- Quiet interior and comfortable ride
- Good outward visibility
- Infotainment system reacts quickly
- Coarse powertrain; bungling auto stop-start
- Entry-level models don't feel premium
- Flat-folded rear seats infringe on front-row space
Buick Encore Expert Review
Buick's best-selling vehicle is the Encore, a subcompact crossover. It has cute styling and nice appointments that aim to appeal to buyers who want an upscale small SUV from a domestic automaker (even though it's built in South Korea). Meanwhile, its versatile cargo capacity and compact dimensions make it well suited for daily duty in an urban environment. The Encore is Buick's smallest crossover, fitting in below the slightly larger Encore GX and Envision two-row SUVs.
The 2020 Buick Encore competes in a segment teeming with choices, many of which we find more compelling. That's not to say the Encore is necessarily a subcompact SUV to avoid, but depending on your wants and needs, there may be better options.
It's clear that the Encore is tuned more for cruising around than tackling switchbacks, but that's no surprise; this is a Buick, after all. The cabin is quiet, thanks to Buick's QuietTuning process that works to actively block noises and vibrations. It's comfortable, too, with well-cushioned seats and a smattering of nice materials. We also like its infotainment system, which remains one of the most intuitive in the industry. Nonetheless, the Encore obliges if your drive entails twists and bends, thanks to an impressively stable ride and spunky engine.
These attributes come with caveats, though. The premium materials found in higher-end models are largely absent on entry-level trims; leather upholstery and heated front seats are only standard on the most well equipped models, and QuietTuning is included in three of four trims. Space is fine in the front row, but the second row is quite snug for adults. Although the second row folds flat to maximize cargo room, doing so significantly limits the amount of adjustability the front seats have. The engine and transmission work well to quickly snag gaps in traffic but accelerating to freeway speeds is lengthy and wracked by vibration and rough shifts. The powertrain is also saddled with a stop-start system, which helps save fuel, but its programming is intrusive and aggressive, and it can't be turned off. Comfortable at least describes the Encore's ride quality on smooth pavement—rough roads can overwhelm its suspension.
The 2020 Buick Encore exists in a state of purgatory among other crossovers. Equivalents from European competitors feel more premium, but they are accordingly more costly. Non-luxury Asian manufacturers build subcompact SUVs offering better practicality at a lower price but don't feel as nice to drive. What's more, Buick's own Encore GX provides a bit more space and much more style. The Encore, then, seems lost in the mix. However, there are buyers for whom it strikes a perfect balance of luxury, practicality, and value, as its Buick-best sales number have proven.
All 2020 Buick Encores are powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter I-4 connected to a six-speed automatic transmission. It produces 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. FWD is standard, while AWD is optional. The last time MotorTrend tested an Encore, it was a front-drive 2017 Sport Touring model, which previously produced 153 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. In that test, it accelerated from 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds and braked from 60-0 mph in 119 feet. The current less-powerful model may give up a few tenths of a second in acceleration.
Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 25/30 mpg city/highway for FWD models. AWD models return 24/29 mpg.
NHTSA crash testing resulted in a five-star (out of five) overall safety rating, comprised of five-star frontal and side crash scores, and a four-star rollover score.
From the IIHS, the Encore receives top Good crashworthiness scores in all tests except from the passenger-side small front overlap test, which earned an Acceptable score, the next down. However, its optional forward collision alert function earned only a Basic score, the lowest. That's because the system meets the IIHS' requirements for forward collision warning, but automatic emergency braking is not available.
All 2020 Encore models are equipped with 10 airbags. OnStar connected safety services are included, but driver-assist features like lane departure warning, forward collision alert, blind-spot alert, and rear cross-traffic alert are all optional extras. Lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control are not available.
With the Encore's rear seats upright, 18.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity are available. Folding the standard 60/40 split second row opens up a maximum of 48.4 cubic feet of capacity, although we found it necessary to slide the front seats forward to fold the rear seats flat. However, a fold-flat front passenger seat allows the Encore to carry extra-long items.
Front-row occupants get 39.6 inches of headroom and 40.8 inches of legroom. In the second row, passengers have 38.8 inches of headroom and 35.6 inches of legroom.
All 2020 Encore models are fitted with an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, which optionally gains navigation. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, connectable via two USB ports. Between the instrument gauges is a 4.2-inch color screen which shows speed, fluid levels, and other vehicle information. Music plays through a six-speaker audio system; a seven-speaker Bose system is available.
2020 Buick Encore 1SV: Like all Encore trims, entry-level 1SV rolls on 18-inch alloy wheels, has door handles with chrome accents, roof rails, tinted windows, and heated power-adjustable side mirrors. Interior appointments include leatherette-appointed seating surfaces, a power-adjustable driver's seat and manual passenger seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob with chrome details, and illuminated sun visor vanity mirrors. Convenience features like power windows with auto up/down for the driver, steering wheel control buttons, dual gloveboxes, and keyless entry are standard.
2020 Buick Encore Preferred: Basic niceties like a cargo area cover and carpeted floormats are included on Preferred trim. It also opens the availability of various style, equipment, and technology options that cannot be chosen on 1SV trim.
2020 Buick Encore Sport Touring: Sportier in style than in performance, the Sport Touring has a trim-specific design for the 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, and fog lights in the front fascia. Remote engine start is also added.
2020 Buick Encore Essence: Encores equipped with range-topping Essence trim get an exclusive design for the 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, and fog lights in the front fascia. Inside, the seating surfaces get leather appointments, the driver's seat gains a memory function, the front passenger seat is power-adjustable, and both front seats and the steering wheel are heated. Dual-zone automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are added. Driver-assist features like rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring, which are optional on lower trims, are included standard on Essence models.