Chevrolet Trax vs Buick Encore: GM Compact SUVs Square Off

While compact SUVs have gotten smaller over the years, making room for new models slotted below the mid-sized SUVs, the segment has grown a great deal.

With more young buyers looking to small SUVs rather than small cars, every automaker has gotten into the race to offer the most attractive and most inexpensive sport utility vehicle on the market. This segment is huge, with entries from economy brands and premium brands going head-to-head, forcing the economy brands to step up their game while the luxury brands are forced to charter into new entry-level pricing territory.

Two key compact SUVs which are in the lower end of the pricing spectrum are the Chevrolet Trax and the Buick Encore. These two vehicles are closely related, sharing a chassis platform and drivetrain features, but they have unique exterior designs and, more importantly, the Buick is more of a luxury model while the Chevy comes with fewer standard features and a lower price.

Since the Trax and Encore are so closely related, you might have a hard time deciding which is right for you, so we put together a comparison of the two, highlighting where each shines brighter and which is better for which type of buyer.

Cabin Space

The Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore have the same basic interior and exterior dimensions, but due to the differences of the basic design of the seats, the passenger space dimensions vary slightly as well.

Chevrolet: The Chevrolet Trax offers standard seating for five, with 39.6 inches (1005.84 mm) of headroom, 40.8 inches (1036.32 mm) of legroom, 54.1 inches (1374.14 mm) of shoulder room, and 51.7 inches (1313.18 mm) of hip room upfront. In the rear seating area, passengers get 38.8 inches (985.52 mm) of headroom, 35.7 inches (906.78 mm) of legroom, 52.8 inches (1341.12 mm) of shoulder room, and 50.7 inches (1287.78 mm) of hip room.

Buick: The Buick Encore also offers seating for five, with 39.6 inches (1005.84 mm) of headroom, 40.82 inches (1036.82 mm) of legroom, 54.18 inches (1376.17 mm) of shoulder room, and 51.65 inches (1311.91 mm) of hip room in the front seats. The rear passengers get 38.78 inches (985.01 mm) of headroom, 35.75 inches (908.05 mm) of legroom, 52.5 inches (1333.5 mm) of shoulder room, and 50.08 inches (1272.03 mm) of hip room.

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Bottom Line: The Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore are within a half-inch of each other in every dimension except for the rear hip room, but those small variances between the two give the Trax an advantage in terms of interior space – albeit a small one.

Cargo and Towing

In addition to offering more space for passengers, compact SUVs have a big advantage over sedans in terms of cargo capacity. For having such a small footprint on the road, the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore both offer a solid amount of cargo space.

Chevrolet: The Chevrolet Track offers 48.4 cu-ft of cargo space behind the front seats, with the rear seats folded down. When you need the rear seats, you still get 18.7 cu-ft of cargo space in the rear-most area.

Buick: The Buick Encore offers the exact same measurement of 48.4 cu-ft of cargo space behind the front seats, but with 18.8 cu-ft of space behind the rear seats, the Buick has a slightly larger cargo area.

Bottom Line: Once again, these two vehicles are nearly identical, but the Buick Encore does have a very small advantage over the Chevrolet Trax in terms of cargo space when you need to use all of the seats for passengers. Both the Chevrolet Trax and the Buick Encore were not designed or intended to tow a trailer, and it actually says that in the owner’s manual, so if towing is a concern, neither of these compact SUVs are for you.

Technology and Features

When compact SUVs first became popular, they were relatively bare-bones vehicles, lacking any sort of luxury feel. With the introduction of luxury brand models to the segment, all automakers have worked to make these low-cost SUVs more attractive in terms of interior features. As a result, both the Chevrolet Trax and the Buick Encore come with a long list of standard features, some of which were unheard of for small, inexpensive models like these just a few years back.

Chevrolet: The Chevrolet Trax comes standard with seating for five, featuring cloth front bucket seats that are manually adjustable, including the headrests. The driver’s seat has four-way adjustment and the passenger’s seat has two-way adjustment. A 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat is standard on all models, but if you opt up to the LT package, you get cloth seats with leatherette trim with the option of heated front seats and a power-adjustable driver’s seat as well.

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In terms of infotainment, every 2021 Chevrolet Trax comes with the Chevrolet Infotainment 3 System with a 7-inch diagonal color touchscreen. This infotainment system includes Bluetooth connectivity for two devices, Apply CarPlay, Android Auto and voice commands for applicable devices, with the tunes being broadcast through a 6-speaker sound system.

This system is also WiFi, OnStar and Chevrolet Connected Access capable, and it comes with a 3-month subscription to SiriusXM. Standard features also include a 3.5-inch diagonal Driver Information Center in the gauge cluster, a 12-volt power outlet, dual USB ports, an 8-point digital compass, a manual tilt and telescoping steering column, steering wheel-mounted controls, power locks, power windows, the Rear Vision Camera system, remote keyless entry and a single-zone manual climate control system. When you step up to the Trax LT, you get everything above along with a 120-volt power outlet, remote start and cruise control. 

Buick: 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.

The Encore comes standard in its sole Preferred trim level with the Buick Infotainment System with 7.0-inch diagonal color touchscreen, which is 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.

Bottom Line: The interior features of the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore are similar, but the Encore comes with a larger screen in the gauge cluster and standard leatherette trim. If you want the most interior tech from your new compact SUV, the Buick gets the nod here.

Powertrain

The Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore share the same drivetrain for the 2021 and 2022 model year. While the engine remains unchanged on paper, there is a significant increase in both horsepower and torque for 2022, but for 2021, both models offer the numbers shared below.

