A traffic-friendly crossover that tickles premium brands’ feet. The current-generation model hit showrooms in 2013, so the 2020 Buick Encore is a little long in the tooth.
Despite this age, this subcompact crossover meets its intended purpose with relative ease, which is to give BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi shoppers a lower-cost option that looks stylish and offers nearly the same levels of luxury at a lower price.
With a starting price of $24,195, the Encore delivers in the pricing department, as it’s $10,750 less than the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, $11,500 less than the Audi Q3, and $12,000 less than the BMW X1.
City-sized with dated but sharp looks. The biggest perk to buying any subcompact crossover is its city-friendly footprint, and the Buick Encore offers that at just 168.4 inches long and 69.9 inches wide.
This makes the Encore 8.2 inches shorter and 1.9 inches narrower than the Q3, 5.5 inches shorter and 1.1 inches narrower than the GLA-Class, and 7.7 inches shorter and 1.8 inches narrower than the X1. The smaller stature makes it the easiest of the bunch to zip in and out of traffic and into tight parking spaces.
The Encore also boasts a unique look with its stubby nose and high roofline. The downside is this look has been around since 2013, while the competition has been through at least one modernizing redesign since and look far more up to date.
Inside, the Encore boasts a simple and clean layout that'll please the older demographic. Like the exterior, though, the Encore’s cabin shows some age next to the more modern GLA-Class, X1, and Q3.
The Encore further solidifies its position as a crossover for the older crowd, as its 35.75 inches of rear leg room isn't much for growing kids and falls short or the Q3 and X1 by 0.26 inches and 1.25 inches, respectively.
Generous standard features, except safety. As a sub-luxury crossover, the Buick Encore must delicately balance low pricing with standard features to make it a value-packed alternative to true luxury models.
The Encore delivers with its $24,195 starting price and a long list of standard goodies, including OnStar, 4G LTE wi-fi, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an 8-inch touchscreen, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and more. Buyers can also opt for navigation and a Bose premium audio system.
The Q3 matches all the Encore’s standard goodies and adds extras like leather, a 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and more, but it comes at a much higher price that erodes its value. The pricier X1 offers standard leatherette, but its standard infotainment system has a 6.5-inch screen, lacks Android Auto, and requires a monthly subscription to access Apple CarPlay. The GLA-Class requires buyers to pay extra for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but its standard leatherette seating is a nice touch.
While the Q3, X1, and GLA-Class offer standard automatic emergency braking to help keep everyone safe, the Encore doesn’t even offer it as an option. Plus, all its advanced safety tech only comes optional on higher trim levels.
Lacks punch to compete. The Buick Encore has just one engine, a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that injects 138 horsepower. This power passes through a six-speed automatic transmission and heads to the front wheels or all four with optional all-wheel drive. This powertrain makes accelerating to 60 mph a leisurely stroll at about 10 seconds.
The Encore’s powertrain is a glaring sore spot relative to the luxury rigs it’s trying to pull buyers from. Evidence of its struggle includes the base Q3’s 228-hp turbocharged four-cylinder that sprints it to 60 mph in seven seconds, the GLA 250’s 2.0-liter turbo four-pot that delivers 208 hp and a 7.2-second sprint time, and the X1’s 2.0-liter turbo that punches out 228 hp and a 6.6-second sprint.
Final thoughts. The 2020 Buick Encore may compete with entry-level luxury crossovers, but it does so in terms of value, as it cannot hang in many other respects. This is especially evident in the performance area.
What the Encore does best is offer all the key features buyers crave at a price that’s at least $10,000 less than the European competition, making it a great alternative.
Check prices for the 2020 Buick Encore »