The 2019 Buick Encore doesn’t change much from last year’s model, and that’s mostly a good thing. It’s a compact – and I do mean compact – SUV that offers good mileage, good safety scores, available AWD and a pleasant driving experience.

Those are some of the reasons the Encore is Buick’s best-selling vehicle in North America.

Two slightly different engine choices power the new Encore. The standard engine is an Ecotec 1.4-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder that develops 138 horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. of torque. The second is a 1.4-liter turbo-4 tuned to crank out more horsepower and torque, 153 horses and 177 lb.-ft. to be exact. The more powerful engine also has stop/start technology to help improve fuel economy. Both engines are hooked to a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Neither engine will snap your head back, but both are powerful enough for the diminutive Encore, and both offer good fuel economy. My test Encore was EPA-rated at 26 miles per gallon in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined.

The front-drive Encore is offered in the base Encore, Preferred, Sport Touring and Essence Trims. The base Encore starts below $24,000 and the top end Essence trim starts at $29,300.

The Encore has a sporty style with an attractive front end and short overhangs in back. Because it looks small from the outside, I was surprised at the room inside. Make no mistake, the Encore is a compact vehicle, but headroom in front (39.6 inches) and in the rear seats (38.8 inches) was plenty for my 6-foot-1 frame. The generous headroom is thanks to a ceiling that is lower in the middle and considerably higher where your noggin goes.

Rear-seat legroom is pretty good too (35.7 inches) thanks to a concave front seatback. Row 2 is still more suited for two adults or three kids. While the space allotted to occupants in the Encore is generous, cargo space is not. There’s less than 19 cubic feet of room behind the rear seat. That cargo space expands to 48.4 cubic feet when you fold down the second-row seats.

The cabin has a premium feel thanks to soft-touch materials in all the right places. Leather seats are comfortable and heated in the upper trim. The seat bottom adjusts with power buttons, but the seat back adjusts manually.

The dash layout is well thought out and logical. The USB, AUX and 12V jacks tucked in the back of a compartment at the base of the console are a little difficult to reach, but the buttons, knobs and the controller are all easy and intuitive to use.

A quiet cabin complements the excellent Bose sound, and the 8-inch color touchscreen has crisp, clear graphics. There’s also 4G LTE connectivity and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported.

On the road, the Encore is sure-footed and offers a comfortable ride with little road noise. The little SUV remains flat in hard cornering. Steering is precise and linear.

When it comes to safety, the 2019 Encore scores five overall stars in all government safety tests except the rollover test, where it gets four stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the 2019 Encore its top mark of “good” in every category except the passenger-side small overlap crash test, where it scored “acceptable.”

The Encore has 10 standard airbags, a standard rearview camera and the required stability and traction control systems. Optional safety packages offer all the latest technologies like automatic windshield wipers, parking assists, forward collision alert, blind spot alert and lane departure warning.

2019 Buick Encore Essence FWD

Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder

Horsepower/Torque: 153 / 177 lb.-ft.

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Price: $29,300 ($33,375 with options & freight)

EPA Mileage Estimates: 26 mpg city/31 mpg highway/28 mpg combined

Estimated Highway Range: 434 miles

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