2011 Buick crossover plug-in hybrid

2011 Buick crossover plug-in hybrid

Criticism of General Motors' choice to can the Pontiac brand while keeping Buick ran rampant in the days following the announcement earlier this summer, but as the brand's new image becomes clearer, it makes more and more sense. New details released today on the vehicles coming over the next several years show a Buick that's aiming squarely for the efficient, affordable end of the luxury market.

Efficiency is a necessary element of any future vehicle program, but perhaps most of all in the mid-luxury segment that Buick inhabits. Combining fresh styling, high feature content and reasonable pricing in a single package is no easy feat, however, and the challenge shows somewhat in Buick's upcoming small crossover.

Described as a 'squished Enclave', the vehicle will be based on GM's new premium small platform. The front of the vehicle is more conventional than the somewhat contrived rear.

Its small size and likely advanced small-displacement, direct-injection powertrain - borrowed from GM's other small vehicles, including the Cruze - will mean positive things for fuel efficiency and cost, however. That just leaves Buick to getting the final production exterior and interior styling right for it to have most of its bases covered.

Two new sedans are also on their way over the next 24 months, the first a mid-size that shares some resemblance to the Insignia, the second a small Chevrolet Cruze-based four-door. Those two will slot in below the new LaCrosse which sits closer to the large-sedan segment.

The smaller of the two new Buicks gets a styling treatment that includes a shield-type grille and the trademark Buick portholes on the hood. The midsize car features wedge door panels that invoke the Insignia's styling, but also has a more sloping, rounded roofline and is likely intended to take on imports like the higher-specification variants of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and the lower end of the import luxury ranks as well.

Also on display at this morning's Detroit event is a new four-door coupe concept sketch that takes the styling of the highly praised Riviera Concept - which also lent some of its good looks to the current 2010 Buick LaCrosse - forward a generation, but at this time there are no production plans for the vehicle.