2021 Buick Encore GX
2021 Buick Encore GX
The 2021 Buick Encore GX is a compact hatchback crossover, redesigned for 2021. It’s a companion to the existing Encore hatchback, but they’re not the same vehicle.
The curvy Encore GX is more stylish, safer, and has a nicer cabin with more features and improved technology, without being much bigger or more costly. It also has a new engine, a turbo-3 instead of the non-turbo 4-cylinder in the Encore.
One innovative new feature is Amazon Alexa compatibility, which lets users ping the service to control navigation, read audiobooks, and even send orders to a home-based device.
The Encore GX is 171.4 inches long, with a wheelbase of 102.2 inches and width of 71.4 inches. That’s longer overall than the Encore by about two inches, longer in wheelbase by 1.6 inches, and wider by about an inch.
The base engine is a 1.2-liter turbo-3, but for a mere $395 that can turn into a more powerful 1.3-liter with 155 hp. It’s mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with front-wheel drive, or a 9-speed automatic with all-wheel drive. The GX with this engine lays down eight-second 0-60 mph times, good enough for a small commuter car. It rides well, but doesn’t have much interest in twisty roads.
The EPA rates the Encore GX with the 1.2-liter turbo-3 at 28 mpg city, 31 highway, 29 combined. With the 1.3-liter engine, it gets 30/32/31 mpg with front-wheel drive, and 26/29/28 mpg with all-wheel drive.
It hasn’t been crash-tested by the NHTSA and IIHS yet, but it comes standard with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and LED headlights with automatic high beams. Optional safety equipment (standard on some models) includes a surround-view camera system, a rear camera mirror, adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, and parking sensors.
The 2021 Encore GX comes in three trims: Preferred, Select and Essence. The Encore GX Preferred comes well equipped with cloth/synthetic leather seats, power features, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, multi-device Bluetooth connectivity, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Amazon Alexa, 6-speaker audio, keyless start, and 18-inch wheels.
The Encore GX Select adds blind-spot monitors, heated front seats, satellite radio, remote start, and an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. For $395, it gains the 1.3-liter turbo-3 engine.
Options include Bose audio and a panoramic roof. Expect a sticker price near $27,000.
The Encore GX Essence includes leather upholstery, a heated leather steering wheel, and an eight-way power-adjustable passenger front seat. Beyond the Bose audio and panoramic roof, more options include a hands-free power tailgate, wireless smartphone charging, and a surround-view camera system.
The Buick warranty is 3 years/36,000 miles.
The GX’s cresty, curvy body is more handsome than the Encore, and wears better details from its broad single-wing grille to its chrome roofline trim to its softly rounded LED taillights.
It has a more appealing shape, with three sculpted lines that carve some weight out of its doors, while the beltline rises gradually to the rear end. A rib at the rear roof pillar, and the choice of a black-painted roof, make good sense of its short dimensions.
A Sport Touring package dresses it up with gloss wheels, body-colored fender arches, and a black mesh grille with red accents.
We haven’t seen the base Preferred model yet, so we can’t say how basic the materials are. But the Essence wears plush materials, including synthetic leather upholstery and graphic trim that simulates etched metal. An attractive wing-like dash echoes the grille, with upholstered panels in black, brown or beige. Some hard plastics finish off the lower dash and spread to the doors.
There is a narrow center console with a deep bin, a big glovebox, and door pockets that can hold water bottles. With lots of sound deadening, the cabin is quiet.
An 8.0-inch touchscreen leans away from the driver. It’s smarter, with a clean interface that’s easier to use and has good connectivity.
The Preferred has manual seats. Our Essence leather seats were powered, with a lot of vertical travel for a commanding view of the road. But the seats are narrow, too slim and flat to be comfortable for long distances. The front passenger seat folds flat to make room for objects up to 8 feet long.
Four adults fit well, with good rear head and leg room, but not five. Curiously, the rear seat cushion is more comfortable than the front, as it tilts at the forward edge. And the door cuts make it easy to step into the GX. The rear seats split and fold forward for a total of 50.2 cubic feet of storage.
Behind the rear seat, there’s 23.5 cubic feet for cargo, on a two-level cargo floor. A hands-free power tailgate is optional.
The standard 1.2-liter turbo-3 engine makes 137 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque, and comes with front-wheel drive and a CVT. For just $395 more you can get a 1.3-liter turbo-3 making 155 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque.
You can also add all-wheel drive and replace the CVT with a 9-speed automatic, for about $2,000.
The 1.3-liter engine with front-wheel drive and the CVT makes the most of its modest torque, by delivering it at low rpm for quick response. Acceleration from 0-60 is about eight seconds. Thanks to the sound deadening in the Essence, the little engine isn’t loud under hard acceleration.
The CVT is a good one; it acts nearly invisibly, an exception among small cars. Better yet, there’s even a clicker to change through simulated low gears. So if you don’t need all-wheel drive, it’s not worth the extra money to get the available 9-speed automatic.
The Encore GX is pretty light; it weighs from 3,025 to 3,273 lb, and some models can tow up to 1,000 lb.
The ride is absorbent enough on city roads, although the suspension thunks as the tires try to cope with potholes and steel patches. It’s mostly calm at highway speeds on decent roads.
The GX’s light steering doesn’t deliver much feel, however it is stable at speed on long, wide curves. And the feedback from the brake pedal is good.
The new Encore GX outclasses its own Buick cousin and makes for an attractive urban runabout. For $395, the optional engine has more power, torque, and higher gas mileage—it’s a no-brainer.
—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection