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Are you looking for a new SUV but do not want to spend a ton of time sifting through different trim levels and configurations? The 2021 Buick Encore's freshly simplified line-up might appeal to you if that is the case. The Encore is trudging along this year, alongside the more powerful and recently revitalized Encore GX. The standard Encore might seem like it, too, is in dire need of a revamp, but its simplicity might be more appealing to those of us who just do not want to be inundated with a ton of confusing tech features.
The 2021 Encore is small in stature, which has its benefits. This makes it easy to park in crowded spots and to drive along narrow city roadways. There are more standard driver aids this year, but the Encore still feels like it is a carbon copy of its very first release, dating back to 2013. The standard engine is exceedingly sluggish and thirsty for fuel. Without a lot of standard features that come on other vehicles in its class and with the below-average cargo space, the 2021 Buick Encore will still struggle to compete with its rivals.
But perhaps this might be the vehicle for you. The cabin remains muted from noise when taken up to speed on the highway, and the cabin itself is padded for comfort. Ready to learn more about what to expect from each of the Buick Encore's trim levels? Then read on, and be sure to hang around until the end, which is where we will announce which trim level we think offers the best overall deal.
Compare the 2021 Buick Encore 1SV vs Preferred - What is the Difference?
Don't want to spend a ton of time trying to figure out how to configure your new vehicle? We cannot say we blame you; that can be a lot of work, and trying to stay within a specific price range can be difficult. Buick keeps things simple on the Encore this year, having pared the line-up down to just the base 1SV and line-topping Preferred trim levels. Last year's line-up included the Sport Touring and the Essence trims, which slotted above the Preferred. What does their elimination mean for the two remaining trim levels? Where did their features go?
The truth is, their features got shuffled about, distributed between the 1SV and the Preferred. However, the tweaked 153-hp version of the 1.4-L 4-cylinder engine got the ax. That just leaves the Encore with the standard 138-hp engine, which unfortunately feels vastly under-powered and likes to consume a lot of fuel. Had the 153-hp variant been used as the base engine, we would recommend the Encore a little bit more highly. As it stands though, the Encore will feel under-powered no matter which trim level you buy.
That being said, let us break down what you will find on each trim level. The 1SV and Preferred both come with the 1.4-L 4-cylinder engine, which is matched with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The drivetrain is front-wheel drive only; all-wheel drive is not available. There is a 130-amp alternator, electric power steering, a rear exit exhaust system with a stainless steel tip, keyless entry and ignition, and tools that come along with a mechanical jack. These trim levels also get a standard MacPherson strut coil spring front suspension that comes with front strut modules that are side-load-compensated and a large stabilizer bar. The rear suspension is torsion beam with a tubular V-shaped beam that is double-walled in order to make camber control consistent and the vehicle weight as low as possible. The twin-tube shock abosrbers are gas-charged.
Available mechanical options for both vehicles are limited to just an oil pan heater (which makes for faster, easier start-ups on colder mornings by quickly getting the engine to an optimal temperature).
On the exterior, you will see that both trim levels come with 18-inch aluminum wheels with Technical Gray pockets, but that the Preferred gives you the option of equipping 18-inch 5-split-spoke aluminum alloy wheels done in a chic Midnight Silver finish instead. Both have a roof-mounted antenna, a chrome strip across the body-colored door handles, accent colors for the front and rear fascia, deep-tinted glass, halogen beam headlights, LED center high-mounted brake and stop lights, power side mirrors that are heated, side rails mounted onto the roof, Signature LED Daytime Running Lamps (which light up when the headlights are off and the vehicle is running), a solar-absorbing windshield, front intermittent windshield wipers, and a rear intermittent wiper.
Options for both trim levels include a license plate bracket up front and anthracite lower accent color on the exterior. On the Preferred, you get more options, such as the Buick Interior Protection Package (which includes a premium carpet cargo mat and all-weather floor mats for the front and rear of the cabin), a power moonroof, rain-sensing automatic windshield wipers, roof rack cross rails, the Safety Package (a 120-volt power outlet, side blind zone alert, and rear cross traffic alert), and the Safety Package II (the rain-sensing wipers, lane departure warning, front and rear park assist, and forward collision warning). You can also opt for lower exterior accent trim done in Satin Nickel Metallic and a wheel lock kit.
