Subcompact serenity: 2022 Buick Encore GX crossover uncommonly refined

2021 Buick Encore GX Essence

By Chuck Giametta

What changes will make the 2022 Buick Encore GX different?

Nothing significant as this pretty little SUV with upscale aspirations enters its third model year. Buick’s follow-up to the smaller, dumpier-looking just-plain Encore, the Encore GX gives the brand two entries in the popular subcompact-crossover segment.

The 2022 Encore GX will return with a choice of two turbocharged three-cylinder engines and the option of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). Along with the Mazda CX-30, it’ll arguably remain the most refined vehicle in a competitive set that also includes the Chevrolet Trax and Trailblazer, Jeep Compass, Subaru Crosstrek, and Honda HR-V.

Should I wait for the 2022 Buick Encore GX or buy a 2021?

2021 Encore GX Essence

Little reason to wait. The ’22 Encore GX should essentially be a rerun of the ’21, although it’s almost certain to cost more. And with the next notable changes due via a midcycle refresh around model-year 2024, the styling and features of a 2021 Encore GX’s will remain current for some time.

Buick clearly envisions the GX as its core subcompact crossover of the future. The just-plain Encore was a surprise hit from its model-year 2013 introduction, playing its own refinement card to prove Buick had a place in this segment. But it’s being eclipsed by the GX, which shares a newer, better understructure with the Chevrolet Trailblazer.

Buick signaled the transition for model-year 2021 by trimming the lineup of the smaller, older Encore, dropping its top two trim levels and leaving a pair of basic models priced under the least expensive GX.

Expect the 2022 Encore GX lineup to repeat 2021’s with base Preferred, better-equipped Select, and top-line Essence trim levels. Each will again seat five, offer AWD, and be available with amenities not usually present across full lineups in this segment, such as a hands-free liftgate and heated front seats.

We would, however, urge Buick to match top competitors and fill out the 2022 Encore GX’s standard safety features by making adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring standard instead of optional. 

Will 2022 Buick Encore GX styling be different?

2021 Encore GX Essence

Buick might offer new colors and could introduce another appearance package. But the basic look and dimensions of the ’22 Encore GX won’t change. In what’s become an all- crossover Buick lineup it’ll continue to slot in size and price between the original Encore and the compact class Envision.

The all-new 2021 Enclave midsize crossover signals the sharp-creased look of Buick’s future, the just-plain Encore the styling of its past. The ’22 Encore GX represents a middle period of rounded forms and tailored character lines. It’s a visage befitting the GX’s conservative appeal in a segment of extroverted rivals largely aimed at younger buyers.

In tune with this crossover’s upmarket aims visual distinctions between ’22 Encore GX models should remain minor. The Essence will retain just a bit more exterior brightwork but all ’22 GXs will return with LED daytime running lamps and LED foglamps. Buick would benefit buyers, however, by making LED headlamps standard, or at least more widely available. For model-year 2021, they were exclusive to and standard for the Essence.

Every ’22 Encore should return with 18-inch alloy wheels, with Select and Essence again sharing a slightly fancier shadow-pocket design. Those models will also get roof rails as standard instead of optional.

The fancier rims and the rails should return for the Preferred as part of its Sport Touring Package. The other models also should again be available with their own Sport Touring Packages. In all cases, the package will add body-color exterior trim, a modified grille and bumpers with red accents, and yet another 18-inch wheel look. For model-year 2021, the package cost $1,100 on the Preferred and $650 on the Select and Essence.

2021 Encore GX Essence

Expect as well return of a two-tone-appearance Black Roof Package that also darkens the rails and side mirrors; it cost $395 across the board for model-year 2021.

In a practice typically reserved for premium-class vehicles, Buick probably will again charge extra for any Encore color except basic white. For ’21, it assessed $495 for any of a variety of metallic hues and $1,095 for White Frost Tricoat.

Inside, all ’22 Encore GX models will again share a functional curvilinear dashboard with an 8-inch central infotainment screen. In another tip to conservative design, the screen is integrated rather than a trendier tablet-like attachment.

2021 Encore GX Essence head-up instrument display

Wireless support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto should return as standard. Integrated navigation that doesn’t depend on a cell signal for real-time GPS mapping should again be optional for Select and Essence as part of their Advanced Technology Package.

