On the way out. The 2021 Buick Encore is in an unusual position. Buick has released a newer and larger competitor in the Encore GX, which is an entirely separate model despite the name similarity.

Elsewhere in the world, Buick has released a new generation of the Encore, but it won’t come to North American shores. Instead, the Encore soldiers on into its eighth year on sale, making it a dinosaur among compact crossovers.

The Encore’s age shows in places. It's an inch or two smaller than the Encore GX in every dimension except height, leaving passengers with less cabin space. The exterior proportions look out of place among an armada of sleek modern competitors, leaving the Encore looking tall and stubby.

Geriatric engine. The engine in the Encore is old, too. The new powertrains in the Encore GX haven’t made the jump, leaving the Encore stuck with an anemic 138-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

The engine takes nearly 10 seconds to push the Encore from 0-60 mph, which makes highway passing a chore. Efficiency isn’t stellar either, with a maximum of 27 miles per gallon combined, according to the EPA. That’s less than the Encore GX as well as competitors like the Honda CR-V. All-wheel drive is an option, but it dings fuel efficiency even further.

Cornering is far from exceptional thanks to the Encore’s tall profile. On the other hand, the suspension smooths out rough roads and insulates passengers well. Sound deadening is another highlight, which is lucky – the engine drones under acceleration.


Buick Encore

Fit for two. The Buick Encore is best experienced from the front seat. The front seats are supportive and relatively spacious, although there’s no center armrest. The back is a different story, with flat seats and less leg room than most rivals.

Cargo space starts just under 19 cubic feet, which is less than most hatchbacks. This another area where the Encore GX looks like a better buy, offering 23.5 cubic feet of space behind the seats.

The Encore makes amends with its interior trim. The materials feel premium, and color options complement the design well. Details like a leather-wrapped steering wheel make it feel more premium than the related Chevrolet Trax.

Left behind. The Encore does keep up with its sibling in some areas. The Encore GX and Encore share the same infotainment system, an 8-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The software works well, and the Encore’s infotainment is one element that manages to feel modern.

The illusion is shattered by the features list. Although blind-spot monitoring is an option, no Encore is available with automatic emergency braking. Most modern crossovers – including the Encore GX – include that feature standard. Other old-fashioned touches like manual-adjust seats and manual air conditioning feel out of place on a car with luxury ambitions.

Given the Encore’s disadvantages, we would expect it to cost significantly less than the Encore GX. The difference is less than you might expect: only $900. In addition to the Encore GX, the Encore competes with established favorites like the Honda CR-V, Subaru Outback, and Volvo XC40. Especially above the base trim, good value is hard to find.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Buick Encore isn’t without its virtues, and we appreciate the refined ride and premium feel.

But the aging design, cramped interior, and lack of safety features make it a tough sell against more modern crossovers, starting with Buick’s own Encore GX. We can only assume that this model will be phased out soon.

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