Nature abhors a vacuum. So do SUV makers. If there's a space between models where another could fit, it cries out to be filled.
And so, say hello to the 2020 Buick Encore GX Essence. The Encore GX is its own model, slotting neatly between the subcompact Encore and the midsize Envision.
It's a good-looking package, with creases and angles giving the impression of a bit more heft than the Encore GX actually has.
Heft is noticeably absent in the engine bay. That's a 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. If you think that's small, the standard engine is 1.2 liters. It makes 137 horsepower. The optional 1.3 in our tester makes 155. Not having driven the 1.2, I can't say whether the difference is pronounced, but given that the "hot" engine needs 9.3 seconds to get to 60 miles per hour, I can't imagine not spending the $395 extra.
Shifting doesn't exist, really---it's a continuously variable transmission. EPA fuel economy estimates are 30 miles per gallon city, 32 highway.
The Essence is the Encore GX's top-level trim. As such, there's a mix of leather trim where your hands touch things, some piano black trim and a bit of brightwork---all to convey a sense of premium compact-ness. The base price for the 2020 Buick Encore GX Essence is $28,500. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the highlights that come standard at that price are front and rear USB-A and USB-C ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a ten-way power driver's seat and eight-way power front passenger seat, a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel and 18-inch machined aluminum wheels with painted pockets.
Our tester also had a fair amount of extra-cost optional equipment including the Advanced Technology Package---HD surround vision camera, head-up display, adaptive cruise control, an upgraded infotainment system with navigation---for $1,790; the White Frost Tricoat paint for $1,095; the Convenience Package---automatic parking assist with braking, wireless charging, a rear-camera mirror with washer and rain-sensing windshield wipers---for $770; the Liftgate Package---a hands-free opening system---for $520; and the aforementioned 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine for $395.
With $995 destination charge, the as-tested price of the 2020 Buick Encore GX Essence FWD is $34,065. At first blush, that seems a bit steep, but it's actually right in line with top-of-the-line competitors like the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. If you're looking for a bit more of an upscale feel and like to buy American (though the Encore GX is built in Korea), the Encore GX could be worth your attention.