Chevrolet: The Chevrolet Trax is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard, but you can choose between front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive on both trim levels.

Buick: The Buick Encore is also 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.

Bottom Line: Whether you are shopping for front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, the Chevrolet Trax is a bit lighter, so while the two have the same drivetrain components and the same power output, the Buick may not feel as quick due to the added weight. That being said, if you are really concerned about power, you should be shopping for the 2022 model year version of either vehicle, with 155 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque.

Fuel Economy

One of the key attractions of compact SUVs is the ability to comfortably carry people and cargo in a roomy cabin without compromising fuel economy. That is true of both the Chevrolet Trax and the Buick Encore, with both models offering at least 30 mpg on the highway.

Chevrolet: The Chevrolet Trax with the standard 1.4-liter engine and the 6-speed transmission driving the front wheels is rated at 26 mpg around town and 31 on the highway. The all-wheel-drive Trax is rated at 24 mpg city and 29 mpg on the highway, so you lose 2 miles per gallon in moving to the more-capable all-wheel-drive system.

Buick: The Buick Encore with the turbocharged engine, the 6-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel-drive is rated at 25 mpg (9.7 L/100km) in the city and 30 mpg (7.3 L/100km) on the highway. The all-wheel-drive Encore is expected to yield 24 mpg (10.2 L/100km) around town and 29 (7.7 L/100km) on the highway, so it actually loses a bit less in adding all-wheel-drive.

Bottom Line: The Buick Encore is heavier, so it comes as no surprise that the Chevrolet Trax offers better fuel economy, even if only slightly better.

Safety

Just about every new vehicle is packed with a long list of standard safety features, including the low-priced compact SUVs. Both the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore come with an array of modern safety technology, but the Buick has a few more premium options.

Chevrolet: The Chevrolet Trax list of standard safety features begins with 10 airbags, including frontal airbags, knee airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and head curtain airbags for front and rear outboard seats. The Trax also comes with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System, a theft-deterrent alarm, 3-point seat belts at every position, rear child security door locks, and the StabiliTrak electronic stability control system with traction control. If you opt for the Trax LT, you also get the Driver Confidence Package and Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Park Assist, and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.

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

Buick: The Buick Encore comes with the same 10 airbags, along with the same 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 Rainsense wipers, Front and Rear Park Assist, Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning.

Bottom Line: The Trax and Encore come with the same standard safety features, but the Buick offers more optional safety technology than the Chevy.

Styling

Since the Chevrolet Trax and the Buick Encore are based on the same chassis, they are the same basic size and shape, but there are significant exterior design changes that allow them to not look like re-badged versions of each other. The greenhouse is the same shape, but the rest of the body cladding gives the two GM compact SUVs unique shapes.

Chevrolet: Up front, the Chevrolet Trax has a wider, flatter look with a hood that has a blunt ending over the small upper grille. Flanking the upper grille is a pair of headlights that wrap around into the fenders while the lower fascia is dominated by a huge central grille flanked by black vents. Along the side, the Trax has accentuated wheel openings that give the vehicle a very beefy look, with no hard styling line running the length of the vehicle. At the back, the Trax has large taillights on either side of the spacious rear hatch.

Buick: The Buick Encore hood extends out a bit further, meeting a large upper grille that is flanked by a pair of angular, LED-trimmed headlights which flow into the sides of the vehicle. The Buick doesn’t have the accentuated wheel flares, instead opting for a body line that flows the length of the vehicle. At the rear, the Encore taillights are styled a bit differently, but the rear ends are pretty similar.

Bottom Line: The Chevrolet Trax has a tougher, more rugged look while the Buick Encore has a sleeker, premium design with a more high-tech feel from front to rear.

Pricing

The biggest reason why compact SUVs have become so popular is their low price tags, with the Chevrolet Trax and the Buick Encore being among the least expensive new cars on the market today. However, with the Buick only being offered in the Preferred trim level and offering more standard and optional features, the Chevy has a pretty significant pricing advantage.

Chevrolet: The Chevrolet Trax LS with front-wheel-drive starts at $22,595 including destination and when you add all-wheel-drive, the starting MSRP only jumps to $23,215. When you opt for the premium LT trim level, the front-drive Trax starts at $24,395 while the all-wheel-drive LT starts at $25,015. Mind you, that price includes all of the standard features mentioned above.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer Review: Not Straying from the Path

Buick: The Buick Encore is only currently offered in the top-of-the-line Preferred trim level, with the front-wheel-drive variant starting at $25,795. If you would prefer the all-wheel-drive version of Buick’s smallest SUV, the base price jumps to $26,415.

Bottom Line: If you are shopping on a tight budget, the Chevrolet Trax has a defined advantage over the Buick. You don’t get as many features, but the list of standard components inside and out is impressive for a vehicle that starts just over $20,000.

Verdict: Chevrolet Trax vs Buick Encore

If you are shopping for a compact SUV and you are stuck on the Chevrolet Trax and the Buick Encore, you have to ask yourself two basic questions. Are you more concerned with a vehicle that looks and feels a little more luxurious and if so, are you willing to pay a couple of thousand dollars extra for the premium model?

If you answered yes to those questions, the Buick Encore is the vehicle for you. If you don’t think that the Buick’s advantages are worth the extra money, then the Chevrolet Trax is the better choice. They are practically identical in terms of size, they will drive very similar and they have almost all of the same features, so it really comes down to whether you want the extra available safety bits and the premium look of the Buick. If you aren’t interested in the few advantages of the Encore, the Trax is an easy choice that will save you money at the dealership.

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