2020 Buick Encore Review
  • Car Review

2020 Buick Encore Review

By Autolist Editorial | October 6, 2020

Quick Facts:

Pros:

  • Great for city driving with a quiet cabin and small stature.
  • User-friendly infotainment system with an eight-inch screen.
  • Good predicted reliability rating.

Cons:

  • Underpowered engine is the only one available.
  • Base models lack active safety features that are standard on rivals.
  • Trims are expensive compared to competitors.
  • Cramped rear seats and small cargo area.

Vehicle Type: Subcompact luxury SUV.

Price Range: $23,200 - $30,800 before options.

Powertrain: A 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.

All-wheel-drive is an option for every model except the base model.

More Photos

See more 2020 Buick Encore photos here.


Overview:

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The Encore is Buick’s smallest SUV, which debuted in 2013. It has not had major redesigns since then, and it’s still in its first generation.

The 2020 Encore comes in four available trim levels: Base, Preferred, Sport Touring, and Essence, which is the same as the 2019 model and down two trims from 2018.

The biggest change for the 2020 Encore from the previous year is the removal of the higher power engine option, leaving only the 1.4-liter, 138-hp four-cylinder engine as the single drivetrain option.

All models come standard with front-wheel drive; all-wheel-drive is an option for every trim except for the base 1SV model.

Direct competitors include subcompact SUVs like the Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, Nissan Kicks, Toyota C-HR, Kia Soul, Subaru Crosstrek, and Chevrolet Trax.

The 2020 Encore sits roughly in the middle of the segment with advantages in the form of a high-quality cabin, an easy-to-use infotainment system, and high predicted reliability.

What keeps the Encore from being a premier subcompact SUV is the single underpowered engine option, a small cargo volume, and fewer standard active safety features relative to the rest of the segment.

The Encore is joined for the first time in 2020 by the Buick Encore GX, a new model from Buick with the intention to sit between the Encore and the Envision. Although the Encore’s base model comes in at a price point $900 below the Encore GX, the new GX model has much more to offer.

It carries a second 155-hp turbo engine option, an option that the Encore had on previous models but was eliminated for the 2020 model year. The GX also boasts improved fuel mileage at 31 mpg combined, an increase from the 27 mpg combined fuel efficiency of the Encore. The GX also includes many active safety features in the standard trim that the Encore doesn’t have even in its highest trims. In fact, it would not be surprising to see the standard Encore being phased out in preference for the new GX variant in the near future.

Overall Score: 6.3/10


Safety Features: 5/10

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Standard on all 2020 Encore models is OnStar security and emergency service capabilities, a rear vision camera, ten airbags, and a LATCH system for easy install of child restraint seats, LED daytime lamps, and StabiliTrak traction control, which helps to adjust and control brake force and engine torque during emergency maneuvers.

Unfortunately, no automatic emergency braking is available on any trim level.

For the Preferred and Touring trim, two additional safety options are available. The first is rear cross-traffic alert, which detects cross-traffic behind the vehicle, a useful feature for parking lots or crowded driveways. The second is side blind-zone alert, which alerts the driver to vehicles within the blind spot of the vehicle by displaying a warning light on the appropriate side mirror. These features are available but not standard on both the Preferred and Touring trim.

On the Essence trim, both the cross-traffic alert and blind zone alert features are standard while lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, and front and rear park assist become available as optional features.

The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2020 Buick the highest rating of “Good” in every category of crashworthiness except an “Acceptable” for the passenger-side small impact test. However, in the crash mitigation category, the Encore received the lowest grade of “Basic” for their vehicle to vehicle crash prevention system and a “Not Available” designation for their vehicle to pedestrian crash prevention system.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2020 Encore an overall safety rating of five out of five stars giving all crash tests five-star ratings except for the rollover category, which received a four-star rating.


Value: 6/10

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The Encore’s Base model is priced at $23,200 (before a $995 destination fee). For reference, the Hyundai Kona base model starts at $20,300, the Mazda CX-30 base model starts at $21,900, while Mazda’s smaller CX-3 starts at $20,640, and the Kia Soul undercuts them all at $17,500.

Overall, the 2020 Encore does not come standard with many features that impress relative to its peers. The loss of the higher 153-hp engine option from the 2019 Encore is another hit, and the high price point makes it hard to justify.

The standout feature of the Encore is its high predicted reliability rating, making it an option to consider for those who want reliable daily city transportation.


Tech Features: 6/10

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All Encore trims come standard with a six-way power driver’s seat and two-way manual passenger seat, a six-speaker audio system, 4G LTE WiFi capability, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, keyless entry, active noise cancellation, a Sirius XM radio trial subscription, and a theft-deterrent alarm system.

The tech highlight for the 2020 Encore is Buick’s simple yet powerful Intellilink infotainment system that integrates smartphones with either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and includes Bluetooth connectivity and dual USB ports.

Higher-end trims add options for a 120-volt power outlet, remote start capability, satellite navigation, rain-sensing wipers, and an upgrade to a 7-speaker Bose audio system.


Practicality: 6/10

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The 2020 Encore is highly practical for city driving. Its small stature makes it easy to park even in small spaces, and the low base price makes it appealing for those looking for the versatility of an SUV, but value close-quarters maneuverability and fuel economy over passenger and cargo space.

