Buick Encore GX — An attractive near-luxury sub-subcompact SUV


By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(December 12, 2021) The smallish sub-compact Buick Encore was introduced as a 2013 model to plug a hole at the bottom of Buick's growing sport utility lineup. It got a facelift in 2017 and sold in decent numbers. But the big news for the Encore was the introduction of the Encore GX, an all-new stretched version that turned the little crossover into a vehicle useable by families and empty nesters who liked the Encore, but yearned for adult-friendly second-row seating.

The 2019 Encore GX essentially put the original out of business. It doesn't sound like much — nearly two more inches of wheelbase and three inches in length — but it works, especially for rear-seat passengers who don't have to negotiate with their front-seat counterparts for more legroom, unless they are a few inches over six feet tall.

We know because we put two people back there without complaint for an evening out — and with enough room left over for a modicum of cargo measured at 23.5 cubic feet behind the seats compared to 18.8 cubic feet in the standard Encore.  


This seems the ideal size for a sub-compact near-luxury crossover. Others of similar size in the segment include the BMW X1, Audi Q3, Volvo XC40 and Mini Countryman. It can also be shopped against such small mainstream crossovers as the Mazda CX-30, Kia Seltos and Hyundai Kona.

It seems to have hit a sweet spot in sales for the Buick brand. It was Buick's biggest seller by a big margin through the first nine months of 2021 outselling all other Buick nameplates 2-to-1 with 61,179 units sold.

Some advice for shoppers in this unprecedented time of very low new-car inventory and high prices — if while searching for a 2022 Encore GX you find a new or slightly used 2021 model you might want to consider it because there are no changes for 2022 with exception of several new exterior paint colors.

Our top-trim Essence test car featured heated seats, heated steering wheel, navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, head-up display, an eight-way adjustable power driver's seat, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a 360-degree parking camera, and a digital rearview mirror, a wireless charging pad, and a 115-volt, household-style outlet. The cabin, which feels open and airy, was noticeably quiet at highway speeds.

The Encore GX offers a useful amount of up-front storage. The front door pockets will each hold a water bottle, and you can place small items in the front storage bin — where the wireless charging pad is housed — in the cubby aft of the cupholders, or in the narrow but deep under-arm storage. Back-seat space is a little more limited, but the door pockets will hold a water bottle.

Cargo space is relatively roomy, and the rear seats fold completely flat. And even if the front seat is pushed back for a tall driver, the rear seatbacks will lower without needing to move the front seat up. Also the front passenger seat folds flat, to hold extra-long items.  

The Encore GX has a choice of two engines — a turbocharged 1.2-liter three-cylinder making 137 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque and a turbocharged 1.3 liter three-cylinder making 155 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. The smaller engine gets a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and the larger is mated to a 9-speed automatic with AWD, and gets the CVT in front drive. We recommend you avoid the smaller powerplant — decidedly slow and definitely non-luxury.

Our pick is the 1.3-liter with AWD and the 9-speed.

Our 1.3-liter test car felt quite peppy around town with plenty of torque available for quick starts, but it ran out of breath when merging into the fast lane or when we had a need to quickly pass a slower vehicle on a two-lane road. For comparison purposes the 1.3-liter with FWD has been clocked in 9.3 seconds from 0-to-60. FYI — the Encore GX 1.3-liter seems to perform better in getting up to speed than the published numbers would indicate.

It's the diminutive engines that let the Encore GX down when comparing the car to other vehicles in the segment. The Audi Q3 and BMW X1 for instance both have considerably more powerful base engines — the Q3 4-cylinder makes 228 horsepower and the BMW also comes in base form with 228 horsepower. Granted both German cars carry a higher price tag than the Buick. 
We feel Buick could up its game considerably with the addition of a turbocharged four making around 200 horsepower and then making the current 1.3-liter its base engine. 

On the upside the Encore GX had a smooth, pleasing ride and handled reasonably well on our usual winding road "test track." It felt light on its feet, easy to toss around, making it a likable companion.

The Encore GX comes in Preferred, Select and Essence trim levels starting at $26,995 including destination charge. Our front-wheel drive Essence with no options stickers for $30,195 and our test car with a few options carried a bottom line of $34,540.

2022 Buick Encore GX


Base price: $26,995; as driven, $34,540
Engine: 1.3-liter turbocharged 3 cylinder
Horsepower: 155 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 174 pound-feet @1,600 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable (CVT)
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 102.2 inches
Length: 171.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,094 pounds
Turning circle: 36.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 23.5 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 50.2 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.3 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 29 city, 32 highway, 30 combined
0-60: 9.3 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Volvo XC40, BW X1, Audi Q3

The Good
• Attractive styling
• Quiet interior
• Good ride quality

The Bad
• Doesn't have the panache of European counterparts

The Ugly
• Underwhelming performance