2021 Buick Envision

2021 Buick Envision Test Drive Review: Mainstream Luxury

We'd forgive anyone for forgetting that the Buick Envision exists. While competent, the first-generation Envision was never a headline-generating vehicle. Buick has released a second-generation Envision for the 2021 model year, making notable improvements from the previous model. It still won't capture headlines like other recent GM product reveals, but the 2021 Envision is quietly a very luxurious vehicle with a pretty attractive price.

The Buick Envision is a premium compact crossover that straddles the line between mainstream and luxury. It loosely competes with higher trim versions of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 as well as other premium options such as the Acura RDX, Lincoln Corsair, and Lexus NX. Regardless of trim, it packs a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder developing 228 horsepower, while utilizing the latest nine-speed automatic transmission. Buick's Goldilocks approach may appeal to value-conscious buyers, though it may also put off brand-loyalists who place an emphasis on premium labels. To find out more about the 2021 Buick Envision, CarBuzz spent a week driving a mid-level Essence model.

2021 Buick Envision Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Buick Envision?

The 2021 Buick Envision is an all-new model, replacing the rather uninspired previous-generation model. It's a far more appealingly styled vehicle than before, being both lower and wider than the crossover it replaces. A new interior makes use of the brand's upgraded infotainment system which boasts a new 10.2-inch touchscreen (standard on the top two trims) and a center panel that is tilted towards the driver for easier access. Last year's base 2.5-liter engine has fallen away, so the 2021 Envision is powered solely by a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 228 horsepower. We were keen to see if these changes were successful in our Buick Envision review.

Pros and Cons

  • Posh styling
  • Absorbent, comfortable ride
  • Hushed cabin
  • Many features
  • Good value for the money
  • Not as premium as German rivals
  • Unexciting to drive
  • Disappointing cargo space
  • Some sub-par interior materials
  • Less power than last year's model

Best Deals on Envision

2021 Buick Envision Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Preferred
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$31,800
Essence
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$36,000
Avenir
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$40,400
Base
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
TBC

Buick Envision SUV Exterior

The showroom appeal of the latest Envision has certainly taken a step in the right direction. This is now a sleek, genuinely attractive SUV from all angles. A sensibly-sized grille is flanked by sharp LED headlight clusters, while large wheels fill out the arches nicely. The base model has 18-inch alloy wheels, but 20-inch wheels are available higher up in the lineup. LED daytime running lamps, heated wing mirrors, and silver roof rails are also standard, while pricier trims enjoy a hands-free power liftgate. A power panoramic moonroof is available as an optional extra on the Essence and Avenir.

2021 Buick Envision Front View CarBuzz
2021 Buick Envision Rear View CarBuzz
2021 Buick Envision Front Angle View CarBuzz
See All 2021 Buick Envision Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The lower and wider dimensions of the new Envision contribute to its sportier stance. At 182.5 inches in length, it's 3.4 inches shorter than the BMW X3. The Envision is 64.6 inches in height, 74.1 inches wide excluding the mirrors, and has a 109.4-inch wheelbase. Depending on the trim and the drivetrain, the Buick has a curb weight of between 3,692 and 3,932 pounds.

  • Length 182.5 in
  • Wheelbase 109.4 in
  • Height 63.3 in
  • Max Width 74.1 in
  • Front Width 63.3 in
  • Rear Width 63.3 in
  • Curb Weight 3,692.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

A choice of six exterior colors can be found on the base Buick Envision Preferred, but only Summit White doesn't require an extra charge. For $495, there are five metallics to choose from: Dark Moon Blue, Ebony Twilight, Cinnabar, Satin Steel, and Burnished Bronze. The top-spec Avenir replaces Burnished Bronze with Rich Garnet but otherwise shares the same color palette with the rest of the range. We're partial to the darker shades like Ebony Twilight and Dark Moon Blue, giving the Envision an especially upmarket appearance.

Envision Performance

The Buick is not a class leader in this area as the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is curiously less powerful than the 2.0-liter turbo in last year's model. Buick says the power decreased helped lower the price and improve fuel economy. Its specs are reasonable, with 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, paired with either front- or all-wheel drive. According to independent tests, the Envision will accelerate from 0-60 mph in an unremarkable 7.3 seconds. That's more than a second off the pace of the base BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, although the Buick does compare more favorably with less premium but similarly sized SUVs such as the Honda CR-V. The maximum towing capacity of the Envision is just 1,500 pounds, matching the CR-V but falling short of the likes of the Mazda CX-5. While we wouldn't rate the powertrain's performance as a dealbreaker, it will suit a more leisurely driving style.