A 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat can expand the standard 19 cubic feet of cargo space to 48 cubic feet, putting the Encore on-par for its class. Although the Encore has average cargo space for the segment, the segment as a whole lacks the storage space for anything past a large grocery haul.

The front seats are comfortable and spacious, although there is no center armrest, while the back seats are cramped, rigid, and offer little legroom and a low ceiling. Although the back row is a bench seat, there is only enough room for two adults who will have to squeeze in at that, making the Encore good for individuals or couples who don’t plan to be towing around extra passengers too often.


Styling & Design: 6/10

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With no changes to the Encore’s exterior from the previous model year, it remains tall and narrow with a short wheelbase and short front and rear overhang. Short is the best description for this model all the way around. It has a round look compared to the aggressive styling common on modern vehicles providing a conservative and generally unmemorable design.

The interior of the 2020 Encore has a refined upscale feel that is highlighted by standard features such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a silver and chrome shift knob, and front and rear accent fascia.

The base model comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels with the option to upgrade to 5-split-spoke aluminum alloy wheels on higher trims.


Driving Experience: 7/10

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The 2020 Encore is a reliable city vehicle but lacks any liveliness. With the elimination of the 153-hp engine option (available on previous model years), the only option for buyers is a four-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower, which takes an abysmal 10 seconds to reach 60 mph. The engine has been noted to feel strained when there are more than two adults in the vehicle and is noisy upon harsh acceleration.

Reviewers have noted pleasantly how well the vehicle absorbs bumps from the road and have praised the 2020 Encore for its suspension performance along with its general ride comfort and sound dampening while providing a standard handling experience.

The Encore also has been found to feel more top-heavy compared to lower-set competitors such as the Hyundai Kona, and the Mazda CX-30 and CX-3. This is due to the Encore’s high seat orientation paired with a short wheelbase. Although the Encore is one of the smaller vehicles in the subcompact SUV segment, its stature makes driving and parking in the city a breeze.


Fuel Efficiency: 8/10

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The Encore is average at best in fuel efficiency for the subcompact SUV segment. The 2020 Encore only has one engine option, which is rated by the EPA for 25 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined for the front-wheel-drive configurations.

The all-wheel-drive configurations are rated at 24 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined. Although it sits in the middle of its segment, the subcompact SUV category boasts some of the highest fuel economy of any non-hybrid class.

For comparison, the 2020 Hyundai Kona has a fuel efficiency of 28 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined, while the Mazda CX-30 has a fuel efficiency of 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined. Both sets of figures are for the front-wheel-drive configurations and decrease slightly for the all-wheel-drive configurations.

Unfortunately, Buick doesn’t currently offer a hybrid version of the Encore, which is becoming more common in the segment. The Hyundai Kona and Subaru Crosstrek have hybrid variants, while the Kia Soul has an EV variant.


What’s it Going to Cost Me?

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The 2020 Encore starts at $24,195 (which includes a $995 destination fee) for the base 1SV front-wheel-drive trim with the 1.4-liter 138-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Standard features include roof-mounted side rails, OnStar security, and emergency service capabilities, a rear vision camera, a LATCH system for easy install of child restraint seats, LED daytime lamps, and StabiliTrak traction control, a six-way power driver’s seat, and two-way manual passenger seat, 60/40 folding rear bench seating, a six-speaker audio system, 4G LTE WiFi capability, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, keyless entry, active noise cancellation, a Sirius XM radio trial subscription, and a theft-deterrent alarm system.

The Preferred trim starts at $25,595 and adds a rear cargo cover.

Options include all-wheel drive, 5-split-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, Buick’s Interior Protection Package and Road Trip Package, Buick’s Safety Package, which includes rear cross-traffic alert and side blind zone alert, power moonroof, roof rack cross rails, wheel lock kit, a 120-volt power outlet, and remote start.

The Sport Touring model is $25,800 and adds remote start.

Options include all-wheel drive, 5-split-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, Buick’s Interior Protection Package, Road Trip Package, and Safety Package, power moonroof, roof rack cross rails, wheel lock kit, a 120-volt power outlet, and remote start, a 7-speaker Bose audio system, premium synthetic seats, and satellite navigation.

The highest Essence model starts at $29,300 and adds Buick’s Safety Package, which includes rear cross-traffic alert and side blind-spot monitoring, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and steering wheel, automatic dimming rearview mirror.

Options include all-wheel drive, 5-split-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, Buick’s Interior Protection Package, Road Trip Package, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and front and rear park assist, wheel lock kit, rain-sensing wipers, a navigation system, moonroof, and a 7-speaker Bose audio system.

If it were us, we’d opt for the Standard or Essence trims. If you’re yearning to own a Buick, the Standard trim comes with a nice package of features, and as there isn’t a more powerful engine option, the additions on higher trims are for convenience and safety, not performance. If extra features are desired, the Essence is by far the best trim with leather upholstery, heated front seats, and steering wheel, and Buick’s Safety Package already standard on the model.


More Photos

See more See more 2020 Buick Encore photos here.