Buick Encore vs Encore GX: Which Buick Compact SUV is Right for You?

Since being introduced for the 2013 model year, the Buick Encore has provided a premium feel for compact SUV buyers who don’t want to pay big money.

During its time in the lineup, the Encore has become one of the brand’s bestselling vehicles, but by 2019, it was time for the next generation of the Encore to go on sale around the world. In many markets, the Encore that we know here in North America was replaced by a newer, slightly larger version.

However, the smaller Encore was selling so well in the United States and Canada that General Motors was hesitant to replace it with the new model. Instead, the new model was named the Encore GX, and rather than replacing the current Encore, the GX is positioned between the slightly smaller Encore and the slightly larger Envision. This allows prospective buyers two very different options when shopping for a small Buick SUV, but the naming approach has created some issues. Some people believe that the Encore GX is simply a trim level of the Encore, but that is not the case at all. The GX is larger inside and out, it comes with unique features and it comes with different engines.

Today, we help sort out that confusion by taking a side-by-side look at the Buick Encore and Encore GX, showing how they differ from one another.

Cabin Space

The Buick Encore and Encore GX share a name, but as mentioned above, the GX is a bit larger and that leads to more interior space. They are both five-passenger models, but the larger SUV has a distinct advantage in nearly every category.

Encore: The Buick Encore offers seating for five, with 39.6 inches (1,005 mm) of headroom, 40.82 inches (1,036 mm) of legroom, 54.18 inches (1,376 mm) of shoulder room, and 51.65 inches (1,311 mm) of hip room in the front seats. In the rear seat, passengers get 38.78 inches (985.01 mm) of headroom, 35.75 inches (908 mm) of legroom, 52.5 inches (1,333 mm) of shoulder room, and 50.08 inches (1272 mm) of hip room.

GX: The Buick Encore GX also offers seating for five, but the larger model offers 39.7 inches  (1,008 mm)of headroom, 40.9 inches (1,039 mm) of legroom, 55.4 inches (1,407 mm) of shoulder room, and 51.9 inches (1,318 mm) of hip room up front. In the second row, the GX features 38.1 inches (968 mm) of headroom, 36 inches (914 mm) of legroom, 53.6 inches (1,361 mm) of shoulder room, and 47.5 inches (1,206 mm) of hip room.

Bottom Line: The Buick Encore GX was introduced as a slightly larger SUV than the Encore, and that extra size has the greatest impact in the area of interior space. The GX leads in just about every dimension, so if you want the most space for your passengers, you want the larger Buick Encore GX.

Cargo and Towing

In addition to offering more space for passengers, the added exterior size of the Encore GX leads to extra room for cargo, whether you are also carrying passengers or not.

Encore: The Buick Encore offers 48.4 cu-ft (1,370 liters) of cargo space behind the front seats and 18.8 cu-ft (532 liters) of space behind the rear seats, so there is plenty of room for hauling, but this smaller SUV is not rated for towing at all.

GX: The Buick Encore GX offers 50.2 cu-ft (1,421 liters) of cargo space behind the first row of seats and 23.5 cu-ft (665 liters) behind the second row, in the dedicated cargo area. Also, when equipped with the towing package, the GX can pull up to 1,000 lb, while the smaller Encore is not rated for towing at all.

Bottom Line: If you need lots of cargo space and if you want to tow, the Encore GX is the easy choice. The Encore offers a solid amount of cargo space, especially when the second-row seats are folded down, but the GX has a pretty significant advantage in the cargo area while also being able to pull a small trailer, such as a fishing boat or jet skis.

Technology and Features

The Buick brand has become a sort of budget luxury lineup, with all of their models coming packed with premium model technology. They don’t quite rival the entry-level Cadillacs, but the combination of leather surfaces and infotainment tech give the Encore and Encore GX a luxury level feel.

Encore: The Buick Encore comes standard with cloth seats with leatherette trim, a 6-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a 2-way manual adjustable passenger’s seat, and a 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat.

SEE ALSO: 2020 Buick Encore GX Review: Pint-Size Premium SUV Sure is Pricey

Buick also offers the 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system as standard with its two trims. It features SiriusXM, WiFi, OnStar, and Buick Connected Services capable. The Buick offers Bluetooth connectivity for two devices, Apply CarPlay, Android Auto, voice controls for select devices and a 6-speaker sound system. The Encore also comes standard with a 4.2-inch Driver Information Center screen in the gauge cluster, single-zone climate control, a compass, cruise control, power locks, power windows, Keyless Entry with Remote Start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with infotainment system controls, a manual tilt, and telescoping column and the rear vision camera. Both trims are almost identical in terms of features. The only difference is that features like remote start and road trip package are optional on the Preferred but are unavailable on the base trim. 

