The compact crossover utility vehicle (CUV) is one of the most popular vehicle types on American roads. CUV sales outperform those of both sedans and traditional full-size SUVs and are increasing every year. CUVs are popular because they have elements of both passenger cars and SUVs. They’re perfect for short commutes and long drives, are priced competitively, and offer decent safety, performance, and fuel economy ratings. Due to the segment’s popularity, Buick recently upgraded its premium compact CUV, the Buick Envision. Fully redesigned for 2021, the second-generation Envision brings a new level of features and good looks. This was a good decision, as one of the Envision’s primary competitors was recently redesigned for 2019. The Acura RDX received an upgrade that year, entering the model’s third generation. Acura RDX has high sales, but the Buick Envision sales continue to grow. The question is, which is the better premium compact CUV between the 2021 Buick Envision vs 2021 Acura RDX?
The Buick Name Means High Value
Buick is the oldest automobile manufacturer in America, and the Buick name represents a legacy of high-value vehicles. While Buick builds durable and reliable vehicles filled with premium features, it focuses on making those vehicles affordable for the average driver. There’s a vast difference in MSRPs between the 2021 Buick Envision and the 2021 Acura RDX. The basic Envision trim is $31,800, and the CUV tops out at $42,200 for the most expensive trim. Meanwhile, the Acura RDX starts at $38,400 for its basic trim and rounds out at $46,200 for the highest trim level! In this case, the domestic company makes the more affordable car.
More Money Means More Engine Power
While the Acura RDX is more expensive, you’re paying for better engine performance than you’ll get in the Buick Envision. That doesn’t mean the Buick Envision is something to scoff at; it just doesn’t have the same pickup or towing capabilities. Both cars are equipped with near-identical 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines. However, the Acura is more powerful at 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, while the Buick runs at 230 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The RDX also has a 10-speed automatic transmission, and the Envision follows behind with a 9-speed automatic.
Of course, that extra power in the Japanese CUV doesn’t come without a cost – and not just in the higher MSRP. When it comes to gas mileage, the slightly less powerful Buick engine is noticeably more efficient. The Envision averages 24 MPG in the city and 31 MPG on the highway. Meanwhile, Acura’s RDX gets just 22 MPG in town and 28 MPG on the highway. That difference in fuel consumption isn’t small, and it will definitely add up over time. The difference in fuel economy becomes even greater when you realize that the Japanese model demands premium gasoline to achieve its higher power while the American car gets along just fine on regular gasoline.
Buick Seriously Loves Safety
The Acura RDX might have a high-performing engine, but that extra power doesn’t mean anything if the car doesn’t have the equivalent in safety features and ratings. The NHTSA gives the 2021 Buick Envision a 5-star overall safety rating, including 5 stars for every single side and frontal crash test scenario. The RDX, on the other hand, only managed to score 4 stars in frontal crash testing, a questionable result for a more expensive vehicle. The Envision wins in safety crash ratings!
Both brands are serious about making as many safety features standard as possible. Both the RDX and the Envision include all the following as standard safety features in their basic trims: ABS, curtain airbags, front side airbags, passenger airbags, and driver airbags. No one can fault either manufacturer for failing to include as many safety features as possible to protect drivers and passengers.
The Envision goes further with the advanced driver-assistance features from the Buick Confidence Plus suite: front pedestrian braking, lane departure warnings, and lane keep assist all make an appearance to help keep you safe on the road. There are even further upgrades that include premium features such as adaptive cruise control, enhanced parking assist, and HD surround vision. Acura does include some driver-assist features in the RD, including a collision mitigation braking system and road departure mitigation, but it is missing some of Buick’s special safety technologies.
The Envision Is Jam-Packed With Technology
A car’s technology is an important selling trait for any new vehicle – especially premium models like these two CUVs. When Buick redesigned the Envision, they delivered with a selection of capable technology packages. The Envision has technology features that include a premium Bose speaker system, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a WiFi hotspot, SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth phone calls, auxiliary audio input, Amazon Alexa, and wireless charging.
Acura’s higher MSRP on the RDX is possibly due to also including a variety of high-tech features across the trim lineup. Most of the previously listed features are offered for the Acura RDX. This makes both vehicles comparable in many ways, but Buick’s upgraded items: infotainment system, Bose speakers, and wireless charging give it a level up.
Acura has an ELS Studio 3D premium audio system in contrast to Buick’s Bose setup. It also boasts the AcuraLink that allows drivers to connect with their car through their smartphone. With the AcuraLink app, drivers can remotely start their car, locate where they parked their car, receive enhanced roadside service, and create automatic collision notifications. The AcuraLink is a handy tool to monitor and manage a vehicle, but the Envision offers similar features through Onstar and Buick Connected Services.
There’s Room to Spare In Envision’s Interior
CUVs are built on passenger car platforms, so they have the requisite five seats. They’re also roomier than standard sedans. When it comes to the Envision and the RDX, they both offer interiors that are roomy and comfortable. The Envision is slightly smaller in size by mere inches, but passengers never fill the squeeze. The front legroom in the Envision is 40.9 inches, and the headroom is 40 inches – more than enough for a comfortable commute or road trip.
There’s plenty of cargo space in both the RDX and Envision. Behind the rear seats in these two vehicles, there are at least 25.2 cubic feet of cargo room, and that increases to at least 52.7 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down. If that isn’t enough room for all the gear your next adventure demands, then both models also offer roof racks and the ability to tow a small trailer with ease. How is that for utility?
The Envision Has More to Offer at a Lower Price
The 2021 Acura RDX is an appealing package with standard safety features, great technology, and a high-performance engine. However, its price tag more than matches its list of features. The Buick Envision has a much lower MSRP, and its features are more than enough to keep up with the RDX. Most of the upgraded features are only available in the more expensive trim packages, but the Envision’s MSRP is still lower than that of the RDX. With the 2021 Envision, Buick has delivered a well-priced premium CUV with state-of-the-art safety features, high-end technology, and plenty of performance to get you places.