2020 Buick Encore GX

2020 Buick Encore GX Test Drive Review: Great Price, Greater Technology

After realizing that the vast majority of its sales were coming from SUVs and crossovers, Buick quickly pivoted to the point where those are now the only models it sells. The company's latest offering is called the Encore GX, a subcompact crossover positioned above the smaller Encore and below the Envision. It may share a name with the smaller Encore but the GX is completely new. Why would Buick go through the trouble of making the GX its own model when the regular Encore could have just had a new trim added to it? Well, the Encore is based on the Chevy Trax, a platform developed with the no-longer-GM-owned Opel, whereas the GX is based on an all-new platform that also underpins the latest Chevy Trailblazer.

Available with a pair of three-cylinder engines, the Encore GX offers a 1.2-liter turbo with 137 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque and a 1.3-liter turbo with 155 hp and 174 lb-ft. The former engine comes exclusively with a CVT and front-wheel-drive, while the latter can be had with all-wheel-drive mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission or the CVT for front-drive models. These tiny engines won't do much to quench your need for speed but Buick has packed the Encore GX with outstanding, class-leading technology at a price point that won't leave your checkbook suffering. CarBuzz was sent an Encore GX in the top Essence trim with FWD and we came away pleasantly surprised with Buick's latest offering.

Read in this review:

2020 Buick Encore GX Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 Encore GX?

The Encore GX may look similar to the regular Encore but it's an all-new model and has sportier, more luxurious styling to help attract a bigger portion of the car-buying market. Some styling cues from more expensive metal in the Buick range make their way to this model, but the really big reasons to consider the GX lie with its economical engines and capacious cargo volumes. A Sport Touring package is available on all trim levels, and although this doesn't improve performance in any way, the looks are impressively enhanced.

Pros and Cons

  • Stylish exterior
  • Impressive cargo space
  • Class-leading technology
  • Smart interior layout
  • Numerous customization options
  • Price won't break the bank
  • Not much bigger than the regular Encore
  • Satellite radio costs extra
  • Dual-zone climate control not standard
  • It's slow even with the bigger engine
  • Ride comfort is just ok
  • Too similar to its Chevy counterpart

Best Deals on Encore GX

2020 Buick Encore GX Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Preferred
1.2L Turbo Gas
1.3L Turbo Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$24,100
Select
1.2L Turbo Gas
1.3L Turbo Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$25,700
Essence
1.2L Turbo Gas
1.3L Turbo Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$28,500

Encore GX Exterior

The GX shares some DNA with the regular Encore but you can see straight away that the GX is a more attractive model, with more aggressive grilles and muscular body panels throughout. The GX features LED running lights, with the top trim featuring LED headlights and taillights too. 18-inch wheels in various designs are fitted on all models, while a reverse shark-fin C-pillar meets a subtle roof spoiler. At the back, a faux diffuser and dual-exit tailpipe setup add further sportiness. Upper trims get roof rails and the option of a panoramic sunroof too. A Sport Touring Package dials up the aggression with red grille accents, 18-inch high gloss wheels, and body-color moldings.

2020 Buick Encore GX Forward View CarBuzz
2020 Buick Encore GX View Out Back CarBuzz
2020 Buick Encore GX Front-End View CarBuzz
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Dimensions

The Encore GX is a little bigger in every respect than the existing Encore. It's 2.7 inches longer at 171.1 inches, with a wheelbase of 102.2 inches. It's also wider by 1.3 inches, measuring 71.4 inches across with the mirrors folded. Height increases by 1.8 inches to 64.1 inches and ground clearance is measured at 7.5 inches. It's a relative lightweight, though, with curb weights ranging from 3,025 lbs in FWD 1.2L form to 3,273 lbs in the Essence 1.3L AWD.

