuning, Bose Active Noise Cancellation technology and a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission. AWD is available.

The bonus is you’ll get 25 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and an average of 28 mpg overall in the Encore. GM says that’s the highest fuel economy of any FWD crossover from a U.S.-based manufacturer, although the Encore is assembled primarily in South Korea.

The Encore is available in four trim levels: Encore, Encore Convenience, Encore Leather and Encore Premium. Our test week was with the top-end Premium, and that comes pretty close to describing this small SUV.

The list of amenities in the Encore Premium is long: Memory settings (driver’s seat, outside mirrors, audio and air), heated power leather seats, power windows and locks, rain-sensing wipers, automatic halogen headlights, dual-zone climate control, tilt and telescoping heated steering wheel with controls, XM Satellite Radio, front and rear parking assist, a rearview camera, a 7-inch color screen with Buick’s Intellilink connectivity, Bluetooth for phone and music, remote start, heated and power outside mirrors, fog lamps and a roof rack with side rails.

In south Louisiana, we could have done without the heated steering wheel and would have opted for a keyless push

button start, which hopefully one day will become standard on all vehicles.

But folks, that’s a pretty decent

amenity sheet for an SUV that starts well under $30-grand. The only options on our test vehicle were upgraded 18-inch chromed aluminum wheels and a $795 audio upgrade with navigation, keeping our premium Encore test vehicle at $29,980 plus freight.

Buicks are generally wont to load up on chrome, and the Encore is no exception. You’ll find the shiny stuff on the grille, door handles, fog lamps, faux vents on the hood and on window and interior trim.

On the road, the Encore is quick and nimble, with scant lean in hard corners. The electric power steering is linear and instantaneous, and we didn’t find ourselves having to make those annoying minor steering corrections to keep the vehicle on a straight path.

Inside, the Encore is very nice, bordering on elegant. The 7-inch color screen is located way up top of the

center stack, which is where it should be. Any lower, and it requires drivers’ eyes to be off the road too long.

The driver’s seat was comfortable, but the seat bottoms could use more side bolstering. Head room and legroom are fine in the front seats. Shaq might have to shoehorn himself into an Encore, but most other people will have no trouble. Maximum cargo space is 48.4 cubic feet.

The Encore has yet to be safety tested by federal or insurance industry testing agencies, but the vehicle comes standard with 10 air bags, stability and traction control systems, anti-lock brakes and available forward collision alert and lane departure warning systems – and, of course, OnStar.

If you’re looking for some serious value in a scoot-around-town SUV, the Encore should absolutely be on your short list of cars to drive.

2013 Buick Encore

  • Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Horsepower: 138
  • Test model base price: $28,190 ($29,980 plus freight as-tested)
  • EPA mileage rating: 25 mpg city / 33 mpg highway /28 mpg combined