Breaking new ground this most iconic of U.S. motoring brands has already gained some notable admirers, being named a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The 2013 Buick Encore is like nothing they’ve built before, a luxury compact crossover with a big emphasis on the compact. Its wheelbase measures in at just over eight feet, shaving inches off rivals such as MINI’s Countryman, the Honda CR-V and Ford’s Escape. It’s a full half-foot less than the VW Tiguan but inside there’s still plenty of room for five. A new direction it may well be, but there still undoubtedly beats a Buick heart.

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There are chrome accents and surrounds, hood portholes and painted lower panels. Behind the signature waterfall grille sits a “green” Ecotec 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing that generates 138 hp and it has a six-speed automatic powertrain. Expect to get 25 mpg in the city and 33 stretching its legs out on the highway. It rides on 18-inch five-spoke painted aluminum wheels with an option to upgrade to seven-spoke chromes. Blue-accented projector beam headlamps and detailed tail-lamps are standard, and choose between all- or front-wheel drive.

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There’s a range of nice standard features such as a leather-covered, electrically-assisted steering wheel, rear-view camera, seven-inch display screen, Pandora & Stitcher radio, Intellilink with satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity and voice control capabilities. Further inclusions are ten airbags, disc brakes on all wheels, ABS and cornering, brake and front and rear parking assist. The Bose active noise cancellation system eliminates engine drone and makes for a quiet cabin, further enriching its premium vibe. You can opt for a remote start, rainsense wipers, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control and memory seats and mirrors.

The Encore comes with a choice of nine exterior colors and three inside schemes. The organic interior styling boasts a contemporary contrast of light and dark hues, with cool, ice-blue lighting. The trim is chrome and faux-wood with the chance to upgrade your upholstery to swanky two-tone leather and there’s an optional navigation system too. The folding front passenger seat is a great touch, providing even more room and the high riding position makes for a comfortable and enjoyable drive. StabiliTrack coupled with the full-time traction control systems will monitor and adapt to changing conditions, further aiding control and performance. A deceptively small build belies premium safety specs, on top of the host of standard airbags come available systems like a lane departure warning and forward collision alert.