That package probably will again include a head-up instrument display. However, instead of projecting vehicle speed and other data onto the windshield before the driver in the typical fashion, this HUD reflects it on a transparent plastic panel that powers up from the dashboard. It’s a cut-rate solution of minimal usefulness.   

Preferred and Select models should return cloth with leatherette-trim upholstery, the Essence with exclusive leather, plus dual-zone automatic climate control. In all models, materials quality is solid, fit and finish admirable, but cabin décor falls well short of premium-class territory.

2021 Encore GX Essence

Compared to the Encore, the Encore GX is longer by 1.6 inches in wheelbase (the distance between front and rear axles) and by 3 inches overall. Its roofline is an inch lower, too. That plays a role in making it look more graceful, but the two crossovers furnish virtually the same passenger volume.

Good space up front and slightly above class-average rear head and legroom create adult-worthy accommodations on seats neither too firm nor too soft. Fitting three grownups in back requires a shoehorn, but two are fine. The Preferred, though, skimps by not offering a rear center armrest.

With 23.5 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the 60/40-split rear seatbacks and 50.2 with them folded, the GX is class-competitive for cargo space. Its stubbier namesake is back of the pack, at 18.8 and 48.4, respectively. The ’22 Encore GX Essence should return with a fold-forward front passenger seat that helps carry long objects. A manual liftgate should remain standard. Expect every ’22 GX to again be available with a hands-free power liftgate with selectable opening-height adjustment. It was, a $520 option for 2021.

Any 2022 Buick Encore GX mechanical changes?

2021 Encore GX Essence

Nothing likely. The ’22 Encore GX will again share powertrains with the Trailblazer, featuring as its base engine a turbocharged 1.2-liter three-cylinder with 137 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the force that gets a vehicle moving, horsepower the energy that keeps it moving.)

Other subcompact crossovers have base engines of greater displacement and more horsepower. But this bantam three-cylinder is right in the hunt for torque. It’s available only with front-wheel drive, however.

Most ’22 Encore GX buyers should continue to opt for AWD, where a turbo 1.3-liter is standard. This three-cylinder will again have 155 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. The 1.3 should also remain available on front-wheel-drive Select and Essence models as an option priced around $395. 

The 1.2-liter will again pair with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which performs the role of a conventional automatic transmission but without stepped gear ratios. Expect the 1.3-liter to again use the CVT when paired with front wheel drive and employ a conventional nine-speed automatic when linked with AWD.

Encore GX 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine

The larger engine has just enough additional oomph to make it worth the extra cost. With lively enough acceleration and good passing and merging performance, it’s a match for most any direct competitor’s turbo four-cylinder.

In our tests, the 1.3 performed best with the CVT. The nine-speed automatic tends to default to fuel-saving higher gear ratios and doesn’t downshift promptly when you hit the gas to scoot into a gap in traffic or overtake at highway speeds. The CVT seems to coordinate better with the boost profile of the 1.3-liter’s turbocharger, smoothing the power delivery for more consistent throttle response.

Touch the gas pedal from any speed with either engine and you’re met with a guttural clatter from underhood. Buick prides itself on noise suppression, however, and insulates the GX’s cabin from most aural unpleasantness, be its source engine, road, or wind.

In evidence also is the brand’s preference for ride comfort over sporty handling. Expect the 2022 Encore GX to sluice rather than slice when you initiate a quick change of direction. Attribute that to syrupy steering and a soft suspension. Oddly, it’s behavior we had no difficulty rationalizing given this crossover’s ability to shrug off bumps and ruts. High-speed dips trigger some float and wallow, but for adeptness at isolating occupants from pot-holed pavement, the Encore GX is arguably best in class.

Indeed, with carlike ground clearance and no specific off-road settings, pavement will remain the ’22 Encore GX’s natural habitat. Do count the AWD system a worthy traction-enhancer on snowy or gravely surfaces, however. It normally operates in front-wheel drive and automatically shuffles power rearward when sensors detect tire slip.

Will 2022 Buick Encore GX fuel economy improve?

2021 Encore GX Essence

Very unlikely. Expect 2022 Encore GX EPA ratings to repeat those for the 2021 model, leaving this Buick no better than midpack for subcompact-crossover fuel efficiency.

