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Although similar to Buick's original innovative subcompact Encore, the slightly larger GX version feels and drives like a more substantial SUV.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2021 Buick Encore GX is available with front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, and a choice of two turbocharged three-cylider engines.Buick brought the first Encore small crossover SUV out for the 2013 model year. At the time it was called a compact, but that was only because the subcompact SUV class hadn't really been invented yet. The tiny Encore was a big hit for Buick, selling well as the rest of the industry caught up with the market.

But the thing about the Encore is that it's really small, and American tastes in SUVs tend towards larger vehicles. By 2020 it was clear that something more was needed. So Buick brought out the Encore GX last year. The Encore GX is just enough bigger than the basic Encore to make a difference, but it makes all the difference in the world.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Although only slightly larger on the outside than the originalsubcompact Buick Encore, the GX looks and feels more substantial.

The Encore GX is three inches longer than the basic Encore, 1.4 inches wider, and about an inch shorter. But inside you'll feel like you're in a much larger SUV. That's mostly a function of design, as the actual measurements are not that different.

The Encore GX also uses a different drivetrain, with an innovative three-cylinder turbocharged engine. The base engine is a 1.2-liter unit that is a little better than the Encore's 1.4-liter by the numbers. However, the optional 1.3-liter engine available for the Encore GX is rated to produce 155 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque, which is a lot better than the 1.2 or 1.4-liter engines. At the same time, the 1.3-liter Encore GX delivers better fuel economy than either of the other engine options.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - 2021 Buick Inside, you can get every bell and whistle you can think of in the Encore GX.

You can buy the Encore GX with front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. Front-drive models use a continuously variable transmission, while AWD models get an advanced nine-speed automatic transmission.

Inside, the Encore GX gives you a nice, modern crossover SUV environment. In the Essence trim, you get heated leather seats in front, and a heated steering wheel. If you add the optional Advanced Technology Package for $1,790, you get a head-up display, high-definition surround view camera system, and a premium infotainment system with navigation, voice control, and OnStar. Adding the Convenience package for $770 delivers automatic parking assist, wireless charging, a camera-based rear-view mirror, and rain-sensing wipers. In short, you can get every bell and whistle you can think of in the Encore GX.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - In the Essence trim, you get heated leather seats in front, and a heated steering wheel in the 2021 Buick Encore GX..

The Encore GX is also a functional SUV. You can stuff 50.2 cubic feet of cargo in the back, or 23.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up. There are larger SUVs on the market that don't give you much more than that.

On the road, the Encore GX offers a good driving experience. The Encore always felt a little small and insubstantial on the road. The Encore GX has the gravitas you want to feel planted on the road. The 1.3-liter engine is well-matched to the continuously variable transmission, with modern traction and stability controls. Depending on your winter driving habits, tou might not even need to spend the extra money on AWD. One last thing, the Encore GX comes with a full suite of advanced safety features, including automatic emergency braking, following distance indicator, forward collision alert, automatic pedestrian braking, lane keeping assistance, and automatic high beams. My favorite, though, is blind spot monitoring with lane change assistance.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The Encore GX is a functional SUV. You can stuff 50.2 cubic feet of cargo in the back, or 23.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up.

The bottom line on the 2021 Buick Encore GX is that this SUV offers as much or more than competitors for comparable money. If you haven't been in a Buick recently, it's worth your time to check out the 2021 Buick Encore GX.

2021 Buick Encore GX Essence FWD

Base price: $28,600

Price as tested: $34,215

Type: Subcompact crossover SUV

Engine: 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder (137 hp, 162 lbs-ft) or (1557 hp, 174 lbs-ft)

Transmissions: Continuously Variable Transmission; 9-speed automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 30/32

Overall length: 171.4 inches

Curb weight: 4,211 pounds

Final assembly: Bupyeong, Korea


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