2021 Models are slowly making their way into the market, and so far, there is already quite a lot to love. From more advanced auto safety features included as standard to the return of vintage models to automotive lineups, the 2021 model year is already shaping up to be pretty big. Although, two early models have already sparked some level of discussion amongst those in the market for a midsize SUV: the 2020 Buick Encore GX and 2021 Chevy Trailblazer. Here you have two substantially equipped SUVs that attempt to blend utility with next-level comfort and safety. This can be a difficult balance to strike, particularly with so much competition out there. The SUV is a boomingly popular body styling, and it takes some truly brilliant automotive design to make a long-lasting impression. We’ll peel back the cover on both of these 2021 SUVs, and help you determine which might offer up the better value.
What We Know About Pricing and Trim Models
Both the Buick Encore GX and the Chevy Trailblazer are similarly sized crossovers that offer a maximum capacity of five passengers. Pricing is also at a similar range; however, it is the Chevy Trailblazer that offers the more affordable option. Starting at an MSRP of $19,000, the Chevy Trailblazer exists near the economy range. Meanwhile, the Buick Encore GX starts off at an MSRP of $24,100, and while the Buick may be more on the luxurious side, this jump in price can be a big deterrent for certain drivers.
Although, it is worth paying clear attention to the trims, as options matter when shopping for a new crossover. The Chevy Trailblazer offers five different trim levels the L, LS, LT, Activ, and RS. The Encore GX, on the other hand, delivers three simple trim selections the Preferred, Select, and Essence. While having more options available is great, what features come at each tier matters far more. And as the old saying goes, ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover.’
How They Act on the Road
Overall performance is a big deal for any car. It is one thing to have a suite of impressive smart features, but without a capable engine, your experience behind the wheel is likely to be subpar. This is the reason why we consider performance to be such a huge factor when determining the quality of a vehicle. The powertrains available in both the Buick Encore GX and the Chevy Trailblazer are rather small compared to the engines packed into competitor models. But this compact size works in their favor as they can also provide rather remarkable fuel efficiency, which is in high-demand with any vehicle. However, as is often the case with fuel-focused engines, overall performance can take a steep decline, all for the sake of using less gas.
The engine that powers the base model of the Buick Encore GX is a 1.2-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine, which produces 137 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. A CVT transfers this power through the engine, and a front-wheel drivetrain is considered a standard bit of equipment. While this engine may seem small, it gets the job done, giving drivers a remarkable 26 MPG in the city and 30 MPG on the highway, which results in 28 MPG combined.
You can even upgrade that baseline engine, transforming it into a 1.3-liter turbo-3, which produces 155 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. In this model, you can also trade out the rather simple CVT for a more powerful 9-speed automatic transmission. An all-wheel drivetrain can also be saddled to the Encore GX, giving the crossover some improved handling during rough road conditions. Riding in the Encore GX is a rather smooth and calming experience, as road noise is kept to a minimum. This peaceful ride, adds to the overall luxury feel of the Encore GX and makes for a level of performance that is somewhat difficult to compete against.
The Chevy Trailblazer, by comparison, boasts a nearly identical 1.2-liter turbo-3 engine that is rated for 137 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. There is also a 1.3-liter option as well, that offers 155 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. Like the Buick Encore GX, the Chevy Trailblazer gets a CVT in base models and a nine-speed automatic transmission when you upgrade the performance package. Front-wheel drive may be standard, but when equipped with the optional all-wheel drivetrain you can get a pretty reasonable off-roader thanks to the 7.5 inches of ground clearance. While it won’t be able to take on truly challenging routes, the crossover can hold its own on simple trails.
A Cabin Made for Kings
While the powertrains of these two SUVs may be identical, the interior cabin couldn’t be more different. The Encore GX measures in 171.4 inches from end to end and carries a wheelbase of 102.2 inches. This translates to about 50.2 cubic feet of cargo space when the rear seats are folded down. The Encore GX’s interior starts off with synthetic leather and cloth seating, as well as a pretty sizeable 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen in the center dash. This infotainment system is also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto friendly, a staple amenity in any modern car now. The Encore GX is also compatible with Amazon Alexa, giving you the opportunity to enjoy audiobooks and control navigations on the fly.
Higher tiered models of the Encore GX toss in premium-level add-ins like an eight-way power-adjustable driver and passenger seat, a heated leather steering wheel, a panoramic roof, and a Bose premium audio system. This cabin is amplified due to the number of active safety and driver assistance features found onboard. Each model of the Encore GX comes packed with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and LED headlights with automatic high beams, and that’s only the start. Upgrade the Encore GX, and you get to enjoy adaptive cruise control, automatic park assist, and a sprawling surround-view camera system.
The interior of the Chevy Trailblazer, by comparison, is a bit bigger, giving drivers 54 cubic feet of cargo room to play with. Upholstery and interior cabin materials are pretty low-grade when compared to the Encore GX, while you do get the option of upgrading to leather, base model buyers are expected to feel satisfied with cloth. The standard infotainment system in the Chevy Trailblazer is quite similar to that in the Buick Encore GX, although, is an inch smaller, and offers far fewer features. That said, you do still get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and get the added benefit of a Wi-Fi hotspot all for free. The Chevy Trailblazer does provide significant driver assistance features as well. Base models come with automatic emergency braking as well as lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warnings. Also, like the Buick Encore GX, you can upgrade this standard package to include things like adaptive cruise control.
Finding the Best Midsize SUV
So, which of these two SUVs is superior? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some may find the premium entry-price of the Buick Encore GX a better fit, due to its standard array of features and number of luxury amenities even in lower-end models. Others may shrink from the price and find themselves content with what the Chevy Trailblazer brings to the table. While we argue that the extra spend of the Buick Encore GX is worth it, we suggest visiting your local dealership to see for yourself which model might satisfy your auto needs the best.