  • Length 171.4 in
  • Wheelbase 102.2 in
  • Max Width 71.4 in
  • Front Width 61.1 in
  • Rear Width 61.9 in

Exterior Colors

Summit White is the GX's only no-cost option on the three available trims, but a number of other choices are available if you're willing to spend a little extra. White Frost Tricoat is the most expensive at $1,095, but other options are just $495. These metallic choices include Black Current, Burnished Bronze, Ebony Twilight, Chili Red, Deep Azure, and Satin Steel. The Select and Essence trims also gain the option of Dark Moon Blue, also at $495. They all look pretty good, but Chili Red stands out nicely and works well with the red accents of the Sport Touring package, should you opt for that.

Encore GX Performance

The Encore GX is available with a choice of two engines, the more powerful of which is a 1.3-liter three-cylinder turbo with 155 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired with a slick nine-speed automatic transmission on AWD models or a CVT with FWD. It responds well to inputs from your right foot, but the Encore GX doesn't get up to speed in a hurry. No official 0-60 mph times have been quoted but we timed our tester at well over 10 seconds. We didn't get to sample the base 1.2-liter turbo with its 137 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque but assume it feels similar, if not slower. As a city vehicle and school-run machine, it's a fine option, but towing isn't a strong suit, with the Encore GX only capable of towing up to 1,000 pounds. Thanks to the option of all-wheel-drive with the more powerful engine choice, the GX is useful in snowy climates too and will run on front-wheel-drive only as default to save fuel.

2020 Buick Encore GX Aft View CarBuzz
2020 Buick Encore GX Rim CarBuzz
2020 Buick Encore GX Engine CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

The base engine fitted to the Encore GX is a 1.2-liter turbocharged three-pot with 137 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. It is paired exclusively with a CVT that sends all output to the front wheels. This may sound rather uninspiring, and it kind of is. But the Encore GX somehow manages to feel nippy with this setup and doesn't have too much trouble keeping up with traffic. Bury the throttle though, and you'll be reminded that 137 is not a lot of horsepower. At least the noise-insulating glass fitted to all GX models keeps the three-cylinder engine noise relegated to the background. Naturally, if the crossover is fully laden or is towing something, responses are muted and the GX will struggle to get up to speed, but as a runabout, it's not bad.

The available 1.3-liter turbo with its 155 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque is considerably more effective at accelerating and overtaking, but the CVT feels old-school, constantly hunting through its ratios and never trying to simulate being a conventional automatic. Once up to speed though, it performs as well as any auto, and on the highway, it disappears quietly into the background. It's not a high-performance setup and more expensive subcompact crossovers will leave it for dead but it's pretty quiet, at least.

  • Engines
    1.2L Turbo Gas, 1.3L Turbo, 1.3L Turbo Gas
  • Transmissions
    9-Speed Automatic, Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Encore GX's engine lineup may not be its strong suit but it makes up for this shortcoming with agility and easy drivability. The steering is light and effortless, making it easy to navigate the Encore GX around even the tightest of parking lots, though the turning circle could be a bit tighter. We certainly weren't expecting much of a sporty experience from the Encore GX but it feels spry enough to not be boring from behind the wheel. Body roll is not too disconcerting and once the suspension leans in through a corner, the Encore GX is actually rather enjoyable to pilot with higher momentum. The cabin remains quiet even at highway speeds, maintaining the ambiance fit for a luxury vehicle.

To keep the Encore GX at a price point though, Buick had to cut corners somewhere and the ride comfort has suffered slightly as a result. The front strut suspension feels adequate but the rear torsion beam creates a jouncy ride for anyone sitting in the back seat. Most roads will feel perfectly fine but the Encore GX tends to get a bit hoppy over rougher surfaces. Even with only the front wheels driven, there isn't enough power to get more than a tiny chirp from the front wheels, so you can always put down the power when you need it. Most of Buick's driver-assist features feel run-of-the-mill but the Encore GX is packed with some standout features including a self-park feature that can handle parallel and perpendicular spots. This feature is more than just a party trick, it actually works and can be engaged quickly with minimal notice.

