If you are on the lookout for a compact SUV or crossover, you are not alone. This segment of the SUV market has been booming in recent years as drivers, both young and old, like the spacious interior that can hold more cargo than a typical sedan. Because a quality compact SUV is such a hot commodity, General Motors has invested heavily in a couple of crossovers, producing one each under the Buick and Chevy brands. And while these crossover cousins certainly have a lot in common (as you would expect), there are plenty of differences too. For that reason, it is helpful to take a closer look at the 2020 Buick Encore vs 2020 Chevy Trax to see which one, if either, is the better buy.
An Encore Overview
Unlike many new cars, trucks, and SUVs that have five or more trims and several other configurations that can lead to nearly endless choices to be made, the 2020 Buick Encore is relatively straightforward. This luxury compact SUV comes in only two different trims and either with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), allowing for simplicity when one is trying to find the best vehicle to suit their needs.
The base model is the Encore 1SV, which is only available with FWD and comes standard with a 1.4L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine capable of generating 138 hp, which is plenty makes for an exciting ride given the Encore’s athletic, agile build. In addition to its impressive performance, the 1SV also has a long list of other great features (which we’ll look at in a minute) and has a surprisingly affordable price tag of $23,200—not bad at all for a luxury brand like Buick.
The second trim is the Encore Preferred, which also has the 1.4L turbocharged engine and retails for $25,595. What makes the Encore Preferred well…preferred, is that it boasts an incredible list of advanced safety features and other technological innovations that build nicely off the base model. It is also available in all-wheel drive for an even better experience.
Breakdown of the Trax
Unlike the Encore, the Chevy Trax comes in three different trims starting with Trax LS. The LS has a similar engine to the Encore and is itself the 1.4L ECOTEC 4-cylinder, also capable of generating 138 hp. Because the LS comes in FWD and AWD configurations, there is some movement in the price. The FWD option starts at $21,300, and the AWD starts at $23,795. The middle Trax trim is the LT and has the same engine and FWD and AWD options available. One thing that makes the LT a step above the LS is that, whereas something like remote start is available on the LS, it is standard on the LT. With a few other upgrades, the LT starts at $23,200.
The top trim is the Premier, which has the same engine and a lot of the same functionality as the other two trims. However, it does have even more goodies than the LT, such as leatherette seat trim, LED tail lamps, and rear park assist—which is available on the LT but is standard on the Premier. The starting price for the Premier is $27,600 for the FWD version and $30,095 for the AWD version.
The Outer Walls
While these two compact SUVs are obviously quite similar, as we can see from the trim comparisons, the differences begin to come to light the second you take a look at them. The Encore, for example, has the elegant, luxurious look you would expect from a Buick. The hood lines are smooth and athletic and create a regal appearance. The wheels are larger than those on the Trax too. The 18” standard wheels set the Encore a bit higher up than the Trax, and if you spring for the available Midnight Silver aluminum alloy wheels, they really pop. Plus, on top of the Encore, the available moonroof adds to the excitement and is just right for this striking luxury SUV.
While the Trax isn’t horrible to look at, it has a simpler, more plain appearance than the Encore from hood to bumper. The front end has a more open-faced look, and the wheels are only 16” which makes quite a difference, not only when it comes to appearances, but also in terms of performance. The Trax is definitely a budget SUV and rides like one, whereas the Encore feels like you are floating on the road.
For all but the absolute most budget-conscious drivers, you will most likely want to consider the Encore ahead of the Trax because of its superior look and feel. Extra affordable is nice, but luxury for just a few pennies more on the dollar is in all reality, the better deal.
Inside the SUVs
The story is the same on the inside of the Encore and the Trax. While both SUVs boast acoustic laminated windshields, the Encore’s cabin is quieter and provides a better driving experience. In fact, it is Buick’s QuietTuning Technology with its triple-seal doors and acoustic laminated front side windows that make the difference and make the Encore such a pleasurable ride. Whether you are trying to enjoy the peace and quiet of the open road, carry on a conversation with passengers, or enjoy the Encore’s premium sound system, Buick QuietTuning keeps out the unwanted noise of traffic.
The infotainment and navigation systems of the Encore are also better than the Trax’s and start with the 4.2” driver information center compared to the Trax’s 3.5” screen. The touchscreen is also a generous 8” in the Encore and absolutely stunning. In the back of the Encore, there is also little more room for cargo than in the Trax. So while many of the basics of these two SUVs are the same when it comes to their interiors, the attention to detail and nice extras that either come standard or available with the Encore, push it over the top to be the better choice between the two.
Safety: A Feature to Feature Match
While the Chevy Trax has an impressive suite of safety features that make it a high-quality, secure ride, the Encore matches the Trax nearly feature for feature and has many of the same technologies either standard or available on both of its trims whereas, in order to access many of them on the Trax you have to pay more by selecting the higher two trims. With that said, either vehicle will include the latest safety features to keep drivers safe.
Luxury SUV vs Budget SUV
Any comparison of the 2020 Buick Encore vs the 2020 Chevy Trax comes down to a comparison of luxury vs budget. If it is absolutely necessary that you pinch every penny you can (in which case you might want to choose a used car instead of a new SUV), then the Trax might be a good choice. But if you have the funds to consider a new SUV in the first case, then the clear choice is the Encore. It has the same performance and efficiency as the Trax with the added luxury of a more stylish look, smoother ride, and quieter driving experience, that comes with the Buick brand. That said, if you haven’t been to your local dealer yet to test drive a new 2020 Buick Encore, you really should. While a quiet and smooth ride sounds good on paper, it is a completely different thing when you experience for yourself.