GX: The Buick Encore GX comes standard in Preferred trim with cloth seats with leatherette trim, featuring a 6-way manual adjustable driver’s seat, a 4-way adjustable passenger’s seat, and a 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat. When you opt for the Select trim, you get a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and heated front seats while the Essence trim level adds full leather seats and 8-way power adjust for the front passenger seat.

In terms of interior technology, every Encore GX comes with a 4.2-inch diagonal Driver Information Center in the gauge cluster and the 8-inch Buick Infotainment System with an 8-inch color touchscreen. This system features Bluetooth connectivity, SiriusXM, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and 4G LTE Wi-Fi , OnStar, and Buick Connected Services capabilities, with a 6-speaker sound system and a host of controls on the leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The GX Preferred also comes with a compass display, single-zone climate control, cruise control, power door locks, power windows, Keyless Open and Start, a pair of USB ports, active noise cancelation, and a Rear-Vision Camera system. When you step up to the Encore GX Select, you also get a dual-zone climate control system and remote start while the premium Essence trim level comes with an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an in-vehicle air ionizer, a 120-volt power outlet, and a Universal Home Remote system.

Bottom Line: The Encore and Encore GX share many interior features, but with more standard features and a slightly larger infotainment touchscreen, the GX has the edge in interior tech. Both of these compact SUVs offer a surprising number of premium features for the price, but the GX provides a more luxurious driving experience.

Powertrain

When you look at the Buick Encore alongside the slightly larger Encore GX, you might guess that they were powered by the same engines, but the larger model actually comes with two engines – both of which are smaller than the sole engine is the non-GX Encore. However, thanks to forced induction technology, all of these engines combine power and efficiency.

Encore: The Buick Encore is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter mill that offers 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, with a standard 6-speed automatic transmission and your choice of front- or all-wheel-drive.

GX: The Buick Encore GX comes standard in front-wheel-drive form with a 1.2-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine that delivers 137 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. The front-drive models can also be equipped with a 1.3-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder with 155 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque while the stronger engine is standard on all-wheel-drive models. In front-drive models, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard with both engines while the all-wheel-drive models come with a 9-speed conventional transmission.

Bottom Line: The current Buick Encore similar horsepower, but far less torque than the base front-wheel-drive engine option, but for the 2022 model year, the smaller Encore will get a bump in power to 155 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. Of course, that is still a bit less than the output of the all-wheel-drive version of the Encore GX, so if you are looking for the most power from your compact Buick SUV, you are going to want to go with the newer, larger model.

Fuel Economy

In most cases, when a new version of a vehicle arrives with larger exterior dimensions and more power, there will be a compromise in fuel economy. Fortunately, thanks to the switch to 3-cylinder engines, the larger, more powerful GX is more fuel-friendly than the original Encore.

Encore: The Buick Encore with the standard 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, the 6-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel-drive is rated at 25 mpg (9.7 L/100 km) in the city and 30 mpg (7.3 L/100 km) on the highway. The all-wheel-drive Encore is expected to yield 24 mpg (10.2L/100 km) around town and 29 (7.7 L/100 km) on the highway.

GX: The Buick Encore GX with front-wheel-drive and the 1.2-liter engine offers 28 mpg (8.2 L/100 km) around town and 31 mpg (7.6 L/100 km) on the highway. The larger engine with front-wheel-drive is the most efficient package with 30 mpg (8.2 L/100 km) around town and 32 (7.4 L/100 km) on the highway, while the all-wheel-drive GX with the 1.3-liter engine yields 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km) in the city and 29 mpg (8.2 L/100 km) on the open road.

Bottom Line: If fuel economy is your key focus, the Encore GX with front-wheel-drive and the 1.3-liter engine is the best option, but even in all-wheel-drive form, the GX offers better fuel economy numbers than the original Encore with the 4-cylinder engine.

Safety

Most new vehicles come with plenty of safety features, but with Buick being postured as an affordable luxury brand, it should come as little surprise that these low-priced compact SUVs come with lots of technology to keep you and everyone around you safe.

Encore: The Buick Encore comes with 10 airbags, along with the Tire Pressure Monitoring System, theft-deterrent alarm, 3-point seat belts, rear child security door locks and the StabiliTrak electronic stability control system with traction control. The Encore is available with two different safety packages, one which adds Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert and a 120-volt power outlet while the second adds rain sensing wipers, Front and Rear Park Assist, Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning.

