But a powerful engine isn't one of them.
It may share a name with the existing Encore but the 2020 Buick Encore GX is an entirely new model. Unlike the Encore, which shares underpinnings with the Chevy Trax, the Encore GX shares a platform with the new Chevy Trailblazer. With the newer platform comes a host of improvements including more attractive styling, improved engine offerings, a more spacious cabin, and a bewildering number of available technology features.
CarBuzz was recently sent a 2020 Encore GX in the top Essence trim level, upped with the larger engine and a few option packages. We were blown away by the level of equipment Buick packed into such a tiny car, calling into question why European automakers charge so much more for their subcompact crossover. This is clearly the value play in its segment but there are a few drawbacks based on its price point. Here's what we loved (and didn't love) about the Encore GX.
Although it doesn't differ too greatly from what you'd find in a Chevy or a GMC, Buick's infotainment system has quickly become one of our favorites in the business. It's housed on a small-ish but crystal clear eight-inch touchscreen that is highly intuitive to use. The screen itself is glossy, which looks great, but as you can see from our photos, attracts fingerprints pretty easily.
We love Buick's integration of Amazon Alexa right into the system without requiring a special app on your phone. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay also come standard and if you wait for the 2021 model year, both can function without plugging in your phone.
Buick offers the Encore GX with two engine options but neither is what we'd call a powerhouse. The base 1.2-liter turbocharged three-cylinder motor produces a pedestrian 137 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque going out through a continuously variable transmission. Upgrading to the larger 1.3-liter engine (also a turbocharged three-pot) costs just $395 but only increases output to 155 hp and 174 lb-ft.
We clocked our front-wheel-drive tester with the larger engine at over 10 seconds to 60 mph. After 10 seconds of not hitting 60, we kind of just gave up counting. The three-cylinder itself actually feels very refined and doesn't feel too underpowered during normal driving. But compared to other luxury subcompact crossovers, it is significantly down on power.
Our Encore GX tester was equipped with a $1,790 Technology Package and a $770 Convenience Package, both of which add some incredible features at a reasonable price. Highlights of the Technology Package include a 360-degree camera system with outstanding resolution, which will ensure that you never curb a wheel when parking. It also adds a clever pop-up head-up display and adaptive cruise control.
If the camera system still isn't enough to help you park, the Convenience Package gives the Encore GX the ability to park itself into parallel and perpendicular spots. We tested the system numerous times and found it to be quicker and more intuitive than any other self-parking system we've used.
The Encore GX starts at just $24,100, making it around $10,000 less expensive than entry-level models from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. There's no way Buick could ever offer it at that price point without cutting a few corners. The Encore GX gets shortchanged on the interior, where the layout is nearly identical (with a few caveats) to the Trailblazer with which it shares a platform.
Some items like the gauge cluster and switchgear do not feel like they belong in a luxury vehicle but we wish Buick would have gone further in this area. All of this being said, the Encore GX only cots marginally more than the Trailblazer, which is why it doesn't feel worlds apart inside.
The Encore GX may have a tiny footprint but it is astonishingly practical for its diminutive size. In the cargo area, it houses 23.5 cubic feet with a two-position floor that can sit flush with the rear seats. With the rear seats folded, space opens to a roomy 50.2 cubic feet. It may not be able to match the BMW X1 on space but it's about on par with the Audi Q3.
In the cabin, Buick has done an excellent job freeing up space for all of your little items. The area in front of the shifter doubles as a wireless charger and there is a massive bin located behind the shifter for additional items. There is also a tiny center console with a removable divider and plenty of space in the door pockets.
All told, we found more things to love about the Encore GX than we did to hate. It's certainly not the most powerful crossover available and the ride comfort could be better, but at the price, we were blown away by its tech features. Our Essence tester with the larger engine, FWD, and a few option packages rang in at just $34,065. To put that into perspective, you can't even buy an un-optioned Audi Q3 or BMW X1 for that price, making the Encore GX a complete bargain.