2021 Buick Envision Rear Angle View CarBuzz
2021 Buick Envision Gauge Cluster CarBuzz
2021 Buick Envision Engine CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

Last year's naturally-aspirated base engine has been dropped in favor of just one 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder power plant, paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. This unit delivers 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. For town driving, the combination of this engine and transmission makes for smooth, easy progress, though last year's model felt a little more effortless. The Envision never feels sporty, but there's just enough power on tap not to feel unnerved when merging onto the highway. There's not as much torque to rely on as with the previous turbo-four, so the new Envision does require more commitment when overtaking.

We still enjoy Buick's nine-speed automatic transmission when paired with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. This transmission makes great use of the engine's torque, keeping the revs low while accelerating. We could rarely feel the transmission shift gears, which is what buyers in this segment will prefer. As a downside, the available paddle shifters seem fruitless here, since the Envision isn't best enjoyed as a sporty driver.

  • Engine
    2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    9-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The new Envision ditches the previous model's General Motors Delta II underpinnings in favor of the more modern Epsilon platform. This architecture is shared with the Cadillac XT4 and offers a stiffer body structure. While it's not a sporty vehicle, the new Envision feels more athletic and luxurious than the model it replaces. Buick placed a heavy emphasis on comfort here, so the Envision feels quiet, supple, and relaxing even at highway speeds. The cabin feels quieter than similarly-priced mainstream options, and the standard non-adjustable suspension soaks up road imperfections well. We didn't have a chance to sample the optional continuous damping control suspension to see if it's any softer than the standard springs.

We couldn't find much to hate about the Envision's driving manners, but there's also not much to rave about. The outgoing model packed more power and torque from its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, and the decrease is noticeable. This new model isn't sluggish, but the power delivery feels less serene than it did in the previous generation. Buick includes a few drive modes, including Tour, Snow/Ice, and Sport, but the differences between them aren't that noticeable. Buyers looking at mainstream options like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 should be pleased by the Envision's output, but Acura and Lexus shoppers might be less impressed.

Envision Gas Mileage

Buick has managed to improve the new Envision's gas mileage this year. The four-pot returns an EPA-rated 24/31/26 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles with FWD. When equipped with AWD, those numbers drop to 22/29/25 mpg. Independent tests have shown that the Envision has no trouble matching these numbers in the real world. However, the Buick isn't the most economical SUV of this size. The base BMW X3 manages 25/29/27 mpg and the FWD Honda CR-V returns an excellent 28/34/30 mpg.

With FWD, the Envision gets a 15.9-gallon gas tank so will manage a combined cruising range of approximately 413 miles. AWD versions aren't far behind thanks to a marginally bigger 16.1-gallon tank; these models will attain a range of about 402 miles.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    15.9 Gallons
* 2021 Buick Envision Preferred FWD

Envision Interior

The Buick Envision has an attractive interior with a sportily angled center control area that hints at a more engaging driving experience than the SUV actually delivers. Still, it's a good-looking design and, especially on the upper trim levels, there are some nice materials on offer, mixed with a few cheaper bits here and there. Overall, the execution misses the high standards set by German SUVs from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, but those vehicles are all more expensive. Some drivers might find the push-button gear selector a bit awkward if they're used to a traditional shifter, but we feel it is one of the better button arrangements. The available 10.2-inch central touchscreen is the first application of this screen in a Buick; it looks good and responds quickly to inputs. As standard, the Envision comes with features like an HD rearview camera, lane departure warning, single-zone climate control, and four-way power lumbar support for the driver's seat. More expensive trims get dual-zone climate control, a driver's-side memory system, and heated front seats.

2021 Buick Envision Dashboard CarBuzz
2021 Buick Envision Steering Wheel Design CarBuzz
2021 Buick Envision Front Seats CarBuzz
See All 2021 Buick Envision Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The Buick Envision features seating for five passengers with no available third-row option to fit seven people. Thanks to the new platform, passengers in the second row now receive 39.3 inches of rear legroom, an increase from 37.5 inches in the previous Envision. Rear headroom is slightly improved as well with 38.9 inches compared to 38.5 previously. While passengers in the rear outboard seats have plenty of comfort, the Envision's awkward middle seat hump is pretty uncomfortable, and we'd avoid it at all costs. Front passenger space is unsurprisingly roomy with 40.4 inches of legroom and 39.6 inches of headroom.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 40.4 in
  • Front Head Room 39.6 in
  • Rear Leg Room 39.3 in
  • Rear Head Room 38.9 in

Interior Colors and Materials

On the base model, the Envision's seats are trimmed in a mix of cloth and leatherette. These seats can be specified in either Ebony or Whisper Beige; the choice of color will also extend to the lower dashboard and door panels. Although the steering wheel is leather-wrapped on all models, it doesn't feel particularly soft to the touch. Moving up to the mid-range Essence trim introduces perforated leather upholstery in the same two color choices. Finally, the Avenir also has perforated leather but in a more upmarket quilted design, along with wood inlays with a wave-like pattern.

