2020 Buick Encore

2020 Buick Encore Review: No Standing Ovation

by Morgan Carter

Crossovers are becoming more and more popular as the years go by, and the practicality of a subcompact within the tight confines of a busy city means that every manufacturer and their grandmother are jockeying for positioning in the ever-burgeoning market. Buick's offering is the Encore, a slightly more upscale variant of sister company Chevrolet's Trax. Competing with the Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3, and Kia Soul, the Encore might struggle to draw attention with its relatively high starting price of $23,200, even though its turbocharged four-cylinder delivers comparable outputs of 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. The Buick does offer more available features than most budget subcompacts, without asking for as much as more premium brands, but it still doesn't stand out as great value for money.

2020 Buick Encore Changes: πŸš™What’s the difference vs 2019 Encore?

The Encore enters 2020 without notable changes, aside from seeing the more powerfully tuned turbocharged four-cylinder dropped from the line-up. Beyond this, the Sport Touring gets access to a few more available options.

Pros and Cons

  • Truly compact and maneuverable
  • Attractive design
  • Comfortable and spacious interior
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • High safety and reliability ratings
  • Not as quick as rivals
  • Majority of safety features have to be tacked on
  • One of the more expensive subcompacts

Encore Exterior

This subcompact may be small, but it manages to squeeze quite a lot of style onto the limited surface area. The front fascia is tall and broad thanks to the low-hanging front bumper, playing host to the relatively small grille framed by the large halogen headlights. The Essence upgrades these to LED clusters, while the Sport Touring and Essence each come with fog lights set low down on the bumper. Every model gets the trademark double-L-shaped LED daytime running lights and the tapered rear LED taillights. Plain 18-inch alloy wheels come standard, with more stylized variants available on the upper trims.

2020 Buick Encore Front View Buick
2020 Buick Encore Front Angle View Buick
2020 Buick Encore Front Angle View 1 Buick
See All 2020 Buick Encore Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The Buick Encore is perfectly designed for handling city life with its subcompact footprint. The 100.6-inch wheelbase fits snugly within the stubby body that measures 168.4 inches in total. With an overall width of 70.1 inches, the crossover shouldn't have much trouble fitting into a tight spot. But, while the SUV may be tiny, it still stands tall at 65.3 inches high to give drivers a commanding view of the road, but the 6.2-inch ground clearance means this little Buick isn't designed to venture outside the concrete jungle. Equipped with the front-wheel drivetrain, the Encore weighs in at 3,237 lbs, while the all-wheel drivetrain increases the overall weight to 3,358 lbs.

Exterior Colors

The color palette for the crossover comprises only seven options, with the base-model 1SV getting access to just one: Summit White. The rest of the range is more customizable and allows buyers to dress the SUV to their taste, although it will cost a little extra. The metallic options are unlocked by paying $495 and include Quicksilver, Ebony Twilight, Winterberry Red, Deep Azure, and Satin Steel. The most expensive option is also the hardest to maintain; for $1,095, you can dress your subcompact in White Frost Tricoat - we hope you enjoy driving through the car wash.

Encore Performance

A single engine is available to the Buick Encore, and it's not a very impressive one. Coupled with your choice of front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, the turbocharged four-cylinder engine develops a mere 138 hp and 148 lb-ft. Tests have shown that this powertrain will get the relatively light subcompact up to 60 mph in a sluggish nine to ten seconds, depending on if you weigh the poor thing down with more than just a single passenger.

Buick does not publish official towing capacities for the Encore, but considering it struggles to move its own 3,000 lbs, we wouldn't recommend tacking any extra weight unless absolutely necessary.

2020 Buick Encore Front View Driving Buick
2020 Buick Encore Rear View Driving Buick
2020 Buick Encore Wheel Buick

Engine and Transmission

For 2020, Buick has dropped the more powerful variant of its 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that developed 153 hp and 177 lb-ft, leaving buyers with no choice but to settle for the 138-hp/148-lb-ft alternative. These figures aren't unusual for the subcompact segment, with rivals like the Hyundai Kona offering 147 hp in base trim. However, the Encore seems less capable of getting by with this limited power, struggling to move around town with any authority, while passing on the highway is unwise unless you have plenty of time and road to do so.

A six-speed automatic gearbox regulates the power for the engine and directs it to either the front wheels or all four wheels on anything but the entry-level 1SV trim. It's an older generation of automatic transmission, but it performs decently, selecting gears with alacrity and providing smooth swapping of cogs, even if it is a little slow to select them at times.