With the 1.2-liter engine and front-wheel drive, look for subpar ratings of 26/30/28 mpg city/highway/combined. Ratings with the 1.3-liter engine should remain more competitive, at 30/32/31 mpg with front-drive and the CVT and at 26/28/28 with the nine-speed automatic and AWD. Both engines will again use regular-grade 87-octane gas.

Will there be new 2022 Buick Encore GX features?

Buick probably won’t add new equipment or technology, although we’d advocate for the sort of safety-feature rethink mentioned above.

Every 2022 Encore GX will again come standard with today’s primary driver assists. These include autonomous emergency braking capable of automatically stopping the crossover to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle, object, or pedestrian. All models will also continue to come with lane-departure warning and lane-maintaining automatic steering correction. 

However, the convenience of adaptive cruise control and the added protection of blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection will remain optional unless Buick decides to match top rivals by making these features standard. Adaptive cruise control maintains a set distance from traffic ahead. Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection warn of unseen vehicles in adjacent lanes and approaching from rear angles.

On the 2021 GX, these features were available for Preferred models in a $895 Safety Package. They were available for Select and Essence models in the Advanced Technology Package. Costing a steep $1,925, the package also included imbedded navigation, the HUD, and a useful surround-vision adjunct to the standard rearview camera.

2021 Encore GX Essence rearview camera mirror

Expect the ’22 Essence to remain exclusively available with semi-autonomous parallel parking assist, rain-sensing automatic windshield wipers, and a rear camera mirror. For ’21, these features were part of the Essence’s $770 Convenience Package. The rear camera mirror allows the inside rearview mirror to show a live video view from a tailgate-mounted lens. It provides a wider field of vision than the conventional mirror and effectively sees through cargo or rear passengers otherwise blocking the driver’s vision.

Heated front seats and a 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar should again be standard on ’22 Select and Essence models. Expect the Preferred to again offer a Cold Weather Comfort Package ($950 for ’21) that includes heated front seats, an eight-way power driver’s seat, and the remote engine start capability that’s standard on the other models.

Look for a power tilt/sliding moonroof to return as a $1,250 stand-alone option for the Preferred. It’d again be a $1,935 add-on for the ’22 Select and Essence as part of their Experience Buick Package, which also includes “Medium Android High Gloss wheels with chrome inserts.”

Will 2022 Buick Encore GX prices be different?

2021 Encore GX Essence

They’ll probably increase, although not by much unless Buick adds substantive standard equipment. For what was essentially the carryover 2021 GX, Buick increased base prices just $100.

For reference, here are 2021 Encore GX starting prices, including Buick’s $995 destination fee.  

With the 1.2-liter engine and front-wheel drive, the ’21 Preferred was priced from $25,195, the Select from $26,795, and the Essence from $29,595.

With the 1.3-liter, the Preferred with AWD started at $27,195. The Select started at $27,190 with front-drive and $28,795 with AWD, and the Essence at $29,990 and $31,595, respectively. 

Similar base prices would keep the 2022 Encore GX among the more expensive subcompact crossovers. Options, of course, further boost the bottom line, something to consider given that Buick has made the purchase of most packages dependent on also buying others.

For example, adding the hands-free liftgate to a Preferred model also required with Cold Weather Comport Package, creating a $1,470 outlay. More significant, equipping a Preferred with the Safety Package also required the Cold Weather and Hands-free Liftgate packages for a $2,365 bundle. Troublingly, though, Preferred-model buyers couldn’t get the Safety Package if they also ordered the Sport Touring Package.

Select and Essence order books showed similar mandatory package linkups. For example, to get the $770 Convenience Package with its rear camera mirror, park assist, rain-sense wipers, and wireless phone charging, Essence buyers had to also order the $1,935 Advanced Technology and $520 Hands-free Liftgate packages.

When does the 2022 Buick Encore GX come out?

2021 Encore GX Essence

Expect a fall 2021 release date for the 2022 Buick Encore GX.

Best 2022 Buick Encore GX competitors

Chevrolet Trailblazer, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona and Venue, Jeep Compass and Renegade, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Kicks and Rogue Sport, Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota C-HR, Volkswagen Taos

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]