Envision Trunk and Cargo Space

Behind the Buick's second row of seats is a cargo area with a volume of 25.2 cubic feet. That makes it more practical than a regular car but not as practical as many other SUVs. With the rear seats folded flat, cargo space grows to 52.7 cubes, which is enough for around 20 carry-on cases to be crammed in. It's worth noting that while rear passenger space grew on this new Envision, cargo space dropped from 57.3 cubic feet due in part to the new model's sloping roofline.

Interior storage space is reasonable but not outstanding. There are the usual door pockets, front and rear cupholders, and a center console that doubles as an armrest. Below the push-button ignition, there is an open storage area where odds and ends can be stowed. There are also map pockets on the backs of both front seats.

2021 Buick Envision Back Seats CarBuzz
2021 Buick Envision Back Seats Folded CarBuzz
2021 Buick Envision Trunk Space CarBuzz

Envision Infotainment and Features

Features

Across the three trim levels, the Buick Envision is generally well-equipped. The Preferred is the cheapest model so misses out on dual-zone climate control, getting a single-zone system instead. There's a lot more it does have, though, such as a 12-volt power outlet, a 4.2-inch color driver information display, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, rear ventilation outlets, cruise control, an HD rearview camera, forward collision warning, and blind-spot monitoring. By spending extra on the Essence, the Buick comes with a larger eight-inch driver cluster display, an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, and remote start. Finally, the luxurious Avenir distinguishes itself from these two models by offering a massaging driver's seat, front/rear parking sensors, an HD surround-view camera system, a head-up display, and heated rear outboard seats.

Infotainment

General Motors has pretty stellar infotainment across all of its brands. The Envision debuts Buick's brand-new 10.2-inch-diagonal color touchscreen, which comes optionally on the Essence and standard on the Avenir trim level. The base Envision gets a smaller eight-inch screen that still features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility as well as Bluetooth for audio streaming and calling. A six-speaker sound system comes standard, with a seven-speaker and Bose nine-speaker system with Audiopilot also available. Our tester featured the Bose system as part of the Technology Package. It sounded ok, but not up to par with some luxury competitors. This version of GM's infotainment includes a few nifty features such as an air purity measurement system, likely as a nod to the Envision being built and sold in China.

2021 Envision Problems and Reliability

The new Buick Envision has an outstanding 85 out of 100 score from J.D. power, along with a specific 87/100 rating for quality and reliability. This rating for the Buick Envision is one of the best in the segment. Although it's still a relatively new arrival, there have thankfully been no early recalls from the NHTSA.

Buick sells the Envision SUV with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a comprehensive five-year/60,000-mile powertrain/drivetrain warranty. The roadside assistance program also runs for five years or 60,000 miles.

Warranty

  • Warranty Note:
    Preliminary 2021 Warranty \ 
  • 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

Envision Safety

At the time of writing, both the NHTSA and the IIHS had yet to evaluate the Buick Envision for crashworthiness. A Buick Envision safety review should be available sometime during the course of this year.

Key Safety Features

You don't have to spend extra on one of the top trims to get access to all the essential safety features. Even the entry-level Envision ships with an electronic stability control system, traction control, front pedestrian braking, and automatic emergency braking. Assisting the driver are features like cruise control, an HD rearview camera system that provides brilliantly clear images, forward collision alert, a following distance indicator, lane change alert with blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, a teen driver function, and a safety alert seat. Higher up in the lineup, there are front parking sensors and a head-up display. However, adaptive cruise control and enhanced automatic parking assistance are only offered on the top Avenir trim.

All models have an airbag system that includes dual front airbags, curtain airbags for both rows, and a knee airbag for the driver.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Buick Envision a good car?

We are ready to chalk the second-generation Buick Envision up as a victory for General Motors, but not a groundbreaking one. Competing in the highly competitive compact segment, the Envision has the potential to overtake the Encore GX as Buick's best-selling model, but a relative lack of awareness and the complicated nature of where it's built could stymie those hopes. While most consumers may never know or care that their "American" Buick was actually built in China, the uncertain future of trade between the US and China may stop Buick from heavily marketing the Envision and making it a huge sales success.

The 2021 Buick Envision is a far more attractive vehicle than the model it replaces, but we aren't sure if those handsome looks will bring in enough new buyers. Shoppers may stumble upon the Envision when looking for a solid mid-point between a Chevrolet Equinox and a Cadillac XT4, but we can't envision anyone trading in their Audi, BMW, or Mercedes for one. The Envision could be perfect for shoppers looking at the highest trim Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 who want a bit more power, luxury, and prestige since it offers more features at a comparable price.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Buick Envision?