Encore GX Gas Mileage

One of the top criteria in any family car is fuel economy, and the Encore GX performs well in this respect, regardless of which engine or drivetrain configuration is equipped. The base 1.2-liter engine with the CVT and front-wheel-drive returns EPA figures of 26/30/28 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With a 13.2-gallon gas tank fitted to all models, this translates to an estimated range of around 370 miles with mixed driving. The 1.3-liter with the CVT gets figures of 30/32/31 mpg on the same cycles with a front-wheel-drive setup, making it the most economical. We average just over 30 mpg with mostly city driving, matching the EPA estimate. Mixed range here is calculated at around 409 miles. Opting for the all-wheel-drive system drops these figures to 26/29/28 mpg, giving it basically the same range as the lighter base model with a smaller engine.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    13.2 Gallons
* 2020 Buick Encore GX Preferred FWD

Encore GX Interior

The interior of the Encore GX is spacious and elegant for a car at this price level, with even the base model featuring an attractive mix of cloth and leatherette on the seats while the top model gets real leather. The eight-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash features outstanding resolution and responds quickly too, contributing to an overall ambiance of quality. Soft-touch plastics abound in the cabin and are executed well, though the layout feels highly reminiscent of Chevy's Trailblazer. Visibility all-round is good too, and the design is attractive and fresh, making the GX a stand-out option when compared to many dull interiors found in some competitors. Niceties such as heated seats and dual-zone climate control are not standard on the base model, although the availability of features like a head-up display, rearview camera mirror, and power-adjustable seats on pricier variants will likely entice buyers to look past the entry-level trim anyway.

2020 Buick Encore GX Dashboard Buick
2020 Buick Encore GX Dashboard 1 Buick
2020 Buick Encore GX Steering Wheel Details Buick
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Seating and Interior Space

The Encore GX seats five in comfort, except for the middle rear passenger, and all occupants have decent legroom and headroom, even with the optional sunroof in place. Those in the back will certainly be more comfortable than in the regular Encore, but six-footers will likely want to stretch their legs after a couple of hours. Up front, manually-adjustable seats are standard, with mid- and top-level trims earning ten-way power driver's and eight-way power passenger seats, although these are optional on the base version too. Visibility in all directions is excellent, and ingress and egress are simple tasks that shouldn't cause problems for anyone. The seats are fairly comfy but lack the bolstering and adjustment features found on pricier competitors.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 40.9 in
  • Front Head Room 39.7 in
  • Rear Leg Room 36.0 in
  • Rear Head Room 38.1 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The base model comes with a mix of fabric and leatherette upholstery, in a choice of either Ebony with silver contrast stitching or Whisper Beige with Ebony contrasting interior accents on the dash. The same applies to the mid-level Select trim, while the top Essence variant gets the same options but with leather upholstery. This top trim also gets the choice of a Signet brown scheme to help set it apart. In addition, the Essence gets a leather steering wheel, but all models share a variety of soft-touch plastics and aluminum-look accents dotted about the cabin. Even in the top trim, we couldn't help but question if the cabin materials were significantly nicer than what Chevy uses in the Trailblazer. Overall then, the Encore GX feels more like a sub-luxury model in terms of material quality.

Encore GX Trunk and Cargo Space

The Encore GX is not the largest vehicle in its segment, but it offers a reasonable amount of cargo space even with the rear seats up. Capacity is rated at 23.5 cubic feet, enough for you to carry luggage for the whole family along with some shopping bags with snacks for a road trip. Fold the rear seats flat in a 60/40 split and you get 50.2 cubic feet of volume. The front passenger seat also folds flat, which Buick says will allow you to load an eight-foot long object in the GX diagonally.

In the cabin, you get a pair of cupholders next to the gear lever, along with a massive bin behind it for your sunglasses and other items. Another little pocket ahead of the armrest can be used for your phone and doubles as a wireless charger on higher trims, while the armrest itself can store additional items in a shallow tray. That tray is removable and allows you to put larger items out of sight. A large glovebox and decent door pockets complete your interior storage solutions.

