Buick’s long and distinguished history revolves around big passenger cars and, lately, sport-utility vehicles with plenty of heft. It also involves China, where the nameplate is linked to popular, multi-purpose vehicles or minivans with room for seven or eight passengers.
At first glance, the 2021 Buick Encore, a compact crossover vehicle, may not appear to fit into the Buick tradition, which stretches back more than a century. However, a closer look reveals plenty of commonalities.
The Encore does come with the kind of attributes that have made the brand popular in North American and East Asia, including a luxury feel, a smooth ride and the deft use of up-to-date automotive technology and hardware bundled together in a handsome but not flashy package.
In fact, the lack of flash and gimmicks seems to have always been part of Buick’s character even as it gradually moved from selling passenger cars to utility vehicles. The 2021 Encore fits neatly into the Buick product line even if it is relatively small.
The 2021 Buick Encore does not try to hide its utilitarian exterior shape but instead seems to embrace it, offering a neatly detailed silhouette to the world parked at the curb or sitting at a traffic light. The rear liftgate fits into the Encore’s overall design scheme and is easy to raise and lower, an important consideration in a five-door vehicle where the door at the rear is bound to get a workout.
The Encore also proudly wears its identity out front with a handsome front fascia displaying a bold emblem, nicely styled grille unique to the Encore and artfully placed light fixtures that enhance the look of the vehicles front end. The Encore GX I drove also was outfitted with functional chrome roof rails and distinctive 18-inch wheels to round out the vehicle’s appearance.
One of the Encore’s strong points is its interior, which features impressive craftsmanship and a clever use of a two-tone interior color scheme, leather, bright metal accents and detailed stitching on the steering wheel, shift knob and across the instrument panel.
The cabin is neatly laid out and feels relatively spacious. Its overall comfort quotient is relatively high even on a longer drive. There are storage spaces around the driver’s seat and the cupholders are within easy reach.
At night, the interior lighting scheme is well thought out. The illumination used in instrument cluster and center screen used for entertainment or navigation makes everything clear and easy to read. The visibility from the driver’s seat is good for a compact crossover vehicle. Buick traditionally emphasized its quiet cabin and for a compact vehicle the Encore is surprisingly quiet on a variety of road surfaces.
When it comes to the powertrain, the 2021 Buick Encore GX that I drove was equipped with 1.3-liter, turbocharged, 4-cylinder engine matched to a 9-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. It uses a stop-start system to boost fuel economy and extend the range of a single tank of gas. The lightweight engine produces an impressive 155 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque, while the fuel economy with the AWD comes with a combined rating of 28 miles per gallon, 26 mpg in city driving and 29 mpg out on the highway.
Safety and Technology
One of the strengths of 2021 Buick Encore GX is that it comes with a full complement of safety and technology features, starting with automatic emergency braking and forward-collision warning lane departure warning, blind-spot detection, forward collision alert, rear-cross traffic alert and intelligent high-beams that turn on a dark street if there is no oncoming traffic.
The Encore also is available with a 4G hotspot, adaptive cruise control, head-up display, Buick Infotainment system and navigator, wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as satellite radio connection. Multiple airbags provide ample protection in frontal- and side-impact crashes.
The lightweight engine punches above its class, providing the 2021 Buick Encore ample power for passing and other maneuvers out on the highway. The engine also emitted a pleasant sound, and the 9-speed transmission never missed a beat, delivering the right gear at the right time.
The Encore also handled well, and the suspension delivered a comfortable ride on all kinds of road surfaces, including during a ride over several miles of dirt road. The Encore only has 6.2 inches of ground clearance. While it is clearly not designed for heavy-duty off-road travel, it seemed to handle dirt and gravel just fine. The steering was quite accurate, and the four-wheel-disc brakes gave the vehicle ample stopping power.
It is not often you find a good luxury vehicle for under $35,000 but Encore, given the impressive quality of its interior, just might be it. The manufacturers suggested retail price on Encore is $34,175 and that includes a long list of driver assistance, connectivity and safety features. While the Encore is compact and lightweight vehicle, it has ample room for people and cargo on the inside and presents a confident face to the world. It seems to occupy a space that is larger than its actual physical dimensions, which is a pretty neat trick.