In the world of upscale but not quite luxury subcompact crossovers, two competitors stand out – the 2020 Buick Encore GX vs 2020 Mazda CX-3. However, while both of these vehicles may occupy the same market segment, they are quite different in many ways. To begin with, the Buick Encore GX is a brand new vehicle for 2020, while the Mazda CX-3 is in its fifth model year and starting to show its age. The 2020 Buick Encore GX is also aimed more at drivers who favor comfort and utility, while the 2020 Mazda CX-3 emphasizes sporty handling at the cost of limited space and a less than luxurious ride. While the driving enthusiast may still prefer the 2020 Mazda CX-3, the truth is that the driving enthusiast is probably not going to be considering a subcompact crossover in the first place. Meanwhile, the 2020 Buick Encore GX provides the everyday driver with an incredibly versatile and well-equipped vehicle for its size and price.
Sports Utility vs Just Sporty
Although they look similar at first glance, a close comparison of the 2020 Buick Encore GX vs 2020 Mazda CX-3 will reveal significant physical and mechanical differences. The two SUVs are very close in size, although the 2020 Buick Enclave GX is a touch larger. However, while the 2020 Buick Enclave GX is a true mini-SUV, the 2020 Mazda CX-3 is more of a lifted hatchback, and its sportier profile results in a cramped interior and lower ride height. Sitting in the driver’s seat, you will discover that the 2020 Mazda CX-3 offers just 38.4” of headroom against the 39.7” found in the 2020 Buick Enclave GX. And if you want a compact SUV for its cargo volume, then you will be sadly disappointed with the Japanese vehicle – with the rear seats in place the 2020 Mazda CX-3 has only 17.8 cubic feet of space for baggage and even with the rear seats folded that expands to just 42.7 cubic feet. In contrast, the 2020 Buick Encore GX has a roomy 23.5 cubic feet with the back seat up and an impressive 50.2 cubic feet when the rear seat is folded. Those numbers are higher than in some larger SUVs and make the 2020 Buick Encore GX an incredibly versatile vehicle for its size.
And although the 2020 Mazda CX-3 does have excellent handling for a subcompact SUV, its sporty nature is somewhat let down by its rather weak engine. This is a 2.0L inline-4 with 148 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. In contrast, the 2020 Buick Encore GX has the choice of either a 1.2L turbo or a 1.3L turbo. The smaller of these two engines has 138 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, putting its performance reasonably close to that of the engine in the Mazda CX-3. However, the larger engine option has 155 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, making the 2020 Buick Encore GX the clear winner when it comes to comparing power plants. And despite being more powerful, the 1.3L Buick engine also has the same 31 MPG average fuel economy as the Mazda CX-3 engine. More surprisingly, the 1.3L is also more efficient than the 1.2L engine, which only averages 28 MPG. Another advantage of the 1.3L engine is that it is available with a sophisticated nine-speed automatic transmission. The 1.2L engine only comes with a continuously-variable transmission, and the 2020 Mazda CX-3 is stuck with an older six-speed automatic transmission.
Premium Features vs Premium Feel
One of the most significant failings of the 2020 Mazda CX-3 is that it has been pared down to a single trim. This means that it is entirely lacking many modern features and is totally outclassed by the top trims of the 2020 Buick Encore GX. However, while the Buick wins on features, those features cost money, and the 2020 Mazda CX-3 starts at just $20,640 while the 2020 Buick Encore GX begins at $25,095 and climbs to $29,495 for its top trim. Given that price difference, it is actually somewhat surprising to discover that the 2020 Mazda CX-3 comes standard with features such as auto-leveling LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, push-button start, and automatic climate control. These first two features are particularly noteworthy since they are only available on the top trim of the 2020 Buick Encore GX.
But overall, even a comparison between the base trims of the 2020 Buick Encore GX vs 2020 Mazda CX-3 reveals that the Buick is the better-equipped and more comfortable vehicle. Standard features on all trims of the 2020 Buick Encore GX that are unavailable on the 2020 Mazda CX-3 include active noise cancellation, four express-down windows, a compass, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. And should you choose to splurge with the many packages and options available for the 2020 Buick Encore GX, then even the base trim can be transformed with a multitude of luxuries. These range from major options such as a power moonroof and hands-free power liftgate, to smaller comforts such as a ten-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and a remote start system. In short, while the 2020 Mazda CX-3 provides a premium look and feel, it lacks most of the premium features that are found on even the base trim of the 2020 Buick Encore GX. And while moving to the higher trims of the 2020 Buick Encore GX will bring a higher price, it will also bring even more features and options.
As with the comparison of the interior features of the 2020 Buick Encore GX vs 2020 Mazda CX-3, the Mazda offers a surprising amount of technology considering its much lower price. However, again like the comparison of interior features, the 2020 Buick Encore GX offers more technology overall. Beginning with the infotainment systems of the two crossovers, the 2020 Mazda CX-3 comes with a 7” touch screen and six speakers. The Mazda Connect system is fully compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Pandora, Aha, and Stitcher. Although this is a good set of features, it still pales in comparison to the 2020 Buick Encore GX, which offers a larger 8” screen as well as SiriusXM satellite radio, a 4G LTE wireless hotspot, and no fewer than four USB ports. And while they are not available on the base trim, the 2020 Buick Encore GX also has options for a seven-speaker Bose premium sound system and built-in navigation.
For advanced driver assistance technology, the 2020 Mazda CX-3 comes standard with a rather good suite that includes automatic emergency braking, blind-spot, rear cross-traffic alert, and even adaptive cruise control. Against this, the base trim of the 2020 Buick Encore GX comes standard with a slightly inferior package that consists of automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and a following distance indicator. However, there is also the option for side blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert as well rear park assist, which puts the base trim of the 2020 Buick Encore GX ahead of the 2020 Mazda CX-3. And to further widen the gap, the higher trims of the 2020 Buick Encore GX also offer HD surround vision and park assist with automatic braking.
So, Which is Really Better?
In the end, the 2020 Mazda CX-3 is a solid vehicle that offers good value, but loses every comparison to the 2020 Buick Encore GX, which has much more to offer. Because of its offerings, the Encore GX comes out on top.