If you want the roominess of an SUV, but the convenience, fuel efficiency, and driving ease of a compact car, your best bet is the compact SUV. This subclass of SUVs — the little kid sister of the three-row monsters — is one of the fastest growing in popularity in recent years. It’s a great choice for a young couple, or a single person who needs the cargo space afforded by an SUV but not that third, extra row of seats. In addition, it’s the perfect choice for empty nesters who are used to driving large and mid-sized SUVs, but no longer need all that extra space. Not to mention that the slight step-up to a compact SUV makes it easier for older folks to get in and out of the vehicle than many compact sedans and coupes. Two of the best compact SUVs out there are made by Ford Motor Company and General Motors: respectively, the Ford EcoSport and the Buick Encore. But which one has the edge if you have to decide between the two? Let’s explore the features and of each vehicle from bumper to bumper and discover which compact SUV claims victory in a battle between the 2020 Ford EcoSport vs the 2020 Buick Encore.
Let’s start by pointing out the features that the two cars have in common. Both seat up to five passengers, with two in front and three in the second row. Each have a lift-gate trunk for ease of cargo storage, and a fuel tank that holds up to 14 gallons of 87-octane gasoline. Finally, both vehicles are front-wheel drive standard, with all-wheel drive as an upgrade option. Outcome: even.
Engines and performance
The 2020 Ford EcoSport comes with a standard turbocharged 1.0-liter EcoBoost Engine with automatic start-stop technology. This feature reduces fuel consumption and vehicle emissions during city driving. When the EcoSport comes to a stop, the engine automatically shuts off and seamlessly restarts when your foot leaves the brake pedal. As a result, the EPA estimated that drivers of the EcoSport receive fuel efficiency of 27 miles per gallon in city driving, 29 miles per gallon on the highway, and a combined 28 miles per gallon overall. The standard three-cylinder engine produces 123 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, and 125 pounds to feet of torque, also at 6,000 rpm. The engine runs on a six-speed automatic transmission. Also available, a 2.0-liter Ti-VCT I-4 engine.
The 2020 Ford EcoSport is rated to tow up to 1,400 pounds of trailer with the standard engine, and up to 2,000 pounds with the four-cylinder upgrade.
The 2020 Buick Encore comes with a 1.4-liter DOHC turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It produces up to 138 horsepower at 4,9000 to 6,000 rpm and 148 pounds to feet of torque at 1,850 to 4,900 rpm, on a six-speed automatic transmission. No engine upgrade is available on the Encore. The EPA estimates that drivers will experience 25 miles per gallon in city driving, 30 miles per gallon in highway driving, and a combined 27 miles per gallon overall.
The edge here goes to the EcoSport, with its surprisingly powerful and fuel-efficient engine. Also, the lack of an engine upgrade hurts the Buick. Outcome: Advantage 2020 Ford EcoSport.
Both the EcoSport and the Encore are maneuverable vehicles, but one has the edge. While the Encore features a 100.6 inch wheelbase and a turning radius of 18.35 feet, the EcoSport has a shorter wheelbase, 99.2 inches, allowing it to make tighter turns with a turning radius of 17.5 feet. Also, the Encore has a wider track base, 60.65 inches in the front, and 60.62 inches in the rear, compared to 59.8 inches in the front, and 59.7 inches in the rear for the EcoSport. Finally, while both compact SUVs feature independent suspension in the front with MacPherson struts, the EcoSport has a semi-independent suspension in the rear while the Encore has a torsion beam suspension. As a result, drivers should find the EcoSport easier to handle and more maneuverable. Outcome: Slight advantage 2020 Ford EcoSport.
Every 2020 Buick Encore comes equipped with the Buick Infotainment System. This includes an 8-inch color touchscreen, with 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, 6-speaker AM/FM audio system, Bluetooth, an introductory subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. In contrast, the base 2020 Ford EcoSport S comes only with Ford Sync, USB charging ports, and a six-speaker AM/FM stereo. To get a standard Ford Sync3 infotainment system, buyers will have to go to the next trim level for the Ford EcoSport SE. The SE will give them a color touchscreen, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, SiriusXM satellite radio, Amazon Alexa, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, since the EcoSport SE is priced less than the base model Buick Encore 1SV, this is a fairly comparable feature except with respect to the EcoSport S. Outcome: Slight advantage 2020 Buick Encore.
Trim Levels and Pricing
The 2020 Ford EcoSport comes in four trim levels, starting with the base model S with an MSRP of $20,485, the SE with a starting MSRP of $23,450, the Titanium with a starting MSRP of $26,265, and the top-of-the-line SES with an MSRP of $27,380. The 2020 Buick Encore also has four trim levels, starting with the base model 1SV for an MSRP of $24,195, the Preferred with an MSRP of $25,595, the Sport Touring with an MSRP of $26,795, and the top trim level Essence with an MSRP of $30,295. Price points are in Ford’s favor, as a fully loaded Ford EcoSport SES has a base MSRP that is only slightly more than the third level Encore Sport Touring. Outcome: Slight advantage 2020 Ford EcoSport.
Roominess and Cargo Space
This one is a complete surprise, but the smaller 2020 Ford EcoSport actually has more room for passengers and cargo than the larger 2020 Buick Encore. The EcoSport measures 161.3 inches in length, 69.5 inches in width, and 64.8 inches in height. In contrast, the Encore has a 168.35-inch length, a 70.1-inch width, and a 65.25-inch height. Nevertheless, there are 20.9 inches of cargo space behind the second row of seats in the EcoSport, and a full 50 inches behind the first row, while the Encore only provides 18.8 inches of cargo space behind the second row of seats and 48.4 inches behind the first row.
It may seem inconceivable, but this space differential carries over to the passenger compartment. Front row passengers in the Encore will receive 39.58 inches of headroom, 40.82 inches of legroom, 51.65 inches of hip room, and 54.18 inches of shoulder room, while the second-row passengers get 38.78 inches of headroom, 35.75 inches of legroom, 50.08 inches of hip room, and 52.5 inches of shoulder room. This is less than the EcoSport, which provides 39.6 inches of headroom for front-row passengers, 42.9 inches of legroom, 51.6 inches of hip room, and 53.3 inches of shoulder room, while providing second-row passengers with 37.5 inches of headroom, 36.7 inches of legroom, 50.9 inches of hip room, and 51.3 inches of shoulder room. That’s an extra two inches of legroom from front-row passengers and one inch of legroom for rear-seat passengers in the EcoSport than in the Encore. Outcome: Advantage 2020 Ford EcoSport.
Both compact SUVs come with plenty of safety features. The base model Buick Encore 1SV comes with four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, StabiliTrak with traction control, ten airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, and a rear vision camera. The Ford EcoSport S also comes with many safety features, built on Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 system, and includes four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, AdvanceTrac with roll stability control for traction control, an SOS post-crash alert system, nine airbags, a torque vectoring control, rearview camera, and hill start assist. However, as previously stated, the EcoSport SE has a lower MSRP than the base model Encore 1SV, yet provides a number of other safety features, including a reverse sensing system to alert you to any vehicles or pedestrians behind you. As a result, the EcoSport is a better value than the Encore for safety features. Outcome: Advantage 2020 Ford EcoSport.