As auto manufacturers quietly discontinue car production and sedans gradually go the way of the Dodo, compact and mid-size crossover Sport Utility Vehicles popularity continues to rise as the sedan’s natural predecessor. Once only popular among off-road enthusiasts, vehicle buyers have been flocking to the SUV market for a variety of reasons that include seating capacity, safety features, visibility, cargo capacity and, of course, more capable handling for inclement weather and harsh driving conditions. Some may suggest that the demand for SUVs has caused many manufacturers and dealerships to raise their prices, but most auto experts would disagree as the influx of consumers and SUVs hitting the market encourages competitive pricing and feature additions. If anything, the mid-size and compact SUVs proliferance has only improved the quality of vehicles with a relatively unchanged price tag; an SUV may cost more than a sedan, but based on the features and additional driver safety features, the SUV is more cost effective, basically you pay for what you get. Many new converts to the crossover market may have switched initially due to consistently reasonable prices at the pump, but they are soon finding an additional benefit as the four-cylinder SUV crossover engines also get better than average gas mileage. With neither price tag nor gas mileage to delineate between crossovers, how does your average consumer choose between a 2019 Buick Encore vs 2019 Mazda CX-3? That is where we step in. We have provided a spec by spec comparison to help you decide which crossover best suits your driving needs. And we think you will find that although the two vehicles have many similarities, the Buick Encore goes that extra mile in performance standards, quality and quiet interior cabin, and overall available features.
The one category that the Mazda CX-3 may have a slight advantage over the Encore is in the engine department. The Encore comes standard with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower with 148 pound-feet of torque; paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The standard engine leaves a little wanting as far as power; however for a subcompact crossover less “umph” is to be expected and the Encore’s base engine remains competitive with vehicles in its class. A more powerful version of this engine that can produce 153 horsepower with 177 pound-feet of torque is optional on the top-tier Sport Touring and Essence trims. So if you feel the need to add some zip or greater towing capacity to your Encore, there is an optional upgrade. For the Mazda CX-3, this is not the case; all models are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower with 146 pound-feet of torque. Paired with a six-speed automatic transmissmiion, the engine fails to put much of an edge over the Encore’s base 1.4-liter; and to boot, the CX-3 has no other engine option. Even with the Encore’s base model underperforming ever so slightly behind the CX-3, the Encore still manages to be quick off the line and good in stop and go traffic making it an ideal city driving vehicle. The Encore may suffer losses in accelerating up to highway speeds where passing vehicles is a necessity, but so will the CX-3; also, you don’t drive a compact crossover for it sporty engine performance. If need be, the Encore has the second more powerful engine option to really get you moving whereas the CX-3 offers no other options. It is essentially a “what you see is what you get” when it comes to powertrain and performance standards. All but the base trim offer optional all-wheel drive.
Do you hear that? That’s the sound of road silence. At least that is what you and your passengers will be commenting on for months after you purchase a 2019 Buick Encore. Every trim level comes with Buick’s signature QuietTuning treatment, giving the interior cabin that hushed sound of solitude. To keep road noises at a minimum, the treatment includes acoustic-laminated windshield and side glass, layers of sound-deadening material under a thick carpet, and an assortment of smaller details like hydraulic bushings and quiet tires. And it really works. The only noises you will be hearing when driving your 2019 Encore will be the ones coming from inside your crossover. Mazda claims to have reduced noise and vibrations in the CX-3 which were average in previous models; road noise is kept to a minimum but the most noticeable sound was the revving engine especially at higher RPMs for highway acceleration. The Encore is obviously in a league of its own when it comes to noise canceling technology, and the CX-3 cannot compete.
When it really comes down to it, most crossovers, including the CX-3, simply can’t match the refinement and style of the Encore. Although the doors sound hollow and the headliner feels cheap, the CX-3’s interior generally feels made from quality materials, but even at the top-tier trim levels it fails to meet the luxury feel of the Encore. Door armrests feel hard and you get an overall covered plastic feel throughout the interior. As for cargo space, the Encore has 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats upright and that number goes up to 48.3 cubic feet with the seats folded down. The CX-3 comes up short in the cargo space department not only in comparison to the Encore but also to the entire class of crossovers. There are only 12.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats and folding them flat only expands that space to 44.5 cubic feet.
The Encore once again gets points for the long list of standard and optional features included/optionable even at the base trim levels. For the 2019 edition, Buick streamlined trim levels to three, consolidating all previous Encore amenities and offering features as available options for each of the trim levels. I mean come on, even the base model comes equipped with features such as 18-inch wheels, roof rails, a handy fold-flat front passenger seat, Bluetooth, an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, an 8-inch touchscreen, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. And, moving up to a fully loaded Encore will give you amenities such as a remote start, a heated steering wheel and heated front seats.
Mazda’s CX-3 does offer a 7-inch infotainment screen standard on all trim levels, but the interface is far from intuitive and many of the functions require too many steps for the system to be of any assistance while driving. Also, which is a big surprise in the modern tech age for new automobiles, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are conspicuously absent in the base trim. The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration has given both vehicles excellent 5-star ratings. The latest safety assist programs are also made available for both vehicles including Blind Spot Monitor, Smart Brake Support, and Lane Change/Departure Warning.
The 2019 Buick Encore is a leading subcompact SUV that manages to still check all the boxes when it comes to fundamental SUV necessities. With plenty of standard features, excellent safety appeal, good cargo space for its class, and a hushed and agile ride for daily use, the 2019 Buick Encore is clearly the better overall choice when compared to Mazda’s CX-3. As an additional benefit, the Encore also offers a more aggressive engine option and high end features that the CX-3 just does not have available. The Encore also comes with a four-year/50,000 mile warranty and a six-year/70,00 mile powertrain coverage, a warranty that ranks above many competitors in this class including the Mazda CX-3. Although the CX-3 is cheaper with an MSRP starting at between $20,390 you pay for what you get, and the two to three thousand increase for the Buick Encore (MSRP starting at $23,200) is money well spent. For these reasons and the rest listed above, we recommend the 2019 Buick Encore as our pick for subcompact crossover SUV.