  • Engine
    1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    6-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Playing into its strength as a city-centric subcompact, the Encore offers quick and precise steering that makes maneuvering around the hustle and bustle on the streets or snagging that surprise parking space a breeze. The steering wheel gains a little heft at higher speeds, but it never engages the driver or communicates all that well. The braking follows in the same vein, seemingly tuned for low-speed town driving, without inspiring confidence at higher speeds.

Stubby and tall, the Buick feels top-heavy on the road, but it doesn't lean too hard into turns. The suspension certainly isn't designed to zip around a hairpin turn, but the Encore can manage softer turns at relatively enjoyable speeds. Nevertheless, the SUV will never live up to the S in its acronym.

The turbocharger is a little laggy, unsurprisingly, but throttle responses are on par with others in the segment. On the plus side, the transmission is well-tuned and seldom struggles to find the right gear for the situation, even if the engine struggles to handle anything but a light climb.

Encore Gas Mileage

Like most subcompacts that value economy over performance, the Encore boasts pretty decent fuel economy, although it isn't the best in the segment. Equipped with the standard front-wheel drivetrain, the little car can get up to 25/30/27 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles, while the all-wheel drivetrain shaving a single mpg off each cycle. This is on par with the manually shifting Kia Soul but falls behind the CVT shifting model, which offers fuel consumption figures of 29/35/31 mpg. That still falls a little short of the Hyundai Kona's 27/33/30 mpg effort. With a pocket-sized 14-gallon tank available, the most efficient Encore can cover up to 378 miles between gas station visits. Helping to keep costs down, the Buick runs on standard unleaded instead of premium.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    14.0 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 25/30 mpg
* 2020 Buick Encore Base FWD

Encore Interior

Buick stays true to form when it comes to the Encore's interior, delivering Chevrolet styling with slightly higher-grade materials. The front of the cabin is pretty spacious, but the rear won't make adults happy over long drives. Similarly, the cargo capacity is adequate, but it won't wow buyers. There aren't many features to worry about, but the few controls present are well-placed for easy access and the infotainment isn't difficult to navigate. The seats could be more comfortable, and only the driver's seat offers power-adjustability on the lower trims. The top-tier Essence is quite a bit more premium, though, with genuine leather and heated front seats.

2020 Buick Encore Dashboard Buick
2020 Buick Encore Steering Wheel Detail Buick
2020 Buick Encore Start/Stop Button Buick
See All 2020 Buick Encore Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

There are seating appointments for up to five inside the subcompact, but if you're going to squeeze three in the back, they better be small children. If you're hauling adults, there is enough room in the back for most, but comfort declines quickly over longer rides, with legroom not being quite generous enough. On the plus side, headroom is pretty good all-around, even with the optional moonroof installed. As standard, the driver's seat offers six directions of power-adjustability, a feature that is transferred to the passenger seat on the top-tier Essence. Getting in and out is pretty easy with the low step-in height and wide-opening doors, and driver visibility is good in most circumstances. The front seats are heated in the Essence, but the rear seats don't offer the same functionality.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

Where many economy subcompacts offer cloth as the standard upholstery on their entry-level models, the Encore starts things off with leatherette, available in Ebony, with Shale colored leatherette added from the Preferred trim. The seats aren't overly comfortable, to begin with, and the leatherette isn't plush enough to counteract this. The Essence takes things up a notch with genuine leather upholstery, while also adding Brandy to the available hues. For the most part, Buick has made use of pretty upscale materials, and the build quality is as you'd expect from an American premium brand. Unfortunately, some cheaper materials do peek out from beneath the near-luxury veneer, ruining the illusion.

Encore Trunk and Cargo Space

Cargo capacity is pretty much par for the course when compared to similar subcompact rivals, with 18.8 cubic feet provided behind the rear seats. Few everyday tasks should need more than this, with enough space for a dozen shopping bags or several full-size suitcases. Folding down the rear seats in a 60/40 split opens up 48.4 cubic feet of space, allowing you to haul larger items, but nothing of significant size. The front passenger seat can, however, fold flat, allowing for the carrying of longer items. The Encore gets close to the Kona's 19.2 - 45.8 cubic feet, but falls far behind the Kia Soul's 24.2 - 62.1 cubic feet.

There isn't all that much small-item storage, either. There is a relatively large glove compartment, but there are no bins or trays around the center console. There is no center armrest cubby, but a couple of cupholders are provided. The door pockets are too small to fit much more than a cellphone, but there is under-seat storage below the front passenger seat.

