The Buick Encore GX is working through a bit of an identity crisis. Now in its fourth year of production, the 2024 Encore GX replaces the Essence with Avenir trim at the top of its lineup. The Avenir comes with a new look for Buick’s smallest SUV, while some new technology and better materials inside help lift the GX above similarly sized subcompact crossovers like the Honda HR-V and Volkswagen Taos and bring it closer to luxury rivals like the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40. However, Avenir is not sure which side of the line it wants to be on.
On the outside, the refreshed Encore GX features slimmer headlights, reshaped front and rear bumpers and an updated grille. Additionally, the GX is the first US model to feature Buick’s updated tri-shield emblem, though it’s pretty easy to miss the change from the old logo if you’re not looking for it.
Buick also gave the GX interior a variety of updates aimed at helping it move upmarket. Our top-of-the-line all-wheel drive Avenir is wrapped in leather upholstery, with a heated steering wheel and an inductive charging pad among the finery. It’s attractive and intuitive, and the higher inclusion of materials makes for a more pleasant cabin than cheaper alternatives like the HR-V or Toyota Corolla Cross—though equivalent premium brand rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLB-class offer richer finishes for just several thousand dollars more than the as-tested Buick’s $39,580 price.
The Encore GX’s new digital display panel, which should be the centerpiece of the new interior, has a gaudy bezel that detracts from the GX’s premium feel. The dual-center 11.0-inch touchscreen and 8.0-inch instrument display—are crisp and responsive. Buick’s original software works well, and wireless smartphone mirroring is standard.
Small SUVs like the Encore GX aren’t usually praised for their sportiness, and that’s the case here as well. Buick’s base engine is a turbocharged 1.2-liter three-cylinder with 137 hp, and even the step-up engine option, a turbocharged 1.3-liter three-cylinder, generates only 155 horsepower. With the 1.3-liter option, our test car needed a lazy 8.8 seconds to reach 60 mph, though that number is 0.5 second better than what we recorded with the same powertrain in the 2020 Encore GX. However, stepping up to the 221-hp Mercedes GLB the more expensive one manages the same acceleration in a much more acceptable 6.0 seconds.
While you might think such a tiny engine would have little appetite for fuel, the GX’s powertrain struggles to redeem itself with its gas mileage. We measured 30 mpg in our 200-mile highway fuel economy test. That figure beats the EPA’s 28 mpg estimate, but even so, the more powerful Mazda CX-30 matches the Buick’s fuel economy at a comparable price point, while the all-wheel-drive VW Taos beats it by 3 mpg.
Fortunately, everyday driving isn’t governed by statistics on paper, and while the Encore GX certainly isn’t fast, the 1.3-liter hits peak torque at 1600 rpm, giving it enough low-end enthusiasm to leave stoplights with some power, and it can keep up with traffic. with ease—although the nine-speed automatic transmission occasionally slows down. If the sound of three cylinders worries you, the Buick engine doesn’t raise its voice much. Under wide-open throttle, the Avenir measured a quiet 72 decibels in our test. The much more expensive Mercedes-Benz GLC300 emits 76 decibels in the same test. At a steady 70 mph, the Encore GX rolls along at a hushed 68 decibels.
The ride is generally smooth and comfortable, if not as smooth as some luxury rivals like the aforementioned Audi Q3 or X1. Handling doesn’t change much going downhill, and it feels secure down to its low-skid pad grip of 0.81 g. Sportiness is not the feeling here.
Despite its size, the Encore GX manages to offer impressive practicality. We wouldn’t recommend stuffing your tallest friend in the back seat for long trips, but the back of the Buick is comfortable and roomy enough for shorter trips. The Encore GX certainly isn’t built for schlepping major cargo, but the front passenger seat’s fold-flat capability allows you to fit in a flat pack or a longer IKEA ladder. For added flexibility, the load floor can be adjusted up or down, and there is a removable shelf in the cargo area that allows for more storage. In our tests, we found there was room for six suitcases behind the rear seats, 19 with them folded.
As a mainstream crossover, Encore GX Avenir is quiet, comfortable and practical. But up against similarly priced competition, the little Buick quickly fell off the leaderboard. Bridging the gap between the mainstream market and the luxury market is proving to be a difficult task. At nearly $40,000 as-tested, the GX Avenir is priced more like a desirable luxury vehicle, but there are too many reminders here that the base Encore GX starts at $26,895. Sure, it’s changed its hair and bought some new clothes, but Buick is fully paying for it, and as a result, the GX has a hard time fitting in.
2024 Buick Encore GX Avenir
Vehicle Type: front engine, front/all wheel drive, 5 passenger, 4 door wagon
Base/As Tested: $34,795/$39,580
Options: panoramic moonroof, $1495; Avenir Technology Package (adaptive cruise control, reversing camera interior mirror, surround view camera system, wireless device charging), $1395; Avenir Convenience Package (Bose premium audio system, hands-free power liftgate, rain-sensing wipers, rear park assist), $1295; White Frost Tricoat paint, $600
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 12-valve inline-3, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 82 in31338 cm3
Power: 155 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 174 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
Suspension, F/R: torsion strut/beam
Brakes, F/R: 11.8-in vented disc/11.4-in disc
Tires: Continental ProContact TX
245/45-19 98H M+S TPC Spec 3178MS
Wheelbase: 102.2 in
Length: 171.4 in
Width: 71.4 inches
Height: 64.1 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 50/42 feet3
Cargo Volume, Rear F/R: 50/24 ft3
Curb Weight: 3384 lb
C/D TEST RESULT
60 mph: 8.8 seconds
1/4-Mile: 16.9 seconds @ 82 mph
100 mph: 28.1 seconds
The above results leave a 1 foot launch for 0.3 seconds.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 10.1 seconds
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.8 seconds
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 6.8 seconds
Top speed (C/D approx): 120 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 176 feet
Road grip, 300-foot Skid Pad: 0.81 g
C/D OIL ECONOMY
Observed: 22 mpg
75-mph Highway Driving: 30 mpg
75-mph Highway Range: 390 mi
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 27/26/28 mpg
C/D TESTS EXPLAINED
Associate News Editor
Jack Fitzgerald’s love of cars stems from his unwavering addiction to Formula 1.
After a brief stint as a detailer for a local dealership group in college, he knew he needed a more permanent way to drive all the new cars he couldn’t afford and decided to pursue a career in auto writing. By hunting down his college professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he was able to travel Wisconsin looking for stories in the auto world before landing his dream job at Car and Driver. His new goal is to delay the inevitable death of the 2010 Volkswagen Golf.