A dark grey 2020 Chevy Trax is parked in front of a wooden wall after winning the 2020 Chevy Trax vs 2020 Buick Encore comparison.

Compact SUV Challenge: 2020 Chevy Trax vs 2020 Buick Encore


SUVs in general and compact SUVs, in particular, have experienced some of the greatest demand from customers in recent years. Folks see the value in a vehicle that combines the convenience of a compact car with the dependability and versatility of an SUV. A compact SUV will have more room for you, your passengers, and your belongings than a regular compact sedan or coupe. By the same token, they are easier to drive, have better fuel economy, and are more affordable than midsize and full-size SUVs. Practically every automaker that builds SUVs has a compact SUV to offer the public. Two of the best compact SUVs on the market today are made by subsidiaries of General Motors, Chevrolet, and Buick. The tight competition between Chevy and Buick leads us to make this comparison: 2020 Chevy Trax vs 2020 Buick Encore. These two are very similar vehicles. Both offer an excellent infotainment system. They also seat up to five passengers and look very similar. However, there are several distinctions between the two compact SUVs that we are going to address below.

Comparing Trims

The entry-level 2020 Chevy Trax is the LS, with an MSRP of $21,300. Two other trim levels add features as you increase the price. The Chevy Trax LT has an MSRP of $23,200 and adds roof rack side rails, deluxe cloth seating, cruise control, and remote vehicle start. The top-of-the-line model is the Chevy Trax Premier, with an MSRP of $27,600. This adds several active safety features, larger wheels, leatherette seating, and a power sunroof.

In contrast, the 2020 Buick Encore has only two trim levels. The 1SV is the entry-level model and has an MSRP of $24,195. The Buick Encore Preferred has an MSRP of $25,595 and adds several active safety features. In addition, while the 2020 Buick Encore comes in four different colors, buyers of the 2020 Chevy Trax can choose from up to nine different colors.

Outcome: With more trim options and the lower starting price, the Chevy Trax has the advantage in this area.

A white 2020 Chevy Trax is driving down a city street at night.

Engines and Performance

The 2020 Chevy Trax comes equipped with a 1.4-liter EcoTec 4-cylinder engine with variable valve timing (VVT). VVT is designed to optimize the vehicle’s fuel efficiency. It is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and provides up to 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. The 2020 Buick Encore uses a very similar engine, a 1.4-liter DOHC turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with VVT. It is also paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and can produce up to 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque.

Both the Trax and Encore come standard with front-wheel drive. However, you can get all three models of the Trax in all-wheel drive for an extra cost, while only the Preferred Encore is available in all-wheel drive. This is a critical distinction, because if you need an all-wheel drive vehicle to handle the road and weather conditions in your area, then you will have to pay top dollar for an Encore Preferred if you opt for the Buick. This is not the case with the Chevy Trax, as you can buy the Trax LS with all-wheel drive, saving you a great deal of money.

Finally, the Trax comes with 16-inch painted aluminum wheels except for the Premier, which comes with 18-inch aluminum wheels. Both the Encore 1SV and Preferred come with 18-inch machined-face alloy wheels with light argent metallic pockets. The larger wheels on the Encore should provide greater traction and an overall more comfortable ride. Despite this difference, the Trax may still be the better option since you can get this compact SUV in all-wheel drive regardless of the trim level.

Outcome: Because of the ability to purchase all-wheel drive on every trim, There is a slight advantage to the Chevy Trax in this part of the comparison.

Standard Safety Features

Both the 2020 Chevy Trax and the 2020 Buick Encore come with several excellent safety features. The Trax LS and LT come equipped with ten airbags, 4-wheel antilock brakes, daytime running lights, OnStar and Chevrolet Connected Services, a rear vision camera, StabiliTrak electronic stability control system with traction control and a tire pressure monitoring system. If you want additional active safety features, you will have to either opt for either the Trax Premier or pay an additional fee for these features on the Trax LT. These include forward collision alert, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear park assist, and side blind zone alert.

The Buick Encore comes with 4-wheel antilock brakes, ten airbags, OnStar and Buick connected services, a rear vision camera, LED daytime running lights, StabiliTrak, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Advanced active safety systems are only available on the Chevy Trax Preferred as an additional optional feature. These include rear cross-traffic alert and side blind zone alert.

Outcome: Due to the extensive list of safety features, there is, again, a slight advantage to the 2020 Chevy Trax.

Inside the Vehicles

Both the 2020 Buick Encore and the 2020 Chevy Trax have similar interior layouts. They each have room for two passengers in the front and three in the rear. Front seat passengers in the Encore have 39.58 inches of headroom, 40.82 inches of legroom, 54.18 inches of shoulder room, and 51.65 inches of hip room. Rear seat passengers get 38.78 inches of headroom, 35.75 inches of legroom, 52.5 inches of shoulder room, and 50.08 inches of hip room. The Chevy Trax is slightly roomier. Front seat passengers in the Trax will enjoy 39.6 inches of headroom, 40.8 inches of legroom, 54.1 inches of shoulder room, and 51.7 inches of hip room, while rear-seat passengers will find 38.8 inches of headroom, 35.7 inches of legroom, 52.8 inches of shoulder room, and 50.7 inches of hip room.

This slight difference in roominess may be due to the designers at Buick, giving the Encore a slightly larger trunk space than the Chevy Trax. While both vehicles offer the same 48.4 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat folded down, the Encore offers 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seat, while the Trax offers slightly less at 18.7 cubic feet. On this issue, it really comes down to whether you want your compact SUV to move stuff or to transport up to 4 other passengers. If you need the cargo space, then the Buick Encore would probably be a better choice. But, if you need the space for five passengers, then you should go with the Chevy Trax since you don’t want your rear-seat passengers to feel cramped.

Outcome: Even. Both the Trax and the Encore have their own advantages in terms of space; this decision comes down to preference.

Fuel Economy

A black 2020 Buick Encore is driving past a lake.

Fuel economy is a feature of critical importance for compact SUV drivers. One of the reasons you buy a compact SUV is to save money at the gas pump. Despite having similar features and drivetrain, there is a difference between the 2020 Chevy Trax and the 2020 Buick Encore when it comes to gas mileage.

When equipped with front-wheel drive, the Chevy Trax provides up to 26 miles per gallon in the city, 31 miles per gallon on the highway, and 28 miles per gallon combined. If you decide to go with the optional all-wheel drive, you will experience slightly lower fuel economy, at 24 miles per gallon in city driving, 29 miles per gallon in highway driving, and 26 miles per gallon combined. This is still exceptional fuel efficiency for a compact SUV.

The front-wheel drive 2020 Buick Encore is no slouch either, with up to 25 miles per gallon in the city, 30 miles per gallon on the highway, and 27 miles per gallon combined. The 2020 Buick Encore Preferred with all-wheel drive provides up to 24 miles per gallon in city driving, 29 miles per gallon in highway driving, and 26 miles per gallon combined.

Outcome: Overall, the Trax has better fuel efficiency and has the advantage over the Encore.

Which is Better?

The 2020 Chevy Trax and 2020 Buick Encore are both high performing, comfortable vehicles. However, when it comes down to it, the Trax has the overall advantage. With a lower starting price, more trim options, an AWD drivetrain on each of those trims, and an extensive list of safety features, one would be wrong not to see the advantage. Between the 2020 Trax and 2020 Encore, the Trax has a clear upper-hand.