2020 Buick Encore Trunk Space Buick
2020 Buick Encore Rear Angle View Buick
2020 Buick Encore Side View Driving Buick

Encore Infotainment and Features

Features

To keep costs down and maintain its reputation as an affordable subcompact, the Buick Encore doesn't offer much beyond the basics. The interior comes upholstered in leatherette, with only the driver's seat provided six directions of power-adjustability. Basic air conditioning keeps the interior cooled, while cruise control and remote keyless entry comprise the convenience features. A 4.2-inch driver information display rounds out the standard offering. The Sport Touring adds remote start, while the Essence gets dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a 120-volt power outlet. Leather upholstery replaces the standard fare, and the front seats get heating alongside the heated steering wheel. The 1SV gets a rearview camera, while the Essence adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and front and rear parking assist can be optioned. Every model but the base 1SV can be equipped with a power moonroof.

Infotainment

The infotainment suite gets everything you'd expect to come standard on a modern crossover, but the uncluttered system makes it that much easier to navigate and control. An eight-inch touchscreen grants access to Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM, played back through the standard six-speaker sound system. Every model comes with 4G LTE Wi-Fi capability, too. By opting for some of the available packages and standalone features, HD Radio and navigation can be added to the suite, while a seven-speaker Bose premium sound system can replace the standard set-up.

Encore Problems and Reliability

J.D. Power awards the Buick Encore a high dependability rating of 86 out of 100, placing it within the upper echelons of the segment. Thus, it's no surprise that only a single recall has been issued over the last two years, with only a dozen or so 2019 vehicles recalled for faulty airbags that may not deploy. Buick offers a standard 36,000-mile/36-month bumper-to-bumper warranty on new purchases, while the powertrain and roadside assistance plans are valid for 60,000 miles/60 months. Interestingly, the basic warranty has been downgraded from last year's four-year/50,000-mile coverage.

Encore Safety

Much in line with its reliability scores, the Encore rates highly in crash-test safety, with the NHTSA giving it an overall score of five stars. The IIHS is a bit less generous, docking points for the small overlap front passenger-side test, where the subcompact's otherwise perfect score of Good drops to merely Acceptable.

Key Safety Features

Like any SUV on the road today, the Encore comes standard with ABS and stability/traction control, but it gets an impressive ten airbags: dual front, front knee, front side, rear side, and head curtain airbags for both rows. The base model only offers a rearview camera in terms of driver-assistance features, with blind-spot alert and rear cross-traffic alert only becoming standard on the top-tier Essence. Forward collision alert, front and rear park assist, lane departure warning, and rain-sense wipers can be optioned on as part of the available packages.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Buick Encore a good SUV?

The Buick Encore markets itself as a more premium but still affordable subcompact crossover, and asks for a slightly higher investment in return. But is it really worth the extra cash?

With 138 hp and 148 lb-ft supplied by the turbocharged inline-four engine, the SUV offers no more power than any of its rivals and actually comes up short against some of the stronger optional engines that some competitors like the Hyundai Kona offers. It also doesn't deliver a particularly fun or engaging ride, which is often a selling point for smaller, more nimble crossovers.

Where the Buick does shine is in its materials and build quality. It feels a bit more premium than the run-of-the-mill subcompact, and the cabin is remarkably quiet for an affordable daily driver. But there are enough hard surfaces and cheap plastics peeking through to detract from this premium illusion. The good looks also can't detract from the fact that the Encore isn't as capacious as many rivals, with only adequate rear-seat space and underwhelming cargo capacity.

The standard feature list is pretty decent, but many rivals can be specced up to the same level at well below the cost of a comparable Encore. So, while the Buick may be a decent subcompact SUV when viewed on its own, it doesn't compare that well against similarly, or even more cheaply, priced competitors. Thus, we can't really call it a particularly good buy.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Buick Encore?

While it may fall into our below $25k category, the Buick Encore is actually one of the pricer subcompacts on the market, starting at $23,200 for the sparsely appointed and uncustomizable 1SV. Most buyers will overlook this model and start shopping from the Preferred up, with a starting MSRP of $24,600. The Sport Touring asks for $25,800 to get its slightly flashier looks, while the top-tier Essence, with its standard safety features, will set buyers back $29,300. Every model apart from the 1SV can be equipped with an all-wheel drivetrain for an additional $1,500. These prices exclude tax, registration, licensing, and GM's $995 destination charge.

