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 the Avenir trim at the top of its lineup and starts at $34,795. The Avenir arrives alongside a refreshed look for Buick’s smallest SUV which opens at a base price of $26,895. The slimmer headlights, reshaped front and rear bumpers, and grille are all new. Additionally, the GX is the first U.S. model to feature Buick’s updated tri-shield crest, though it’s relatively easy to miss the change from the old logo if you aren’t looking for it. Inside, new tech and nicer materials help elevate the GX above similarly sized subcompact crossovers like the Honda HR-V and Volkswagen Taos and inch it closer to luxury competitors such as the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40. However, the top-spec Avenir finds itself caught fighting in the small space between both camps.
Our top-level all-wheel-drive Avenir came swathed in leather upholstery, with a heated steering wheel and an inductive charging pad amid the niceties. The interior is attractive and the controls are intuitive. The inclusion of higher-end materials makes for a more pleasant cabin than less expensive alternatives such as the HR-V or Toyota Corolla Cross. However, premium-brand competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz GLB-class offer a richer finish for only a few thousand dollars more than the Buick’s $39,580 as-tested price.
The Encore GX’s new digital display panel, which should be the centerpiece of the new interior, has a strange-looking bezel that detracts from the GX’s otherwise attractive design. But the dual screens—an 11.0-inch central touchscreen and an 8.0-inch instrument display—are crisp and responsive. Buick’s native software works well too, and wireless smartphone mirroring is standard.
Small SUVs like the Encore GX aren’t typically lauded for their sportiness, and that’s true here as well. In lesser trim levels, the Encore GX’s base engine is a 137-hp turbocharged 1.2-liter three-cylinder, but the Avenir trim comes standard with a turbocharged 1.3-liter three-cylinder that generates 155 horsepower. More power would be welcome as the Avenir requires a lazy 8.8 seconds to reach 60 mph, though that figure is 0.5 second better than we recorded with the same powertrain in a 2020 Encore GX.
While you might assume such a minuscule engine would have a commensurately small appetite for fuel, we found that it didn’t quite live up to that expectation. We did measure 30 mpg in our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test, a figure that beats the EPA’s 28-mpg estimate, but even so, the more powerful Mazda CX-30 matches the Buick’s fuel economy in the same highway test, while an all-wheel-drive VW Taos beats it by 3 mpg.
Fortunately, everyday driving isn’t ruled by on-paper statistics, and while the Encore GX is certainly not quick, the 1.3-liter hits peak torque at 1600 rpm, giving it enough low-down pep to leave stoplights with some authority, and it can easily keep up with freeway traffic—even if the nine-speed automatic transmission is occasionally slow to downshift. If the sound of a three-cylinder concerns you, the Buick’s engine doesn’t raise its voice much. Under wide-open throttle, the Avenir measured a quiet 72 decibels in our testing. The considerably more expensive Mercedes-Benz GLC300 emits 76 decibels in the same test. At a steady 70 mph, the Encore GX rolls at a hushed 68 decibels.
Even over Michigan’s frost-heaved roads, the ride is smooth and comfortable and the handling remains secure right up to its low skidpad grip of 0.81 g. Again, sportiness isn’t the flavor here, so sit back and enjoy the quiet.
Despite its size, the Encore GX manages to offer impressive practicality. We wouldn’t recommend stuffing your tallest friends in the back seat for long road trips, but the rear of the Buick is comfortable and spacious enough for shorter journeys. Something the Encore GX’s size isn’t built for is schlepping major cargo, but the front passenger seat’s fold-flat capability allows you to stuff in an extra-long IKEA flat pack or a ladder. For additional versatility, the load floor can be adjusted up or down, and there’s a removable shelf in the cargo area allowing for even more storage. In our testing, we found there’s room for six carry-on suitcases behind the rear seats, 19 with them folded.
As a mainstream crossover, the Encore GX Avenir is quiet, comfortable, and practical. But at nearly $40,000 as tested, the Avenir trim is priced just below the premium competition and far beyond the Encore GX’s base price. Despite the Avenir’s luxury features and an effective makeover, the little Buick needs something a bit more special and powerful under the hood to properly bridge the gap between the mainstream and luxury markets. Until then, the Avenir version of the Encore GX will be caught between two worlds.
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, review 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 head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 82 in3, 1338 cm3
Power: 155 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 174 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
Suspension, F/R: struts/torsion 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 in
Height: 64.1 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 50/42 ft3
Cargo Volume, Behind F/R: 50/24 ft3
Curb Weight: 3384 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 8.8 sec
1/4-Mile: 16.9 sec @ 82 mph
100 mph: 28.1 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 10.1 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.8 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 6.8 sec
Top Speed (C/D est): 120 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 176 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.81 g
C/D FUEL 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
Associate News Editor
Jack Fitzgerald’s love for cars stems from his as yet unshakable 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 hounding his college professors at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he was able to travel Wisconsin seeking out stories in the auto world before landing his dream job at Car and Driver. His new goal is to delay the inevitable demise of his 2010 Volkswagen Golf.