Driven: 2024 Buick Envista Makes 'Affordable' Look Good

Test Drive / 12 Comments

In a world of expensive cars, the Envista is genuinely affordable.

As everything from houses to groceries keeps getting more expensive, it's rare to see an automaker roll out a new model that offers a lower starting price than anything else in the lineup. The 2024 Buick Envista is such a vehicle, starting at just $22,400 before destination. Even the discontinued Encore wasn't that cheap and was a pretty abysmal car. Like that old Encore, the Envista shares a platform with the Chevrolet Trax, an even less expensive crossover with a sub-$21,000 price tag.

The Envista may not sound exciting on paper, with a 1.2-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine under the hood. Its output numbers are not inspiring, but Buick isn't targeting former Regal Grand National owners with this car. The Envista is meant for value-conscious buyers who prioritize space, features, and style over performance. After spending a week with an Envista Avenir, we believe Buick hit a bullseye.

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Exterior: Budget BMW

It could be considered a positive or a negative, but the Envista's shape is derivative of more luxurious SUVs. The coupe-like rear end reminds us of BMW, specifically the X4 and even the X6 but to a lesser degree. If you hate the look of those particular BMWs, you may prefer the more conventional shape of the Envista's Chevy sibling, the Trax. Finished in Ebony Twilight Metallic with the 19-inch Pearl Nickel wheels of the Avenir trim, we think the Envista looks pretty sleek.

The Preferred trim starts with 17-inch wheels with optional 18-inch two-tone wheels and the Sport Touring rids on black 18- or 19-inch wheels. Buick offers a few fun colors including Cinnabar Metallic, Sunrise Red Metallic, and Copper Ice Metallic, all at $495 extra.

That front end of the new Envista was ripped from the gorgeous Wildcat Concept, and also appears on the recently facelifted Encore GX. Though we wish that styling was applied to a luxury coupe, the aggressive face looks nice on the Envista.

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Powertrain: Gotta Skimp Somewhere

Buick had to skimp somewhere to keep the starting price in the low-$20,000 range, so the Envista is down a cylinder compared to many other vehicles in this price range. By American standards, the engine is tiny: a 1.2-liter three-cylinder that employs a small turbocharger to squeak out 137 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. Don't expect to get up to speed fast - the Envista's performance figures include a 9.4-second 0-60 mph time and a quarter-mile time of 17.1 seconds.

You will also have to learn to live with front-wheel-drive since all-wheel-drive is not an option on the Envista. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission that is far from special, but it shifts smoothly enough to fade into the background. For having such a small engine, we wish fuel economy was a bit higher than 28/32/30 mpg city/highway/combined. The Toyota Corolla Cross produces more power from its four-cylinder engine and still delivers superior mpg figures of 31/33/32.

Buick may add engine options later in the Envista's lifecycle, specifically the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder offered in China that produces 181 hp. This would certainly liven up the acceleration, but it would also increase the price.

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Driving Impressions: Putt Around

Driving the Envista is far from exciting, but you shouldn't hop behind the wheel expecting Fiesta ST levels of fun (even though the Envista also has an "ST" trim). The suspension is tuned for a compliant ride, and the car isn't too bothered by imperfect roads, even riding on the 19-inch wheels. Base models get a cheaper torsion beam rear suspension, but upgrading to the ST with 19-inch wheels or the Avenir changes that to a Watts Link setup. We never noticed the Envista bouncing over speed bumps, so the rear suspension does its job.

Wind noise is fairly minimal, and the cabin is well insulated, with none of the three-cylinder drone intruding. The steering, while not inspiring, provides decent feedback and quick maneuverability. This is an ideal putt-around car for shoppers who don't place driving pleasure at the top of their wishlist.

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Interior: Budget Luxury

Even at the base level, the Buick Envista delivers a near-premium cabin at a budget price. The Preferred trim gets cloth seats with leatherette bolstering in either Ebony or Slate. Upgrading to the ST brings full leatherette seating in Ebony with Santorini Blue accenting. At the Avenir level, customers can choose between Ebony leather with Terracotta stitching or the lighter Pebble Gray with Whisper stitching leather in our tester.

All trim levels get a nicely sized 11-inch HD color touchscreen with a simple but functional layout. This is not the top-tier General Motors infotainment system with Google built-in, but it includes all the important features such as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and even a Wi-Fi hotspot. A second screen displays your gauges with two available design layouts. The Avenir brings niceties like heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, an eight-way power driver's seat, a wireless phone charger, and more. The only important add-on is a $795 Advanced Safety Package that adds on rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, lane change alert, blind spot monitoring, heated exterior mirror, and rear cross-traffic alert.

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Practicality: Roomier Than It Looks

This may be a small vehicle, but Buick packaged the interior well to accommodate people and cargo. Since the wheelbase is four inches longer than the Encore GX, the Envista offers an impressive 38.7 inches of legroom in the rear - that's more than a Toyota RAV4 has in the back. The back seat even has a flat floor and a USB port.

Trunk space is slightly encumbered by the coupe-like roofline with 20.7 cubic feet behind the second row. Folding the seats opens the storage space to 42 cubic feet. If you need a bit more space, the Chevy Trax with its conventional roofline offers 25.6 cubes behind its second row and 54.1 cubes with the seats folded down.

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Pricing & Verdict: Premium Done Cheap

The Buick Envista may not be the perfect crossover, but it's highly impressive given what Buick charges for it. Pricing starts at just $22,400 plus $1,095 for destination. The sportier ST trim costs $24,100 and even the top Avenir trim remains affordable at $28,600. Even with destination and options, the Envista barely cracks the $30,000 mark. For just a few grand more than its Chevy sibling, the Envista offers a more premium design, a slightly nicer interior, and the prestige of a Buick badge. Some buyers may want to save the money and get the more practical Trax, but others will be willing to make the sacrifice for the more stylish vehicle.

Buick has proved it's possible to make a premium-feeling car at a cheap price tag. Just don't expect a ton of power - or Mercedes-levels of opulence - and you won't be disappointed.

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