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2021 Buick Encore

Starting at $24,395

6.5/10 C/D RATING
2021 buick encore front
6.5/10 C/D RATING

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  • Highs Smooth ride, intuitive infotainment setup, surprisingly spacious cabin.
  • Lows Not as fuel efficient as key rivals, lacks standard safety tech, just plain slow.
  • Verdict The Encore does a good job of distilling Buick sensibilities down to a small scale, but others in this small-SUV class are simply better.
By Drew Dorian


Not to be confused with the newer and ever-so-slightly larger Encore GX, the Buick Encore serves as the entry point to GM's semi-luxury SUV brand. A turbocharged four-cylinder is under the hood and moves the little Encore around with a distinct lack of urgency. The interior, however, does much better, offering enough space for four adults to ride in relative comfort and surrounding them with decent materials. Whereas the Encore GX goes toe-to-toe with luxury branded SUVs such as the BMW X1 and Lexus NX, the Encore is priced to compete with non-luxury SUVs such as the Kia Seltos and the Honda HR-V. The Encore comes well-equipped with desirable infotainment features, but those seeking advanced driver-assistance tech won't find much here.

What's New for 2021?

The Encore's available trims have been downsized to the base and Preferred models for 2021. With the exception of adding Dark Moon Blue Metallic and Cinnabar Metallic exterior colors, Buick hasn't made any changes to its smallest SUV.

Pricing and Which One to Buy


Not much separates the base Encore from the Preferred model, but the cheaper of the two only comes in Summit White. If you'd like more color choices, upgrading to the Preferred unlocks the rest of the Buick's palette of colors and adds carpeted floor mats and a rear cargo cover. All-wheel drive is only available on the Preferred model, so that's the one we'd recommend. Looking for more features? Consider moving up the Buick ladder to the Encore GX (reviewed separately).


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Engine, Transmission, and Performance

Unfortunately, the Encore no longer offers the 153-hp version of the 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine; the only engine available is the underpowered 138-hp engine. We haven't tested an Encore with the base 138-hp engine, but the Buick's corporate twin, the Chevrolet Trax, comes with this engine exclusively and it delivered a leisurely result of 9.3 seconds. With the passengers sitting high atop a short wheelbase, the Encore has a more top-heavy feel than lower-set rivals such as the Mazda CX-3, and as a result, the Encore leans more heavily in corners. Steering is well-weighted if not particularly engaging, but it's accurate and will be agreeable for buyers seeking a comfort-oriented small crossover. Speaking of comfort, the Encore's suspension soaks up bumps admirably, and harsh impacts are dutifully dampened.

2021 buick encore sideView Photos

Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG

While we haven't subjected the 138-hp Encore to our real-world fuel-economy test, its EPA ratings lag behind competitors such as the Hyundai Kona, the Mazda CX-3, and the Nissan Kicks. The front-drive Encore has an EPA-estimated rating of 25 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway; the all-wheel-drive Encore's estimates are 24 mpg city and 29 mpg on the highway.

Interior, Comfort, and Cargo

Within the Encore's compact body lies an interior that is very nearly premium save for a few missteps. There are some hard plastics in the door panels and lower center console, and the glossy black trim on the center stack of our test vehicle didn't match the glossy gray panels on the doors. However, soft-touch sections on the armrests and dash pad provide a more upscale atmosphere; the flush-mounted infotainment touchscreen and jewel-colored background accents help, too. The front-seat layout is quite good, with controls that are straightforward and redundant knobs on the dash for climate controls. We appreciated the high seating and comfortable driving position, but larger drivers may find the seat bottom too narrow. The Encore's talents as a utility vehicle start and end with a good performance in our carry-on test: It held 20 of our suitcases with the rear seats folded. Otherwise, the little Buick's interior measurements, difficult-to-fold rear seat, and class-average storage space for small items do little to impress.

Infotainment and Connectivity

The Encore comes standard with a host of tech goodies, including an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system—dubbed IntelliLink—with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 4G LTE data connection with onboard Wi-Fi. Navigation with live traffic and weather updates is optional. A six-speaker audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio is standard and can stream audio from smart devices via Bluetooth, USB, or an auxiliary input jack; a Bose premium audio setup with seven speakers is also available.

Safety and Driver-Assistance Features

Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)

View Crash Test Results

Mixed reviews from the two U.S. crash-test agencies and a dearth of driver-assistance tech make the Encore a disappointing choice for buyers focused on safety. To make matters worse, the Encore's back seats may not be sufficient for small families to comfortably fit children in safety seats. Key safety features include:

  • Available forward-collision warning
  • Available blind-spot monitoring
  • Available lane-departure warning

Warranty and Maintenance Coverage

Outdone by the Kia Soul and the Hyundai Kona in this segment, the Encore offers longer warranty coverages than most others including the Trax. The GM trucklets offer a free maintenance visit within the first year of ownership.

  • Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty covers 6 years or 70,000 miles
  • Complimentary maintenance is covered for the first visit


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