First Drive: 2020 Buick Encore GX is at Home on the Highway

Buick's lineup gets another subcompact SUV and a second Encore

The 2020 Buick Encore GX that CR purchased

Although it shares part of its name with an existing Buick SUV, the Encore GX is an entirely new vehicle. It’s slightly larger than the current, tiny Encore but smaller than the compact Envision. Designed and built mostly in Korea, the Encore GX has a starting price below $25,000 and a small footprint that can fit in tiny parking spaces. 

The base model comes with a 1.2-liter, three-cylinder turbocharged engine and front-wheel drive. Encore GX buyers who spend a little more can get all-wheel drive and a slightly more powerful three-cylinder turbo engine, plus a few splashes of luxury, including a panoramic moonroof and larger wheels. Prices top out at around $37,000.

Depending on whether buyers want more space, more sportiness, or more style, the Encore GX’s closest competitors run the gamut from the Kia Seltos and Hyundai Kona all the way up to the Lexus UX.

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We’ve purchased our own Encore GX with all-wheel drive and the most popular option packages, including a panoramic moonroof, 18-inch wheels, and adaptive cruise control. We’re currently putting it through more than 50 tests at the CR Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls. CR members will get access to the full road-test results as soon as they’re available.

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What we bought: 2020 Buick Encore GX Select AWD
Powertrain: 155-hp, 1.3-liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine; nine-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
MSRP: $27,790
Options: $4,450 for surround-view camera, head-up display, rear park assist, adaptive cruise control, navigation, moonroof, 18-inch wheels, power liftgate
Destination fee: $995
Total cost: $33,145

CR's Take

The Encore GX is an odd little vehicle in the Buick lineup. It shares underpinnings with the upcoming Chevrolet TrailBlazer, and it would make a perfectly acceptable replacement for the tiny, aging Encore. However, the original Encore lives on at least through 2020. Now, the GX sits toward—but not at—the bottom of the Buick lineup. That means it’s more refined than basic subcompact crossovers such as the Chevy Trax but less plush than luxury-branded models like the Lexus UX.

Most vehicles in this segment have larger, four-cylinder engines, but the Encore GX offers two small turbocharged three-cylinder engines: Vehicles with front-wheel drive can be had with either a 1.2-liter, 137-hp engine or a 1.3-liter, 155-hp engine, while all-wheel-drive versions get the stronger powerplant.

Although the Encore GX has some obvious flaws, including a noticeable amount of engine vibration and a ride that can be rough, it’s rare to find a compact vehicle that’s as easy to park in a city as it is a pleasure to cruise down the highway. We predict that unusual combination will make the newest Buick a good choice for urban dwellers who also like to get out of the city. 

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