The BMW X1 takes on the Buick Encore in a battle of the small SUVs



Matthew DeBord/BI

The Bimmer.

Crossover SUVs are the hottest segment in the car business right now, and an especially appealing subset of the segment is small utility vehicles.


These are the new entry points to brands; it used to be that small sedans were the starter cars. No longer.

Luxury and near-luxury brands are both jumping in. BMW has the X1 as its entry level crossover, and Buick has the Encore. This isn't going to be an apples-to-apples comparison, by the way.

The Bimmer is a true luxury brand, while Buick resides below Cadillac in the General Motors hierarchy.

But the two vehicles, separated by price - more than $10,000, in fact - can be usefully compared. Both provide good utility, have about the same amount of passenger and cargo space, come equipped with a nice lineup of tech features, and can even be compared in terms of how they drive.


The biggest difference is really one of impressions and expectations. The BMW is supposed to be the small-crossover version of the "ultimate driving machine."

Buick Encore

Matthew DeBord/BI

The Buick.

The Buick, on the other hand, needs to bring younger buyers into the brand and not deviate too much from what makes a Buick a Buick: quietness, composure, and low-key style.

So what we ultimately have here is a pair of vehicles equally burdened by their respective automotive DNA. The BMW, for example, needs to satisfy the person behind the wheel. The Buick needs to soothe the driver. The BMW has to carry a certain amount of design weight - this crossover needs to fit into the BMW family, which includes the X3 and the X5.

The Buick has to exude some of the Tri-Shield's unforced elegance and country-club vibe without coming off as stuffy. Buick has done yeoman work in the last decade changing the idea that its cars are strictly for the retirement-community demographic.

So the two crossovers are easier to compare than it appears.


And there might even be a surprise or two about the one we liked better.