- Perky looks
- Right-size for city
- Clean interior design
- Good infotainment
- Quite slow
- Lack of safety features
- Starting to feel too old
- Can be pricey
features & specs
The 2020 Buick Encore was a good choice for city slickers, but it’s showing its age in all the wrong ways
The 2020 Buick Encore is a pint-sized crossover SUV that checks many boxes for an urban runabout but lacks the refinement, safety features, and value of some rivals. It’s also Buick’s strongest-selling model, and though long in the tooth, a few changes for the 2020 model year keep it competitive against the growing SUV onslaught, including a larger Encore GX due in 2020.
We give the Encore 5.0 out of 10 with praise for its decent handling and urban usability despite a lackluster engine and limited interior space. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Encore enters its seventh model year in the U.S. with reduced trim levels and one unfortunate change: the disappearance of the more powerful and efficient turbocharged engine. In the past, Encore buyers could choose between a 138- or 153-horsepower version of a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4, but now only the less-powerful version is available. Strangely, more buyers opted for the base engine despite a significant power boost and a bump of one overall mpg for just $250 extra. However, the more powerful 1.4 engine may find new life in the Encore GX, a larger new crossover that slots between the tiny Encore and the midsize Envision.
All trim levels of the Encore come equipped with power features, OnStar, and satellite radio as standard, while higher trims add further comfort and technology options like heated leather seats, active safety features, and an upgraded stereo.
The Encore is available in front- or all-wheel drive to go with its 1.4-liter turbo-4, and a 6-speed automatic transmission is the only option.
Safety scores have been impressive, with 5 stars from the federal government across the board minus a four-star rollover rating and “Good” marks all around from the IIHS minus an “Acceptable” score for the small overlap front passenger test. Active safety features are optional, and even then they are not as advanced as what’s found on most rivals.
Fuel economy also has not been updated for 2020, but the Encore managed 27 mpg overall in front-wheel-drive configuration and 26 mpg for all-wheel drive.
2020 Buick Encore
Though short and stubby, the 2020 Buick Encore is subtle and sleek enough to look contemporary.
The 2020 Buick Encore stays unchanged for this year but is still a sleek subcompact crossover despite its short and stubby dimensions. We give it 6 out of 10 for styling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Though sharing its underpinnings with global-market General Motors models, the Encore’s detailing is all Buick, with a touch of chrome and subdued styling to echo the brand’s recent models. The Encore is narrow and tall like many city SUVs but doesn’t wear these proportions as well as others. Inside, a high-mounted 8.0-inch touchscreen is the centerpiece situated above dual-zone climate controls which provide easy access but questionable usability. The interior is inoffensive and airy.
2020 Buick Encore
With its more powerful engine discontinued, the 2020 Buick Encore loses any semblance of powertrain potency.
The 2020 Buick Encore delivers on ride comfort and sound deadening, but those looking for performance should turn elsewhere. We give it 4 out of 10 for a lackluster engine that’s almost offset by its refined ride. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
For 2020, the Encore is down to one engine, and unfortunately, it’s the less-powerful one. Only the 138-horsepower base version of the 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4 remains, and that’s a shame because the formerly optional 153-hp version was both more powerful and more efficient. The Encore comes standard with a 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive, while all-wheel-drive is optional. In any configuration, the base engine takes nearly 10 seconds to reach 60 mph, so don’t expect this Buick to be brisk.
Handling is about average for the segment, but ride quality and sound deadening stand out, which is a plus as the tiny inline-4 makes an unpleasant noise during hard acceleration. While the suspension can get busy over bumpy terrain or uneven highways, the Encore handles most driving situations comfortably despite its small stature.
2020 Buick Encore
Comfort & Quality
The 2020 Buick Encore delivers on refinement at an enticing price but suffers in terms of space.