2020 Buick Encore GX Back Seats Down CarBuzz
2020 Buick Encore GX Maximum Trunk Space CarBuzz
2020 Buick Encore GX Trunk Space CarBuzz

Encore GX Infotainment and Features

Features

The Encore GX is well-equipped with features across the lineup, with the base Preferred trim featuring forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, stop/start, push-button keyless start and entry, heated mirrors, a 4.2-inch color driver info display, single-zone automatic climate control, and cruise control. Available features include heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, a hands-free power liftgate, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, remote start, adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors, front parking sensors, a head-up display, a surround-view camera, automatic LED headlights with auto high beams, automatic parking, rain-sensing wipers, wireless charging, and a rearview mirror camera display.

Infotainment

All Encore GX models come with an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment display with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, USB and USB-C connectivity, aux input, a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, and a six-speaker sound system, while navigation, HD Radio, and SiriusXM satellite radio are available too. The top trim also gets access to a Bose seven-speaker sound system. This may be the best infotainment system we've tested on a sub-$40,000 vehicle. The resolution is outstanding on the high-gloss touchscreen and the system responds very quickly to inputs.It also seamlessly integrates Amazon Alexa, so you can have all of your important questions answered using the built-in voice command button. Overall, the GX's infotainment system is faultless and is the high-point of the car.

Encore GX Problems and Reliability

The 2020 Buick Encore GX is completely free of recalls thus far, and the Chevy Trailblazer with which the GX shares a platform has also been trouble-free.

In terms of warranty, the GX is equipped with a limited warranty for the first four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first, while the powertrain is covered for six years/70,000 miles. One complimentary scheduled maintenance visit is included in the first year too.

Warranty

  • Warranty Note:
    Preliminary 2020 Warranty Note \ 
  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Rust-Through:
    6 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Maintenance Note:
    1 Year \ 1 Visit

Encore GX Safety

Thus far, neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has crash-tested the Encore GX, but a large number of standard and available safety features bode well for the crossover.

Key Safety Features

As standard, all Encore GXs come with forward collision alert systems with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection at city speeds, as well as lane keep assist, a rearview camera, and frontal, side-impact, and curtain airbags. Knee airbags are fitted for both front occupants too, while the options list includes features like blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, a surround-view camera, parking sensors, automatic parking, automatic LED headlights with auto high beams, and rain-sensing wipers.

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

The regular Buick Encore is one of those vehicles you'd be interested in renting for a short trip but would never consider buying. With this new Encore GX, Buick has learned how to entice more than just a rental fleet customer. Buick has struggled to attract younger customers for years now but the Encore GX looks like a stellar tool to finally bring some new blood to the brand. It features outstanding infotainment and driver assist technology packaged in an attractive body with a clean and spacious interior.

So long as speed is not at all important to you and imperfect ride quality is not a deal-breaker, we could strongly recommend the Buick Encore GX as an excellent way to get into a subcompact luxury crossover at a mainstream price. More powerful European options like the Audi Q3, BMW X1, and Volvo XC40 cost more in entry-level form than a well-optioned Encore GX and can be equipped to the point where you could have bought two Buicks instead. The Buick Encore GX may be far from faultless but we believe it acts as a great new entry point to the brand. We wish Buick would have given its new product its own unique name but perhaps the company wanted to capitalize on the familiarity of the Encore name. Just skip the regular Encore and get the GX.

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

The Buick Encore GX is available in three trims, with the cheapest model being the Preferred. This model comes standard with a 1.2-liter engine and a CVT that powers the front wheels. It starts at $24,100 before a $995 destination charge. The Select trim starts at $25,700 and comes with the same powertrain choices, just like the top Essence trim which starts at $28,500. If you want all-wheel-drive on any of these models, it'll cost an extra $2,000, but that requires you to opt for the available larger engine by default. Fully loaded, you're looking at around $38,000 before any incentives.

2020 Buick Encore GX Models

The Buick Encore GX is available in three trims: Preferred, Select, and Essence.

The base model comes standard with a 1.2-liter three-cylinder turbo that sends 137 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via a CVT, although a more powerful 1.3-liter is an option. 18-inch wheels are standard, along with a fabric and leatherette upholstery finish inside. An eight-inch touchscreen display connects you to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth, while a 4G LTE Wi-FI hotspot is also standard along with USB and aux input for media that plays through a six-speaker sound system. Forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection is standard, along with lane keep assist, heated mirrors, cruise control, and single-zone climate control.

