Fuel-efficient Buicks perfect for summer road trip


But several years ago, Buick got into the family SUV game with the Enclave, a three-row crossover SUV with lots of room inside, but in a body that's not huge on the outside.

It's now updated for 2013 with some new styling and new features. It was a strong seller before, but the segment it falls into is a competitive one.

Vehicles like the Infiniti JX and Acura MDX are recently new or redesigned as well.

Competition also comes from two brands within General Motors. The mechanically identical Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia have also been updated this year and share many features with the Enclave.

One of those is a new center airbag between the front seats. This industry first keeps occupants' heads from bumping during a side impact.

The new 2013 Buick Encore, which sells at a $24,200 base price, is Buick's follow-up to the Buick Enclave.

It's a lot smaller in size, but still carries contemporary Buick design themes. From the rear, it can look a little stubby, and cargo space with the back seat up is not plentiful. But for passengers, the size is just right. Compact crossover SUVs from luxury brands are really catching on.

Fuel efficiency is one reason. Recent surveys have shown that most buyers are looking for extra miles per gallon these days, and the Buick Encore delivers. Four cylinders and a six-speed automatic transmission earn a rating of 25 mpg in city driving and 33 highway mpg. The numbers drop a bit if you choose all-wheel drive.

It might be small compared to the Buick Enclave, but it doesn't feel small from the driver's seat. If you don't need all the passenger room, it's a money and gas saver.

But if you do need the room, the Buick Enclave, which goes for $38,445 base price, fits the bill just fine. It's the vehicle that put the words Buick and sport utility vehicle together.

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