- Youthful ST exterior
- Snappy infotainment system
- Smartly designed interior space
- Gutless three-cylinder engine
- Jiggly ride quality
- Overall value proposition
Buick hopes its new-for-2020 Encore GX will take market share from its competition, which includes the Honda HR-V and Jeep Compass. That’s a tough segment—the largest and most competitive in the Ultimate Car Rankings section of our Buyer’s Guide, in fact. So what does the 2020 Buick Encore GX bring to this packed party?
The Encore GX and platform-sharing Chevrolet Trailblazer mark the debut of GM’s all-new Vehicle Strategy Set (VSS) for small, front-drive-based SUVs, a global parts-sharing, cost-saving architecture. The North American models of both will be built in South Korea.
View Other 2021 SUV of the Year Contenders and Finalists Here
The Trailblazer and Encore GX come with two new turbocharged inline-three engines that displace 1.2 and 1.3 liters, respectively. Encore GX entry-level pricing starts at $25,095 for a front-drive model powered by a 137-hp 1.2-liter turbo and a CVT that GM developed in-house (for 1.2- and 1.3-liter front-drive models). All-wheel drive is only available with the 155-hp 1.3-liter turbocharged I-3 and nine-speed automatic transmission. The latter is how our test vehicle came equipped, along with the $650 Sport Touring (ST) package, which adds more aggressive styling cues, including body-colored bumpers and spoiler, red accents, and 18-inch aluminum wheels.
Physically, the GX offers more Encore to love; it’s 3.0 inches longer, 1.3 wider, and 1.1 shorter than its older, smaller brother Encore, and it’s size-competitive with crossovers such as the Jeep Compass. The additional room allows for neat tricks, including a fold-flat front seat that creates space for objects up to eight feet long. Buick has positioned the Encore GX to be tech-forward, so options include an 8.0-inch color infotainment screen, wireless charging, and, of course, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa.
Sounds pretty compelling on paper—until you read some of the notes submitted by our judges.
“After getting inside the Encore GX, I still couldn’t tell you what it stands for,” Buyer’s Guide director Zach Gale said. “I love the monochrome treatment and red details of the ST, but the three-cylinder engine kills it for me. At idle and through the pedal itself you hear and feel the engine. At least it gets 30 mpg—oh wait, nope.”
GM’s three-cylinder powertrain strategy, which Buick seems to be hiding in its PR and marketing literature (just try to find the cylinder count), bore the brunt of our editors’ ire—as the fuel efficiency for performance trade-off didn’t seem worth it. Ride quality was also an issue, especially against the value proposition presented by its Seoul brother.
“Buick has some nerve charging thousands of dollars more for this than the Chevrolet Trailblazer, especially when the Encore GX is louder inside, rides worse, and shares a bunch of the same interior parts,” features editor Scott Evans said. “If anyone dares cross-shop this with the Chevy, they’re not going to see any reason to pay more.”
Features editor Christian Seabaugh found the Encore GX’s offering similarly lacking against the competitive set. “It seems priced to take advantage of those who don’t know any better,” he said. “Take the $1,790 Advanced Technology package; it includes a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, and navigation. The $29,300 Mazda CX-30 with the Premium package has all of that included. The end result of all this nickel and diming is a $36,620 SUV that feels like a $30,000 SUV inside and drives like a $20,000 one.”
Although MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina found things to love about the interior design (“a step above”) and infotainment system (“modern, fast, and super easy to use”), in the end, the Encore GX was simply not enough.
“A good way to sum up the Buick Encore GX is to say ‘it’s not terrible and it’s not wonderful; it just sort of is,’ ” said senior features editor Jonny Lieberman. “Although it certainly isn’t a Buick.”
|2020 Buick Encore GX AWD ST Specifications|
|Base Price/As Tested||$28,690/$36,620|
|Power (SAE net)||155 hp @ 5,600 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||174 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||9.3 sec|
|Quarter-mile||17.0 sec @ 80.0 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||122 ft|
|Lateral acceleration||0.81 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||27.8 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||26/29/28 mpg|
|Vehicle Layout||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engine/Transmission||1.3L turbo DOHC 12-valve I-3/9-speed automatic|
|Curb Weight (F/R Dist)||3,309 lb (60/40%)|
|Length x Width x Height||171.4 x 71.4 x 64.1 in|
|Energy Cons, City/Hwy||130/116 kWh/100 miles|
|CO2 Emissions, Comb||0.71 lb/mile|
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