PLAIN JANE: 2021 BUICK ENCORE GX
When it came to buying a car, our parents always reminded us, “a car is to get you from point A to B, you don’t need all the fancy gadgets.” They sure aren’t saying that now with their new fancy car in the garage that has all the bells and whistles. But as for the Buick Encore GX, this very well may be just what they were referring to.
If you’re confused by Buick and their vehicle line-up, get in line, so are we. The Encore GX is nestled right above its smaller Encore crossover. Starting at $25,000 for an entry level Encore GX, it will get you some fairly down-to-earth features like a small 1.2-liter, 138-horsepower engine, cloth seats and manual climate control – it’s just short of crank windows, but this is a Buick after all, power windows come standard. Opting up for the more premo trims like the Essence and adding in options like the more powerful turbocharged 3-cylinger engine, all-wheel drive, leather seats with all the toys, the Encore GX gets to be one pretty penny hitting the border just south of $35,000.
We may sound like we’re starting to be a bit hard on this little-ute, but in this harsh ultra-competitive segment where every brand has some sort of sub-compact crossover up its sleeve, we almost have to be. However, the Encore GX isn’t necessarily a depraved little crossover. The turbo-three-cylinder engine is quite the delightful little runner, packing a meaty can-do-attitude. Now, its 155-horsepower isn’t exactly going to win over Speedy Gonzales taking nearly 10-seconds to 60-mph. It does however carry itself well with confident road mannerisms, hearty mid-range torque for snappy passing and since it carries the same underpinnings from a Chevrolet Trailblazer, it’s surprisingly fluid in its motions.
The Encore GX however is about as forgettable as your co-workers birthday. There is no essence of excitement or passion. Yes, we know it’s a crossover and it’s not like we’re trying to compare it to a Porsche either. The continuous variable transmission works with the little engine and manages to provide linear, cohesive power application. And Buick at least thought about its demographic and eighty-sixed the option of a sport drive mode. We still think they took it too far with the awkwardly located plus and minus manual gear select on the gear shifter.
The Encore GX is a fairly attractive crossover, looking in. There are lots of personal room and storage compartments that would benefit any driver or passenger. The front passenger seat can even fold flat for that extra-long item that needs to be hauled. As for a small-ute, the back seat is compatible for a comfortable ride – as long as it’s a short one.
Since our Encore GX wasn’t sitting at the basic line of the options checklist, featured as the top trimmed Essence, we had a nicely sized sunroof, wireless Apple CarPlay, 360-degree back-up camera and more. While ours wasn’t equipped with the optional advance safety features like adaptive cruise control with start/stop, it still had the industry new normal standard safety features of forward collision, lane departure and automatic high-beam assists.
While the Buick Encore GX sees the finer styles of an upscale life, it does have a fairly rude awakening. With even the most basic of brands and their smallest crossovers getting the premium treatments, the Encore GX is facing against crossovers like the well in-tuned Mazda CX-30 and quite powerful Kia Seltos. Furthermore, with it reaching the mid-thirties of the premium crossover territory it faces an even bigger battle against the funky Lexus UX200 and generously spacious Mercedes-Benz GLB250– all starting around that $35,000 mark.
When it comes to the small crossovers, the Buick Encore GX is still a decent way to go – it’s an attractive offering with ample comfortable space, lots of technology and decent fuel economy. Its just, at the end of the day, Plain Jane.
Vehicle: 2021 Buick Encore GX Essence
Base Price: $24,200
As-Tested Price: $35,065
Engine: 1.3-liter Turbocharged 3-Cylinder
HP | Torque: 155-HP |174 lb-ft of Torque
Transmission: CVT Automatic
Drivetrain: Front-Wheel Drive
MPG: 30 | 32| 31 (City | Highway | Combined)
As-Tested MPG: 28.7-MPG City (Highway MPG testing is currently suspended due to high fuel prices)
Fuel Range: 325 miles
0-60 MPH: ±9.5 seconds
I blogged about one of these and couldn’t get past the near non-existent cargo area behind the back seats. One full size suitcase and that was it unless you wanted to stack high and block visibility. Road trip for 2 would be ok.