2021 Buick Encore GX: Compact Luxury with a Bold Edge

The Encore GX is the better of two subcompact Buick models.

You will not find a single new Buick car these days as this premium GM brand is comprised of four utility vehicle models only. That is the same approach Ford has taken with its Lincoln brand, an auto trend we expect other manufacturers will also adopt.

What is left is the tiny Encore, the slightly larger Encore GX, the compact Envision, and the midsize Enclave. This quartet is sufficient for now, although we expect new models in the form of electric vehicles, to join the product line moving forward.

As for the Encore GX, it serves as an “encore” to the Encore. They are two distinctly separate models, despite sharing a common name. For instance, the Encore sits on a 100.6-inch wheelbase, while the Encore GX has 102.2 inches between the wheels.

Moreover, the Encore measures 168.4 inches long to 171.4 inches to the Encore GX. Further, the Encore is 70.1 inches wide to the Encore GX’s 71.4 inches. Yes, the differences are slight, but given that we have driven both, the GX is noticeably more roomy and that much more comfortable.

2021 Buick Encore GX Review

We think the Encore’s days are numbered, at least in the U.S. market. Introduced in 2013, it rides on the same platform spanning a decade. Meanwhile, the Encore GX is the new kid on the block and with a starting price of $24,200, it is $400 less than its smaller sibling. With both models, add $1,195 for the destination charge.

The 2021 Encore GX comes with standard front-wheel drive and seats five. All-wheel drive is available, but not on the base trim. Thus, Buick offers the 2021 Encore GX in Preferred ($25,395), Select ($26,995), and Essence ($29,795) trims.

Exterior Highlights

2021 Buick Encore GX profile
The Buick Encore GX at the North Carolina State Fairground.

One of the most significant separations between the Encore models is the style. The standard Encore features a basic canvas with Buick embellishments. On the other hand, the Encore GX has a layout that’s similar to the larger Buick models for a more sophisticated expression.

That is apparent with the front fascia, which includes Buick’s waterfall grille and handsome boomerang LED daytime running lights.

The Encore GX’s lines are more expressive as well, with a raised line running down the middle of the hood and bolsters on the sides. Our test model with the ST package added red highlights on the grille, offering a unique contrast to the black surround. This model’s profile is tidy, with a falling roofline and rising beltline supplying a sporty look.

Again, the lines along the sides help make it, giving this vehicle a more upscale look. Also, the beautiful alloy wheels help. From the rear, the look also matches the higher-end Buick models with signature taillamps and body sculpting holding sway.

The list of standard features includes halogen headlamps and taillamps, and LED fog lights. Also, 18-inch bright silver-painted aluminum wheels and heated power-controlled side mirrors. Among the upgrades are machine-finished wheels, a contrasting black roof, and a panoramic moonroof. A hands-free power liftgate is also available.

Interior Highlights

2021 Buick Encore GX front seats

While we cannot call the Encore GX an ideal five-seater (you will want the Envision for that), this model is comfortable for four. We found the front seats were sufficiently padded and supportive, although narrow.

On the other hand, the rear seat is suitable for two. Most average-sized adults sitting on the back seat will find the headroom and legroom manageable.

2021 Buick Encore GX rear seats

Buick dedicated considerable resources to design the Encore GX’s interior and it shows. The dashboard is curvaceous, layered, and features brightwork accents. Our test model featured contrasting leather surfaces that brought with it an unmistakable “wow” factor.

That two-tone look extended to the door inlays and seats, imparting sophistication throughout the cabin.

The base trim comes with cloth and imitation leather-trimmed seats. In the front row, they are manually controlled. Full power accessories and single-zone climate control is included.

Move up through the trim range and such features as full leather seats come in. Also, power-controlled front seats, heated front seats, and dual-zone climate control can be had.

Safety Features

Buick equips the 2021 Encore GX with a long list of standard driver-assist safety equipment. These include forward collision warning, front pedestrian braking, and automatic emergency braking. Also, automatic high beams, following distance indicator, and lane keep assist with lane departure warning are included.

Move up through the trim range or select certain packages and Buick adds more features. These include adaptive cruise control and rear parking assist. Certainly, these are standard fare items, what customers expect these days.

As for safety ratings, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has fully tested the Encore GX yet.

Tech Features

2021 Buick Encore GX tech

We are fans of the Buick Infotainment System for its ease of use. Offering a modern, tablet-like display, the system is intuitive and loads fast. With the Encore GX, everything is displayed on its 8-inch touchscreen face.

This model comes with Bluetooth, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility, and two USB ports. Further, Buick equips this crossover with a 6-speaker audio system, satellite radio, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.

Move away from the base model and navigation is included. Other features available include wireless smartphone charging, Amazon Alexa, and a 7-speaker Bose audio system. A head-up display is also available. Our test model had the Bose system and we enjoyed the sound quality and dispersion.

Buick Encore GX Performance

2021 Buick Encore GX dashboard

The Encore GX offers a pair of three-cylinder engine choices. Yes, that is right: three cylinders. Both are turbocharged and although they are very near in size, the larger of the two seems quite a bit more powerful.

The first choice is a 1.2-liter engine. This one makes 137 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The second engine displaces 1.3 liters. Here, you get 155 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. It is the better tuned of the two engines and for a $395 upgrade a worthwhile investment at that.

Choose the base engine and Buick supplies front-wheel-drive-only. Power routes to the wheels utilizing a continuously variable transmission. With the upgraded engine, buyers have a choice of front-wheel drive with the CVT or all-wheel drive with a 9-speed automatic transmission. Our test model had the larger engine and front-wheel drive.

We found the 1.3-liter turbocharged engine surprisingly spunky. The turbo spools quickly, throws down ample power, and moves this little crossover forward with authority. Under hard acceleration we noticed torque understeer, which seemed odd for such a small engine.

But it was all very welcome – we had to remind ourselves more than once that a three-cylinder engine was powering this little vehicle.

The steering is light and responsive. Indeed, this SUV manages twisty roads with little rocking and rolling. Also, it enters and leaves corners with confidence. Because of its size, you will still feel bumps, although minor road imperfections are easily absorbed by its suspension system.

Competitive Set

The Encore GX may be a premium model, but it does compete against mainstream vehicles. These include the Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-30, and the Honda HR-V. Notably, the Chevrolet Trax is a down-market variant of the Buick.

In the luxury sphere, the Audi Q3 and Lexus UX are worth a look. But both offer richer materials and a more elegant expression of what customers expect in this class.

Our Recommendation

2021 Buick Encore GX

Move past the based Preferred model and start your search with the Select and you’ll have access to the better of the two engines. This trim is also much more refined than the base model and brings in additional tech and safety features.

Our Essence trim with several package upgrades retailed for just over $34,000. That said, Buick’s discounting is aggressive, thus your final cost should come in under $31,000. In any case, shop around and be prepared to make some adjustments with the current chip shortage putting pressure on inventories everywhere.

See Also – More Than an Encore: Buick Encore GX

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Matthew Keegan

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