The 2020 Buick Encore is yet another example of the brand’s classic formula: a slightly-nicer Chevrolet for a slightly-higher price. As such, we give it 5 out of 10 for decent interior trim and a quiet ride. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Unsurprisingly, the short and narrow Encore is short and narrow inside, with room enough for only two occupants comfortably and a small amount of cargo. Four adults can fit in a pinch but won’t be happy for longer than a quick journey. Despite the lack of a center armrest, the front seats are supportive and comfortable enough for most, but the rear seats are cramped, flat, and relatively hard. Legroom and headroom are limited back there too, and all but the smallest rear-facing car seats are off-limits for the Encore.
With the rear seats up, there’s 19 cubic feet of cargo space, less than a Toyota Prius. With them folded down, that number balloons to 48 cubes, so not enough to move your apartment but enough to buy a small dresser.
What the Encore lacks in space it makes up for in refinement, sporting premium-feeling materials and a variety of color options. Leather upholstery is available on the Essence trim and above, but even the entry-level cloth is nice enough.
Sound deadening and acoustic glass are welcome additions over the Encore’s rivals, especially its cheaper fraternal twin, the Chevrolet Trax.
2020 Buick Encore
The 2020 Buick Encore lacks key safety features.
The 2020 Buick Encore hasn't been crash tested for the latest model year, but no major changes to the model give us the ability to make a judgement on safety without a score. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Last year, the Encore received five stars overall from the federal government with only one star being lost to the rollover rating. The IIHS gives the Encore similarly high scores, with “Good” in every category except an “Acceptable” for the passenger-side small impact test. However, no automatic emergency braking is available on any Encore, which makes it hard for us to recommend this bite-sized Buick from a safety perspective. A rearview camera and full suite of airbags are standard, and lane-departure, rear cross-traffic, and forward-collision warnings can be equipped along with blind spot monitors, but with no active tech, the Encore still lags behind competitors.
2020 Buick Encore
The 2020 Buick Encore can be had with a myriad of options, but not enough to set it aside from competitors.
With four trims and options at every level, the 2020 Buick Encore offers surprising customization for a subcompact crossover. Unfortunately, the space is more crowded than ever so standing out is hard. We give it 5 out of 10 for features. It gets a point for its good infotainment software but loses one because it’s light on safety features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The 2020 Encore lineup is simplified from six down to four trims, including base, Preferred, Sport Touring, and Essence. All-wheel-drive is available on the latter three, while front-wheel-drive is standard across the range.
All Encores get a six-way power driver’s seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, OnStar with the option for a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. An excellent 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is also standard, which comes with two USB ports and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility. The same system can also be had with satellite navigation and other tech on the Sport Touring and Essence trims as an option when equipped with a Bose audio system.
The top-tier Premium model is gone, but all of its standard features are available at least on the Essence trim if not the Preferred and Sport Touring as well. The latter two trims can be equipped with blind spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert, while the Essence is the only trim that gets the option for rain-sensing wipers, front and rear park assist, and forward collision and lane departure warnings.
Unfortunately, the more powerful 1.4-liter turbo-4 is also missing from the 2020 Encore, so all models are saddled with the anemic base engine regardless of trim. At over $30,000 fully-loaded, the Encore approaches premium subcompact SUV territory from the likes of Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.
2020 Buick Encore
The 2020 Buick Encore has not yet been tested for fuel economy, but with its most efficient and powerful engine gone, don’t expect an improvement.
The 2020 Buick Encore does away with its most powerful and efficient engine, and the one that remains manages only average fuel economy. We rate it a 5 out of 10 based on last year’s EPA estimates and will update this space if anything changes for the new year.. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
For 2019, the base 1.4-liter turbo-4 in the Encore managed 25 mpg city, 30 highway, and 27 combined mpg with front-wheel-drive and 24/29/26 mpg with all-wheel-drive. Those numbers are average if not slightly below for the rest of the segment, and we don’t expect them to improve or decline much if at all. Despite its turbocharged nature, the Encore takes regular fuel instead of premium, which should help save at the pump.