The most affordable way into Envision ownership is with the Preferred model which carries a starting MSRP of $31,800, excluding a destination charge of $1,195 in the USA. Next in line is the Essence at $35,800, followed by the Avenir with pricing for this variant beginning at $40,200. By adding AWD to any of the three trims, the Buick Envision price will climb by $1,800. The price of the 2020 Buick Envision began at $31,995, so the new model actually starts at a slightly cheaper point. Among other SUVs for sale in the US, the BMW X3 starts at $43,000 while the Honda CR-V begins at $25,350.

2021 Buick Envision Models

The 2021 Buick Envision SUV can be had in one of three trim choices: Preferred, Essence, and Avenir. All are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. This engine is linked to a nine-speed automatic transmission and either FWD or AWD.

The base Preferred comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, silver roof rails, LED headlights, and a manual liftgate. Inside, there is a mix of leatherette and cloth upholstery along with an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, single-zone climate control, and an eight-inch color touchscreen interface.

A more premium experience comes via the mid-range Essence. This model gains 18-inch machined alloy wheels, a hands-free power liftgate, heated front seats, leather upholstery, and the larger 10.2-inch touchscreen interface.

At the top of the lineup is the Avenir. It rides on larger 20-inch alloy wheels and parking sensors are added in front. It has the most advanced interior features like an HD surround-view camera system, a head-up display, navigation, a nine-speaker Bose sound system, and heated rear outboard seats.

See All 2021 Buick Envision Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

There are only a few package upgrades available across the range, but they're well-stocked with meaningful features. On the Preferred, the Comfort and Convenience Package bundles together extras like remote start, dual-zone climate control, and the larger touchscreen for $1,750. For customers who want their SUV to look a bit sportier, the Sport Touring Package costs $1,325 and includes 20-inch wheels with a dark finish, black roof rails, and a cargo cover.

The Essence offers the same Sport Touring Package but gets its own Technology Package I for $2,500. This adds a head-up display, navigation, front park assist (in addition to the standard rear park assist), a Bose sound system, and more. At this level, a power panoramic moonroof becomes available for $1,450.

Finally, the Avenir is only available with the Technology Package II for $1,965. It includes adaptive cruise control, enhanced automatic parking assist, a rear camera mirror with a washer, and continuous damping control.

🚗What Buick Envision Model Should I Buy?

The Buick Envision shines because it offers similar comfort found in luxury brands such as Acura, but closer to the price of mainstream offerings from Honda and Toyota. The base Envision's $31,800 starting MSRP is pretty alluring, but we'd suggest stepping up to the Essence trim level for $35,800. From there, we'd add the $2,500 Technology Package with the surround-view camera, HUD, Bose nine-speaker audio, HD Radio, and more. The $1,325 Sport Touring Package seems worthwhile to make the Envision look more aggressive, bringing the total price to $39,625 before destination. You can spend a similar amount on a mainstream Mazda or Toyota, making the Envision somewhat of a premium value.

2021 Buick Envision Comparisons

Buick Enclave Buick
Chevrolet Equinox Chevrolet
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Buick Envision228 hpTBC$31,800
Buick Enclave 310 hp18/26 mpg$40,000
Chevrolet Equinox 170 hp26/31 mpg$23,800

2021 Buick Envision vs Buick Enclave

The larger Buick Enclave offers more space for customers who require seating for seven. There's far more cargo space as well; in fact, the Enclave offers nearly as much space behind its third row as the Envision does behind its second row. In the Enclave, you get a bigger and more powerful V6 engine with 310 hp, making this the easy choice for towing - the Enclave can tow 5,000 lbs compared with the Envision's measly 1,500 lbs. At $40,000, the entry-level Enclave will cost roughly the same as the well-equipped Envision Avenir. Both of these SUVs are refined, but if you don't need the extra space and power, the more stylish Envision will do the job just fine.

See Buick Enclave Review

2021 Buick Envision vs Chevrolet Equinox

The Chevrolet Equinox is a more appealing compact SUV than the Buick Envision for one main reason: price. It starts at a wallet-friendly $23,800, but at that price, you'll miss out on features like an HD rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear park assist, and a power-adjustable driver's seat - these are all standard on the base Envision. The Equinox also has just 170 hp from its 1.5-liter turbo-four engine and a more dated six-speed automatic transmission. We did find the Chevy pretty good to drive, though, but it isn't as quiet as the Buick. The Equinox wins for economy and has a larger trunk, but it doesn't feel as luxurious as the Envision. If value is the primary concern, the Equinox makes a strong case for itself, but the Envision is simply a nicer SUV.

See Chevrolet Equinox Review

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2021 Buick Envision Video Reviews

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$31,800 - $42,200
Price Range (MSRP)
Buick Envision
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