GX: The GX comes with the same 10 airbags, including frontal airbags for driver and front passenger, knee airbags for driver and front passenger, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for all outboard seating positions and head-curtain airbags for front and rear outboard seating positions. Next, the newer, larger Buick SUV comes with the Buick Driver Confidence package, which adds Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Following Distance Indicator and IntelliBeam auto high-beam assist. Every Encore GX also comes with a remote panic alarm, the Teen Driver system, a theft-deterrent system, a Tire Pressure Monitoring System with Tire Fill Alert, a brake lining wear indicator, and the StabiliTrak electronic stability control system with traction control. When you step up to the Select or Essence trim levels, you also get Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Bottom Line: Both of these compact Buick SUVs are chock full of high tech safety features, but once again, the newer-and-larger GX has the edge over the original Encore. The GX has a few key items to make it a bit safer, but the Encore doesn’t skimp on components to keep your family safe on the open road.

Styling

The Buick Encore GX replaced the original Encore in some markets, but in the United States, the two are sold side-by-side. They feature a different enough exterior design to allow them to stand apart from each other, but the GX styling is clearly an evolution of the older Encore design. As you might expect, the newer GX looks like a higher-tech iteration of the Encore.

Encore: The Buick Encore has a short hood with an upper grille that angles back towards the windshield at a fairly sharp angle. The Encore has a pair of angular, LED-trimmed headlights which flow into the sides of the vehicle. Along the lower portion of the front fascia, there is a slimmer grille area which is flanked by a pair of “vents” that give the front end a sportier look. Along the sides, the Encore has a body line that flows the length of the vehicle, with black wheel arches bolstering the sporty design.

GX: The Encore GX has a grille that is upright and larger, connecting to the headlights on each side. This gives the front end a longer, wider look while the enlarged lower fascia vents give the GX an edgier, more aggressive look. Along the sides, rather than a body line that flows the length of the vehicle, the GX has a sharp line that begins in the rear door and flows back to the taillights. When coupled with the sloping rear roofline, the GX has a much sportier profile than the original Encore. Also, depending on the trim level, the GX offers body-colored wheel flare trim and red accents, for those who want a more premium look.

Bottom Line: The original Encore has a more subdued look with a touch of luxury coming from the LED-trimmed headlights and a splash of chrome. The GX has more aggressive styling from front to rear, with revised headlights that provide a more modern look. If you want a sportier, more modern-looking compact SUV, then the Encore GX is ideal. If you like a more subtle vehicle, then the original Encore may appeal more to you.

Pricing

The Buick Encore and Encore GX are similarly sized with similar features, so it should come as little surprise that they have similar pricing. That being said, the newer, larger and more heavily appointed GX costs a little more, especially once you start loading it with premium content.

Encore: Prices for the base Buick Encore start from $24,395 and is only available with FWD. The Preferred trim level meanwhile with the front-wheel-drive variant starts at $25,795. If you would prefer the all-wheel-drive version of Buick’s smallest SUV, the base price jumps to $26,415.

GX: The Buick Encore GX is offered in Preferred, Select, and Essence trim levels, each of which is available with front- or all-wheel-drive. The entry-level Encore GX Preferred model with front-drive starts at $25,395 while stepping up to the mid-range Select package starts at $26,995. The range-topping Essence models with front-wheel-drive start at $30,290. When you add all-wheel-drive and the 1.3-liter engine, the Preferred models start at $27,395, Select starts at $28,995 and the all-wheel-drive Essence models start at $31,795

Bottom Line: If you are looking to spend the least amount of money possible on your new all-wheel-drive vehicle purchase, the Encore Preferred with front-wheel-drive is a great option. The front-drive Encore costs a bit less than the GX as well, but when you look at the advantages of the newer, larger SUV, the added cost of the Encore GX is well worth the expense.

Verdict: Buick Encore vs Buick Encore GX

If you are shopping for a new compact crossover, you want the most interior content for the money and you are focused on the Buick brand, the Encore and Encore GX are both excellent options. The GX has more interior space, more power, and better fuel economy with more interior and safety technology, all without a huge increase in price. If the extra interior space, power, fuel economy, and technology appeals to you then the GX is the easy choice. If you are looking to keep your purchase price low, then the original Encore is the way to go, as it offers many of the same features in a smaller package with a smaller price.

Become an AutoGuide insider. Get the latest from the automotive world first by subscribing to our newsletter here.