Buick Encore GX front view

Buick's newest SUV has a familiar name: the Encore GX. It slots between the tiny Encore and the larger Envision, and it fits plenty of standard safety features and some upscale touches into a modern subcompact package.

This is part of GM’s plan to add even more SUVs to its lineup, as American shoppers continue to snap them up.

Even though the Encore GX shares part of its name with the smaller Encore, the two cars don’t have much in common. In fact, the GX is a totally fresh design. It's based on an entirely new platform that will eventually be used for other GM compact SUVs, including the upcoming Chevrolet TrailBlazer. The GX also gets a new three-cylinder engine and new styling.

We plan to buy an Encore GX when it goes on sale this fall. 

2020 Buick Encore GX

Starting price: Not yet announced
What it competes with: Honda HR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Toyota CH-R, Lexus UX, BMW X2
What it looks like: A stout-sided crossover with a Buick face
Powertrains: Choose between a 137-hp, 1.2-liter 3-cyl. engine or a turbocharged version that makes 155 hp. Front-wheel-drive vehicles get a CVT, and all-wheel-drive vehicles get a 9-speed automatic transmission.
On-sale date: Late 2019

2020 Encore GX side view

Outside

The Encore GX joins the full-sized Enclave, the midsized Envision, and the subcompact Encore in Buick’s SUV lineup. From Buick’s point of view, the Encore GX is a bit of a Goldilocks story—it’s designed to be just right for buyers who think the Envision is too big and the Encore is too small.

Take a tape measure to the Encore GX and you’ll find that it’s 3 inches longer than the standard Encore and more than a foot shorter than the Envision. This new SUV appears to be a little more substantial than the Encore, but its dimensions still qualify it as a subcompact.

The exterior design appears quite busy, especially when viewed from the side. There’s prominent trim over the wheel arches, cladding at the base of the doors, and lots of what car designers call “character lines”—swoops and ridges pressed into otherwise-flat panels.

Buick Encore GX interior

Inside

Buick says the Encore GX has about 5 more cubic feet of cargo space than the Encore, and 3 fewer than the Envision.

The Encore GX gets a variation on the simplified interior theme that’s common to most new GM vehicles, and we think that’s a good thing. There are buttons and knobs for important audio and climate control functions, while an 8-inch touch screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility sits in the middle of the dash.

A six-way power driver’s seat comes standard, as does cloth upholstery with leatherette trim. A power passenger seat, heated front seats, a head-up display, a rear camera mirror, a moonroof, and leather seating surfaces are available.

Three trims—Preferred, Select, and Essence—determine how many of those options are available. Which one shoppers choose determines what competitors the Encore GX goes up against. We don’t yet have pricing data, but we can imagine the base GX competing against a Honda HR-V or Toyota CH-R, and a fully loaded version may challenge the Lexus UX or BMW X2. 

What Drives It

Encore GX buyers get a choice of two all-new three-cylinder engines: one that creates 137 hp, or a 155-hp turbocharged version of the same engine.

Three-cylinder engines are still a niche offering compared with more-common four-cylinder offerings, but they are available as the entry-level choice on the Ford EcoSport and the base Mini Countryman. The Encore GX doesn’t offer any upgraded engine choice. We’re interested in testing it to see whether it has enough oomph to deliver on Buick’s promise of “spirited and efficient performance.”

Front-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) come standard. Optional all-wheel drive comes with a 9-speed automatic transmission. 

Buick Encore GX rear view

Safety and Driver-Assist Systems

The Encore GX comes standard with forward collision warning (FCW), automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning (LDW). Blind spot warning (BSW) is optional on base Preferred trim but standard on the rest. 

CR's Take

The Encore GX is a brand-new SUV on an all-new platform with new engines. That makes it all the more important for us to test it in depth; we can’t make any inferences about its performance based on vehicles already in GM’s lineup. We’re especially interested in finding out how quiet, fuel efficient, and powerful the new three-cylinder engine is in our tests.