Inside, you will find a cabin designed for comfort. The front passenger seat is 2-way manually adjustable, and the driver's seat is 6-way power adjustable. The rear is a 60/40-split folding bench. Other standard features include a diagonal 4.2-inch digital driver information center, 4G LTE WiFi hotspot connectivity, a 6-speaker sound system, single-zone air conditioning, a particle air filter, rear assist handles, a cargo cover, cruise control with functions mounted onto the steering wheel, power door locks, chrome door handles, two gloveboxes, 2-way adjustable headrests, a day/night rear-view mirror, the LATCH system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, active noise cancellation, and power windows. There is also a covered storage spot in the cargo area, a rear-view camera, a satin silver and chrome gear shift knob, a trial to SiriusXM Satellite Radio, an anti-theft alarm, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
The Preferred gets upgraded to color-keyed and carpeted front and rear floor mats, and a cargo cover. Options open up for a cargo tray, a cargo net, ebony-colored or shale-colored cloth with leatherette trim, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, remote start, the Road Trip Package (which includes the all-weather floor mats and roof rack cross rails), and side blind zone alert.
Of course, we have to discuss the full array of safety features, as those are often major factors in why people decide to buy certain vehicles. The 1SV comes with 4-wheel antilock disc brakes (which limit how much the wheels lock up and helps maintain control over steering while braking hard - especially on a slippery road surface), 10 airbags, a two-note horn, the LATCH system for child safety seats, and capabilities for Buick Connected Services and OnStar. The 1SV trim level does not get much of any options for driver assistance features, but there are a few optional ones on the Preferred trim level (which we have already mentioned as coming in the Safety Package and the Safety Package II).
Infotainment features are somewhat standard issue on these two trim levels. They come with an 8-inch touchscreen display, two USB ports up front, smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an in-car WiFi hotspot connectivity with 4G LTE (through the OnStar communications provided by GM). The standard 6-speaker sound system has clear enough sound that gets pumped throughout the cabin, but the rear suffers from the lack of a USB charging port. Most of the Encore's rivals offer these, but the line-topping Preferred trim does not have one. Things like this are what make the Encore seem a bit dated and out-of-touch with current trends. Voice controls are extremely limited as well, relegated for tuning the audio and for making phone calls. Effective, yes, but ultimately simplistic.
As far as warranty coverage goes, it is the same for both trim levels. The 1SV and Preferred trim levels come with a 3 Years/36,000 Miles Bumper-to-Bumper Limited Warranty, a 5 Years/60,000 Miles Powertrain/Drivetrain limited warranty, a 5 Years/60,000 Miles Roadside Assistance Program, a 3 Years/36,000 Miles Rust-Through Warranty, and a 6 Years/100,000 Miles Limited Rust Warranty.
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Which Trim to Choose?
The 2021 Buick Encore is a vehicle that feels like it is trapped eight years or so in the past. It was once a more highly sought-after vehicle, especially when it debuted. For that time, it had a lot of cool technological features. It was not a marvel of power by any means though, and that is something that has held the Encore back from competing - that and the lack of standard features.
Since Buick has decided to whittle the line-up down to just the 1SV and the Preferred trim levels, drivers are left with few choices as to what they can get. For some, this might actually be a relief as it makes the process a bit simpler and quicker. But for many, it will be a turn-off. The Preferred can be equipped with a bunch of options in the form of packages, but they definitely get expensive. What would be a moderately priced small SUV quickly turns into an overpriced, under-powered, and under-equipped one here. It is a shame since the Encore had so much promise when it debuted. The Encore GX - the bigger sister, essentially - has more space, some more features, and a bit more power. In all, it is probably the more attractive buy, but even then, rival automakers have put forth some serious contenders in recent years.
If you have your heart set on owning the 2021 Buick Encore, the one to buy is the line-topping Preferred trim level. Why do we prefer the Preferred? Well, it comes with exponentially more standard features than the base 1SV, which feels all too basic. The Preferred also gives you more options to choose from, so if you want, say, a power moonroof, you can get it. While having a few more of these features as standard would make for a better deal (especially the driver aids), at least you can opt for them if you want them. And, if you do not want them, you are not obligated to buy them.
The 2021 Buick Encore will not appeal to everyone, but there is a market for it. Those looking for a somewhat spacious cabin will like how cozy the Encore's feels. Equip it right, and you will be able to enjoy some entertainment while you go about your day. Just be prepared to pay extra for some options on the Preferred trim level.
• Compare the 2020 Buick Encore Trim Levels