What do you do if you’re a monolithic multi-national corporation that needs to expand a certain market presence quickly? If you’re General Motors, you bring in some outside help. To round out its Pontiac brand and bring it back to its performance roots, in brought in the Holden Commodore. And to help Buick reach a younger audience, it reached out to its Euro-centric Opel brand and brought to North America the Opel Mokka, which we know as the Buick Encore.
The Encore proved to be exceptionally successful, moving 67,549 of them in 2015 to claim the title of Buick’s best-selling model. It was spritely, agile, and capable — words rarely used to describe a Buick, especially since about 1990. It did what GM needed it to do: Bring a fresh demographic of younger buyers into Buick’s showrooms, saving GM the trouble of opening Buick dealerships in retirement home lobbies to spare its consumers a trip. The Encore did that job so well, actually, that GM went back to Europe and soon imported the Opel Insignia as the Buick Regal. It’s releasing the Opel Cascada as the Buick… well, Cascada this year as well.
Launched in the U.S. formally in 2013, the Encore is starting to get a bit long in the tooth. For 2017, the Encore will be reaching that time when a parent company begins looking giving it a fresh face to stay competitive — especially in a segment as cutthroat as the compact utility vehicle space. Buick hasn’t said anything about a new Encore, but it didn’t need to. Because Opel just might have.
For 2017, the Opel Mokka gets a new look and more commanding road presence, more in line with the forthcoming Buick Envision that GM will be bringing to the U.S. from China. Dubbed the Mokka X, Opel says that it “will be the first carline to introduce the segment identifier for future Opel SUV and crossover vehicles with the “X” emphasizing a more adventurous and rugged personality as the one displayed by more traditional body styles.”
We’re fairly certain that the X moniker won’t make it stateside (despite how adventurous and rugged Buick drivers might like to think they are), but the rest of the Mokka likely will. Aside from your usual continental differences to accommodate for the variances in road rules and some slight brand-specific design cues, the new Opel Mokka X is very likely going to also become the 2017 Buick Encore, which is expected to debut at this year’s 2017 New York Auto Show.
Europe gets its choice of diesels and gasoline engines, but it’s likely that the new Encore will retain the current 1.4 liter turbo and buyers won’t see any changes are aren’t more than skin-deep.
However, the new design is certainly a step up. With the Mokka X’s good looks, the Encore — which has always looked rather out of place among Buick’s other models — should blend in well with the lineup, joining the Envision, LaCrosse, and Cascada to become the fourth new model in Buick showrooms this year.
We’ll know more about Buick’s new pint-sized people-mover when we get some quality touchy-feely time with it at the New York International Auto Show next month. In the meantime, keep your eye on Opel — the next great American lite-luxury sensation might have a European accent.
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