Modern and stylish

From the October 2023 print edition

Subcompact crossovers are a hot commodity these days. And with a recent wave of redesigns and refreshes within its roster, General Motors now has a wide variety of these pint-sized SUVs to choose from.

The smallest are the Chevrolet Trax and the new Buick Envista, both available only with front-wheel drive. If you want an all-wheel drive subcompact, you’ll need to look to the Trailblazer or its Buick equivalent, the Encore GX, which is the subject of this review. Like the Trailblazer, the Encore GX receives a mid-cycle refresh for 2024 that brings a slew of important updates to differentiate it from its smaller siblings.

Key among them is a new Avenir trim, an addition that makes Buick’s signature top trim available across its entire line-up. On the Encore GX, this adds exterior details such as a grille with an exclusive chrome surround, along with clear taillights, exclusive 19-inch wheels, chrome accents, and body-colour side mouldings.

A look inside
Inside, the Avenir trim wears an exclusive beige and black interior colourway with a leather dashboard cover, and Avenir logos on the door sills and the front seat headrests. The leather-lined front seats are adjustable eight ways including lumbar support; on the passenger side, the seatback adjusts manually and can fold fully flat to accommodate longer items. A digital camera-based rear-view mirror is an Avenir-exclusive option. The complete package comes across as modern and stylish with very good build quality.

A large, curved panel integrates the standard 11-inch infotainment screen and an eight-inch digital instrument cluster together into a single unit. Based on GM’s excellent platform, this infotainment system is fully touchscreen-based and easy to navigate and operate. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard equipment, and a Wi-Fi hotspot can be activated with an OnStar subscription.

A panoramic sunroof is available on all trims but standard on none of them, including Avenir.
Second row space is on the tighter side and may be unpleasant for adults for extended periods, but this isn’t unusual in the subcompact SUV segment. The Encore GX’s cargo space of 665 litres with the rear seats upright is roughly on par with its competition. But if you’ll need to pack the rear of the cabin regularly, the digital rear camera mirror helps maintain rearward visibility even when passengers and cargo get in the way.

The 665 litres of cargo space with the rear seats upright is roughly on par with its competition.

Power is generated by a 1.3-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine producing 155 horsepower and 174lbs-ft of torque. When AWD is equipped, this is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Those aren’t face-melting figures, but the Encore GX gets moving better than you might think, thanks to the very smooth nine-speed auto and the turbocharging, which both help to get it shuffled up to speed quickly. The three-pot also doesn’t have all that much car to move, given the Encore GX’s curb weight of 1,476kgs or 3,255lbs.

There are two important things to note. One is that the base Preferred trim can be purchased with front-wheel drive, which is paired with a CVT. We haven’t driven this version, but we expect it would be a much less satisfying experience. The AWD version also comes with a button that allows for manual toggling, a rare level of control that can provide a happy medium between fuel efficiency and foul-weather capability for a well-trained fleet driver.

The other key point is the Encore GX’s primary competitor, the Mazda CX-30, offers optional powertrains that deliver significantly more power, albeit alongside a more frustrating infotainment system.

Fuel consumption
Since the AWD version offers fuel consumption figures of 9.1L/100km city, 8.4 on the highway, and 8.8 combined, while the FWD measures up at 8.0/7.6/7.8, adding this control doesn’t come with much of a penalty. On the other hand, there’s not as much of a gap between the Encore GX’s three-cylinder and the CX-30’s more powerful engines as there ought to be: Mazda’s 191hp, 186lbs-ft, 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with AWD averages 8.2L/100km combined, while its turbo-four burns 9.3L/100km combined.

A large, curved panel integrates the 11-inch infotainment screen and an eight-inch digital instrument cluster into a single unit.

The 2024 Buick Encore GX is sold in three trims. The base Preferred is priced at $32,480, fees in; adding AWD brings this up to $34,480. The former top trim, the Sport Touring, starts at $36,130, while the new Avenir tops out the line-up at $39,410 including fees but before options. Fully loaded as tested, the price rings up at $43,395.

That’s steep for a subcompact crossover, especially when you can get a Mazda CX-30 with more power for less. But when brand cachet and superior functionality are higher priorities, 2024 Buick Encore GX Avenir is a solid mid-market choice for those who want those features with a touch of class.