ROAD TEST: 2020 Buick Encore GX

By Shari Prymak

The Buick Encore GX is the latest entry into Buick’s crossover-focused lineup. Although it shares the first part of its name with the brand’s entry-level subcompact crossover, it is a completely unique model. Manufactured in Korea, the Encore GX is positioned between the subcompact Encore and the midsized Envison crossovers. With an attractive design and featured-packed interior, it is designed to appeal to crossover buyers looking for a slightly upscale crossover in a compact package.

Picture the GX as a plus-sized Encore and you wouldn’t be far off from reality. Although still compact in size, the stretched dimensions give the GX more aesthetically-appealing proportions along with additional interior space. The cargo area is a useful size and the rear bench and front passenger seat fold flat creating a large space that can accommodate long objects. The interior atmosphere is generally upscale in terms of materials and build quality, but it is still more utilitarian than luxurious.  

Where the Encore GX really impresses is in the features and technology department. The 8 inch touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use with a wide range of features including 4G LTE WiFi hot spotting, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto capability. The available power front seats include power lumbar on both the driver and passenger sides which is rare for this class. Other available features include a head-up display, wireless smartphone charging, automatic parking assist, an HD surround vision camera and a rear camera mirror. Best of all, most of the features are well laid-out for ease of use and distraction free driving.

The base Preferred model is powered by a 1.2L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine powering the front wheels through a continuously-variable transmission. All-wheel drive versions receive a slightly more powerful 1.3L turbo 4-cylinder producing 155 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque through a 9-speed automatic transmission. It might not sound like much engine displacement, but the 1.3L provides adequate power for accelerating and passing maneuvers. With the help of a selectable engine start-stop system aiding fuel economy, the Encore GX is rated for 9.0L/100km city and 8.0L/100km highway.

Although fine from a power and fuel economy standpoint, the compact drivetrain does create a noticeable amount noise when pressed. Even so, refinement and sound suppression from the cabin are reasonable. The Encore GX is primarily designed for comfort and ease of use. The suspension absorbs most road imperfections and the compact dimensions make it easy to maneuver around city streets. The base Preferred trim includes front collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist as standard equipment. The higher Select and Essence trims add lane change alert with blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control, and rear cross traffic alert.

Pricing for the Encore GX starts at $26,098 for the Preferred FWD and stretches out to $32,598 for the Essence AWD before options. Adding a few option packages can push that MSRP close to $40,000, at which point the value becomes questionable relative to similar size compact crossovers. An equally well-equipped Kia Seltos, Hyundai Kona, or Nissan Qashqai looks like a relative bargain next to the Buick. With a few often available purchase incentives, however, the Encore GX can still be a reasonable buy and an attractive option for someone looking for a well-equipped compact crossover.