You will be forgiven if you think it is ironic that a vehicle called subcompact SUV are part of a crowded field of vehicles, but it is true. Practically every major automaker offers at least one model in this class. The reason why is simple. More drivers see the value in a subcompact SUV that is roomier than a subcompact sedan, yet delivers similarly exceptional fuel economy. One of the models that fits this bill is the Buick Encore. Even though Buick has discontinued this model, if you see a used Buick Encore for sale, you know you have the opportunity to get a high quality subcompact SUV at a great price.
Buick introduced the Encore in 2013 as the automaker made its move into solely producing SUV models. The goal was to give drivers the comfort and luxury features that are the hallmark of Buick in a smaller, more affordable model. The Encore proved so popular that Buick came out with a larger version called the Encore GX. Unfortunately for the Buick Encore, this larger model proved more popular, and the Encore took its final bow for the 2022 model year. However, the original Encore is still an exceptional model. You can see for yourself by comparing it to the leading models in its vehicle class.
Buick Encore Basics
The Buick Encore has always come equipped with a 1.4L EcoTec Turbo I-4 gas engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. However, the output of this powertrain differs depending on which model year you buy. Up through 2020, this engine delivered 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. However, the 2021 model boosted output to 155 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. While this gave the 2022 Encore better overall acceleration, it didn’t harm the exceptional fuel economy of the model. The 2022 Encore gets 27 miles per gallon in combined fuel economy with front-wheel drive form, and 26 miles per gallon in combined fuel economy on all-wheel drive models. This is the same figure as on the other years of the Encore.
This is also a fairly roomy model for a compact SUV. It has always had 92.8 cubic feet of passenger space, with front row riders getting 40.8 inches of legroom, while those in the back enjoying 35.7 inches of legroom. In other words, you can easily seat five passengers comfortably in a used Encore. In addition, the Encore has 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space that can be expanded to 48.4 cubic feet by folding down the rear seats. Finally, the Encore has an eight-inch touchscreen for its infotainment system on all models.
Crossing Paths With the Subaru Crosstrek
The Subaru Crosstrek is another popular subcompact SUV model. Like most Subarus, the Crosstrek comes with standard symmetrical all-wheel drive. However, if you are looking at a used Crosstrek, you will have to pay a premium for performance. For example, the 2021 Crosstrek comes with a 2.0L Boxer-4 gas engine, making 152 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque, paired with a six-speed manual transmission. This means you have to pay a premium for a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to match the Encore’s automatic. Also, if you want a sportier engine, you will have to pay extra for a 2.5L Boxer-4 engine on the Crosstrek, which only comes with a CVT. This engine generates 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, more than you can get in the Encore, but you have to pay extra to get it. With an Encore, you get a standard engine with an automatic transmission. Finally, the Crosstrek features a 6.5-inch touchscreen on the infotainment system, substantially smaller than the eight-inch touchscreen on the Encore.
Playing Sports With the Ford EcoSport
Just like Buick did with the Encore, Ford discontinued the EcoSport after the 2022 model year. Nevertheless, you can still find EcoSport models on the used market. This model actually had a shorter run than the Buick Encore, as it made it debut in 2018. Earlier models of the EcoSport came with a choice of a 1.0L Turbo I-3 and a 2.0L I-4, each with a six-speed automatic transmission. However, the I-3 is front-wheel drive only, while the I-4 only comes with all-wheel drive. There are no substitutions. Ford dropped the 1.0L Turbo I-3 and front-wheel drive for the 2022 model year, so only the 2.0L I-4 and all-wheel drive were available. The Encore has always been available with both front-wheel and all-wheel drive.
Moreover, the EcoSport with the I-3 only provides 123 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque, substantially less than on the Encore. The EcoSport with the larger engine does deliver 166 horsepower and 149 lb-ft of torque, which is comparable to the Encore. But the 2021 EcoSport only gets 23 miles per gallon in city driving, less than the 24 miles per gallon on a 2021 Encore.
Handling the Honda HR-V
Honda introduced the HR-V as a smaller version of its popular CR-V crossover. Like most Honda models, it gets good fuel economy and has plenty of space. In fact, the 2021 Honda HR-V offers more cargo space, 58.8 cu.ft. for front-wheel drove models and 57.6 for all-wheel drive, compared to the Encore’s 48.4. The HR-V also gets slightly better fuel economy than the 2021 Encore, 28 miles per gallon for the front-wheel drive model and 27 for all-wheel drive, compared to 27 and 26 respectively. However, this does come with some caveats.
First, the HR-V is quite underpowered for a vehicle of its size. Its 1.8-liter I-4 gas engine with a CVT only provides 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. That lack of torque is going to impact acceleration, cargo hauling, and climbs up hills. It is also considerably less than on the 2021 Encore. In addition, the HR-V comes with a standard five-inch touchscreen on its infotainment system. If you want a larger screen, you will have to buy a higher trim on a used HR-V to get a seven-inch touchscreen.
Making Tracks Over the Chevy Trax
The Chevy Trax is an interesting model. Chevy introduced it in 2015, discontinued it in 2022, and is bringing it back as an entirely new model in 2024. For purposes of our comparison, let’s look at the 2021 Trax. Just like the Encore, it features 48.4 cubic feet of trunk space. This is because General Motors built both the Trax and the Encore on the same platform. It is also why both vehicles feature the same engine, output, and fuel economy. However, a used Buick Encore will give you more comfort and luxury features as a used Trax. This includes finer interior fabrics, more comfortable seats, and a better attention to detail. Also, the Encore has an eight-inch infotainment system, while the one on the Trax measures only seven inches. Luxury vehicles depreciate more quickly than regular ones, so if you can get either for roughly the same price, why not get the upscale version?
Kicking the Nissan Kicks
Of all the models in this comparison, none gets the fuel economy of the Nissan Kicks. This front-wheel drive only model gets an excellent 33 miles per gallon in combined fuel economy. However, that is where the good news ends. This is one of the smallest subcompact SUV models, with a total of only 32.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the front row of seats. This is a full 16 cubic feet of space less than on the Buick Encore. In addition, it is quite underpowered. Its standard 1.6-liter I-4 gas engine with a CVT only generates an output of 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. This is significantly less than the output on the Encore. Finally, there is no all-wheel drive option on the Kicks, a significant oversight in this segment.
Toying Around With the Toyota CH-R
Also discontinued in the Great Subcompact SUV Purge of 2022, the Toyota CH-R is one of those models that came and went so fast that many folks don’t remember it. If this is the case, let’s refresh your memory. CH-R stands for “Coupe High Rider,” which is good to know if you find yourself on Jeopardy. Toyota premiered the CH-R in 2018 as the subcompact SUV in its lineup. It features a 2.0-liter I-4 with a CVT, capable of delivering 144 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque. These figures are fairly comparable to the Encore. In addition, its combined fuel economy of 29 miles per gallon is slightly better than the Encore. However, Toyota did not offer the CH-R with an all-wheel drive option. This is strictly a front-wheel drive model. Also, a used CH-R has significantly less space than the Encore, with only 37 cubic feet of room behind the front row of seats for cargo and passengers. Finally, the CH-R has these bizarre hidden rear door handles that make it look like a two-door SUV. This can make for complicated entry at night.
Take a Bow With a Used Buick Encore
Buying a used subcompact SUV gives you many choices. This can be a good thing, as long as you know the specifics of each model you are considering. If you want to get the most ideal combination of fuel economy, performance, space, and comfort features, than your best bet is a used Buick Encore. While some of the other models might deliver better fuel economy, more space, or higher performance, none of them provide the complete package you are getting in a used Buick Encore.