2020 Buick Encore Models

Four trim levels comprise the Buick Encore range for 2020: the 1SV, Preferred, Sport Touring, and Essence. Under the hood of each model is a 1.4-liter turbo-inline-four engine that directs 138 hp and 148 lb-ft to the front wheels, with available all-wheel-drive on the three upper trims. A pretty savvy six-speed automatic transmission rows the gears for every configuration.

The 1SV comes equipped with the majority of the features available to the Encore, including basic air conditioning, cruise control, remote keyless entry, and a 4.2-inch driver information display. The cabin is upholstered in leatherette, while only the driver's seat offers six-way power-adjustment to complement the manual tilt-and-telescoping steering column. The eight-inch touchscreen grants access to Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. The starter model rides on plain 18-inch alloy wheels and comes equipped with halogen headlights, LED taillights, and LED daytime running lights.

The Preferred trim gets all the same features as the 1SV, but it offers more customization options with available packages and color choices. The only upgrades to the standard features are a cargo cover, and front and rear floor mats. Similarly, the Sport Touring only adds fog lights, a rear sport spoiler, remote start, and 18-inch Midnight Silver finished wheels.

The top-of-the-range Essence drops the rear spoiler, but it upgrades the headlights to LED clusters. Inside, the seats are upholstered in genuine leather and the passenger seat gets six-way power adjustability. Other new standard features include dual-zone climate control, driver-seat memory, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a 120-volt power outlet. Advanced driver-assistance features are finally added as standard at this level, including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Base
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$23,200
Preferred
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$24,600
Sport Touring
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$25,800
Essence
1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$29,300
See All 2020 Buick Encore Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

There aren't a great many ways to customize your Encore beyond the base aesthetics, but a few package options are offered. The Safety Package ($495) for the Preferred and Sport Touring adds some features found on the Essence, including rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot alert, and a 120-volt power outlet. The Essence can be further upgraded with the Safety Package II ($940), which comprises front and rear parking assist, forward collision assist, and lane departure warning. The Experience Package ($2,390) is also available on the Essence, adding navigation to the infotainment and a power tilt-and-slide moonroof. Every model aside from the 1SV can be had with the Active Package ($335), which adds a cargo-area tray and accessory carrier hitch in the rear.

πŸš—What Buick Encore Model Should I Buy?

If you're looking at a subcompact, your primary concern is probably value for money. As such, the Preferred should meet your needs, with all the same features as the 1SV but a better variety of color and customization options available. However, the advanced safety features on the Essence are definitely tempting, and the top-tier trim can be had for under $30k in its base configuration. But if all you want is basic driver-assistance features, they can be optioned onto the much cheaper Preferred for just $495, while fancier assists are unavailable. Unless you live in an area prone to poor weather, you can get away without the more expensive all-wheel drivetrain to keep costs down.

Check out other Buick Encore Styles

2020 Buick Encore Comparisons

Chevrolet Trax
Buick Enclave Buick

2020 Buick Encore vs Chevrolet Trax

Owned by the same parent company, namely GM, the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore are basically twins, with only slight variations in their build quality and standard features lists. Both subcompacts share the same turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 138 hp and 148 lb-ft, but the Chevy is the slightly more affordable of the two. It uses slightly lower grade materials and comes with fewer features, but it can be specced to rival the top-tier Encore Essence, while still managing to come out a few grand cheaper. Ultimately, the better choice here will come down to personal taste in style and your overall budget. Both are equally good, or bad, depending on your perspective.

See Chevrolet Trax Review

2020 Buick Encore vs Buick Enclave

One of the Encore's bigger siblings, the Buick Enclave occupies a much higher price bracket of between $40k - $50k. For this extra investment, you get a more potent naturally aspirated V6 engine that delivers 310 hp and 266 lb-ft to your choice of the front wheels or all four. It's not quite up to scratch with other midsize luxury SUVs, but the Enclave is a tier above the hoi polloi. The cabin is far more spacious, with three rows of seats coming standard, and the V6 is far more capable of towing the family trailer for weekend camping trips. It looks good and comes with a decent list of standard features, but, once again, the cheaper Chevrolet Traverse can match it in almost every area for less money. If you have your heart set on a Buick, then the Enclave is the more capable of the two crossovers, but only consider it if you really need the extra space and engine power.

See Buick Enclave Review

Buick Encore Popular Comparisons

$23,200 - $30,800
Price Range (MSRP)
Buick Encore
Popular Tags Cars