Wednesday, January 11, 2023




Buick got into the small SUV segment a decade ago when it launched the 2013 Encore. Apparently, it wasn’t all that long when it dawned on designers that perhaps it was “too small” and they decided a slightly larger “small” vehicle was needed.

Instead of simply enlarging the Encore, however, somebody — presumably presumably somebody in marketing — came up with the idea of labeling the new subcompact SUV the Encore GX, and so now we have both the Buick Encore and Buick Encore GX to deal with.

However confusing that might have been to some who might think the GX is simply another trim in the Encore lineup, the decision to produce a slightly larger subcompact has paid off.

The Buick Encore GX has become the best-seller in the company's all-SUV lineup while the Encore has joined the company’s sedans and coupes/convertibles on the sidelines soon to be replaced by the Buick Envista. The Envista went on sale in China last fall and should reach the U.S. later this year.

Saying the Encore GX is Buick’s top-seller, however, is kind of like being the “Most Valuable Player” on a last-place team. According to numbers available on the website, last year’s sales of the Buick Encore GX were down 54 percent over 2021 as the company experienced a dip of 43.2 percent for all its models.

Perhaps a savvy shopper can make use of that information and get a good deal, and it could be worth the effort because the 2023 Buick Encore GX has some things working for it.

The 2023 Buick Encore GX comes in  three trim levels with the Preferred and Select models carrying starting MSRPs of under $30,000 and the top-of-the-line Essence, which this review is based on, starting at $30,195 including the $1,195 destination and delivery fee.

Preferred and Select trims get a 1.2-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine but the 2023 Buick Encore Essense is equipped with a slightly larger 1.3L 3-cylinder that boosts horsepower and torque to 155 hp and 174 pound-feet over the 137/162 in the smaller engine.

A CVT (continuously variable transmission) is standard for both engines on front-wheel-drive models while those with available all-wheel drive get a 9-speed automatic.

The performance in my test Essence trim with the larger engine was fairly peppy around town, but I would suspect that isn’t the case with the smaller engine. Either way, you’re probably not going to be taking it out for drag racing contests as the local race strip.

As mentioned, one of the benefits of the Encore GX models over the standard Encore is increased roominess. The 2023 Buick Encore GX is 171.4 inches long and provides second-row passengers with a bit more legroom at 36.0 inches and an extra 4.7 cubic feet of cargo space over the standard Encore. Stowage behind the back seat is a generous 23.5 cubic feet in the Encore GX.

As the top-of-the-line trim, the 2023 Buick Encore GX comes with a handful of extra standard features over other models. They include leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, memory positions for the driver’s seat, and a power adjustable front seat for the passenger, 

Other standard features include a stop/start system (which can be turned off with the press of a button), keyless entry and push-button start, a wifi hotspot,   Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED headlights and taillights, capless fuel fill, a roof rack with side rails.

Among standard safety systems are a following distance indicator, forward collision alert, lane-keeping assist with lane departure warning, blind spot alert, automatic emergency braking, and front pedestrian braking.

My test vehicle came with options that included an Advanced Technology Package (HD surround vision, adaptive cruise control, Buick’s infotainment system with navigation), a Convenience Package (automatic parking assist with braking, wireless charging, rear camera mirror with washer, rain-sensing windshield wipers), a hands-freee liftgate, and Bose Premium sound system.

All that with the delivery fee added ran the final bottom line to $34,615. I should point out that there are no major differences between the newest Encore GX and the last two models so there’s that as well for bargain hunters to mull over.

What I liked about the 2023 Buick Encore GX Essence:
Infotainment features are plentiful and user-friendly. The nicely appointed cabin is fairly spacious, especially for a subcompact, and stowage space behind the second row is generous. The numbers on the head-up display don’t disappear when you are wearing polarized sunglasses as they do on many such displays. 

What I didn’t like about the 2023 Buick Encore GX Essence: The ride is quiet but could be firmer. It seems bouncy at times. Storage bins on the front console are on the wee side, though items like larger water bottles can be placed in door spaces.

Would I buy the 2023 Buick Encore GX Essence? The Encore GX takes on lots of quality competition in its segment and likely wouldn’t be my first choice, but does have some underrated features that make it worth a look.

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