The Select boasts blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, heated and power-adjustable front seats, remote start, dual-zone climate control, and roof rails. This model also gets the option of a more powerful engine in the form of a 1.3-liter turbo with 155 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque. A continuously variable transmission controls power to a front-wheel-drive setup while a nine-speed automatic is used on all-wheel-drive models, and more options like a panoramic sunroof and adaptive cruise control are available on this model.

The top Essence trim gets the same powertrain options as the Select and Preferred and features leather upholstery, automatic LED headlights, a heated leather steering wheel, chrome bumper accents, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Options like automatic parking, wireless charging, a Bose sound system, and wireless charging are also available on this top trim.

See All 2020 Buick Encore GX Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

The Sport Touring package that is available on all trims boosts the aesthetics of the Encore GX thanks to body-color wheel arches and rocker panels, as well as red-accented grilles and a unique rear end that is more aggressive. It also adds roof rails, remote start, SiriusXM satellite radio, sportier wheels, and Dark Moon Blue metallic paint if you haven't already selected a metallic finish. This costs $1,595 on the base model. The Cold Weather package fits heated front seats, remote start, and a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, as well as SiriusXM for the price of $950, with most of these features already included on the upper trims. On the top trim, the Advanced Technology package is worth considering for $2,455, with this adding navigation, adaptive cruise control, SiriusXM, rear parking sensors, a head-up display, a surround-view camera, and a hands-free power liftgate.

🚗What Buick Encore GX Model Should I Buy?

The mid-level Select trim is a good-value buy, with features like heated front seats, remote start, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and a power-adjustable driver's seat. We'd spec the more powerful engine but stick with front-wheel-drive, thus giving you the best possible power and fuel economy. To this, we'd add the Advanced Technology package with its adaptive cruise control, SiriusXM, navigation, a head-up display, rear parking sensors, and a hands-free power liftgate. You also get a high-definition surround-view camera here, thus making the GX a safe and convenient runaround.

Check out other Buick Encore Styles

2020 Buick Encore GX Comparisons

Buick Encore Buick
Lexus UX Lexus
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Buick Encore GX137 hp28/31 mpg$24,200
Buick Encore 155 hp24/32 mpg$24,600
Lexus UX 169 hp29/37 mpg$33,000

2020 Buick Encore GX vs Buick Encore

Is the Encore GX worth paying extra for over its diminutive sibling? Well, the price difference is less than a thousand dollars when comparing base models, and power output is almost identical, with the GX having 14 lb-ft more. The regular Encore has a decent interior design that isn't outdated at all and looks very similar to that of the GX, but the GX shines in the cargo department, offering up to 50.2 cubic feet while the regular Encore only manages 48.4. That's not a huge difference though, but in the cabin, the slightly increased size of the GX makes for better passenger comfort. In addition, the GX is arguably better to look at and comes standard with features like forward collision alert and lane keep assist. Besides safety, many of the base features are similar, but for such a small premium, it's worth opting for the bigger GX.

See Buick Encore Review

2020 Buick Encore GX vs Lexus UX

The Lexus UX is one of the more premium offerings in this segment and that is reflected in the price, with the base 200 FWD model starting at $32,100 versus the Encore GX's $24,100. The UX comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, and while both the exterior and the interior show off a truly stylish and premium aesthetic, the Lexus also has features like LED headlights, power-adjustable seats, dual-zone climate control, and dynamic cruise control as standard. The Lexus is certainly a more premium vehicle in the infotainment department too, with Amazon Alexa compatibility, SiriusXM satellite radio, and voice control as standard. It also gets the option of a 10.3-inch infotainment display and an eight-speaker sound system, but the operation of the system is not as intuitive as that of the Buick. Overall, you'll get more with the Lexus, but you also pay more for that premium style, and in this segment, bang for buck almost always wins.

See Lexus UX Review

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