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Comparison: 2019 Buick Encore vs 2019 Lexus UX

Our head-to-head comparison this week is a battle between models that at origin were economically priced small vehicles that have taken on airs of luxury, or at least premium-ness. On one corner, we have the Chevrolet Trax transformed into the more high-end Buick Encore. In the other corner, the Toyota C-HR, but turned into the Lexus UX. The luxury-vehicle market being as lucrative as it is, everybody wants a piece of the action.

2019 Buick Encore

As successful as Buick has been in China, it has struggled more over here. The Encore, however, is an exception to this rule, in fact it outsells the Trax by a factor of two. It’s also a model that has helped to rejuvenate the average age of the brand's customer base.

Take note that the model is set to change next year. Buick is preparing a simplification of the product range, with only the Preferred, Sport Touring and Gasoline versions to be offered going forward.

Photo: Buick

Small, but spacious enough
Despite its small overall dimensions, the Encore provides a greater impression of interior space thanks to its high roof and high sitting position. It’s certainly less fun to drive than German competition like the Audi Q3 and Mercedes Benz GLA, but there’s enough space for four adults.

The basic models feature fabric seats with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 6-speaker audio system controlled via the infotainment system, and an 8-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

The Preferred version expands the choice of body colour options this year, while Sport Touring adds a remote start, fog lights and a rear spoiler. A 7-speaker audio system with navigation is available, as well as a moonroof, blind spot detection and rear transversal traffic alert.

The Encore Essence features a dual-zone air conditioner, a 110-volt power outlet and six-way power front seats. The seats are leather and heated, as are the steering wheel, and the headlights are LED.

Photo: D.Boshouwers

Plain white bread
No one buys a Buick for the driving experience. The base model comes with a 1.4L 4-cylinder turbo engine making 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, while the other two variants offer a slightly more powerful version of that unit and benefit from 153 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, plus stop/start technology to save on fuel. A 6-speed automatic transmission is the only one available across the product range.

If not dynamic, the drive is quiet and comfortable - which is enough for many people.

Conclusion
The success of the Encore is due to its generous equipment for the price, good fuel economy and a reasonable price point. In our view, the higher-end models represent a better deal across the board, offering more power as well as better fuel economy and driving pleasure. Don’t skimp on the lower versions, we say.

Photo: Buick
Photo: Lexus

2019 Lexus UX

First presented at the 2018 Geneva Auto Show, the UX is the first Lexus model built on Toyota's new global architecture (GA-C). This platform includes a high-strength structure around the tailgate openings and rear doors to reinforce the overall rigidity. It’s also the platform that offers the lowest centre of gravity, and it serves as the basis for the less fancy-pants Toyota C-HR as well.

Typically Lexus
The humongous hourglass-shaped grille immediately yells at you that this is a Lexus product. It’s a component with sharp angles that make it look at first glance like it’s been badly cut.

You have the choice of two versions: the UX 200 and the 250h (hybrid). The cabin comes in different variations depending on which one you go for. You can choose from four different finishes including a washi version inspired by the grain of paper found in traditional Japanese homes.

Photo: Lexus

Standard features include adaptive cruise control, lane change assist, adaptive high beams and traffic control assist and precollision system.

For $2,300, the F-Sport package includes: F-Sport shift lever, heated steering wheel, door sill plates, heated front bucket seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps and LED cornering lights, steering wheel paddles, active sound control and unique front grille.

In the hybrid version, you have a $5,200 luxury package that includes: single fan control wheel with wireless lighting, intuitive parking assist system with auto-brake, rear-view auto-reverse mirrors, blackboard washi finish, head-up display, memory function for seats, head-up display, hands-free liftgate, wireless charging and a memory function for the side-mirrors.

Also included is a 10.3-inch screen, plus built-in navigation system, Apple CarPlay compatibility, 8 speakers, input USB audio, Bluetooth compatibility, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and remote garage-door opener.

Photo: V.Aubé

With or without electricity
The UX 200 is powered by a 169-hp 2.0L 4-cylinder engine linked to a direct-drive CVT transmission. There’s also a hybrid version, the 250h. The same 2.0L Atkinson cycle engine serves as the basis for that variant. It’s paired with a nickel-metal-hydride battery installed on the rear axle to allow all-wheel drive, and total output is 181 hp. It offers the same CVT transmission as the regular model.

Soulless drive
All the ingredients are there to ensure a healthy, smooth ride. The chassis is solid and the centre of gravity quite low, for example. But, and it’s a big but, the basic engine with the CVT box is lifeless. All in all, opt for the hybrid model that offers a bit more power with the contribution of batteries, which also happen to ensure better fuel economy.

Conclusion
The basic version is of little interest; really, for the reasons I just gave, only the hybrid should be considered, even if the asking price is higher.

Advantage Buick Encore

In terms of styling, the Buick wins. This is one of the better selling points of this model. Buick also offers the choice of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the latter is – still - not yet available in the Lexus. There is also a better multimedia environment in the Buick and a better cargo space. Another compelling selling point of course is the Encore’s more-affordable price.

Advantage Lexus UX

If you opt for the hybrid model, the fuel-consumption figures are very impressive, better in fact than anything else you’ll find in this category. We also give it the nod for the comfort of the seats. And in the long run, it's a safe bet that the UX’s resale value will be better; the reliability of Lexus vehicles is well-established while Buick still has a way to go in this area.

Similarities

With regard to available equipment, the uninspired driving of both models and overall comfort, both models are very close to each other. Both have the same warranty coverage.

Verdict

A difficult decision for the judges in this flyweight boxing match. The Buick Encore is cheaper and marginally more interesting to drive. The Lexus, meanwhile, is homelier (that big grille is a tough pill for some to swallow) and more expensive, but it’s more economical to drive in its hybrid iteration, and if you’re aiming for a purchase that offers a better deal over the longer term, that’s it. Which is the better choice boils down to what your priorities are.

2019 Buick Encore

We like

A well-equipped base model
A lot of technology for the price
Perfect city vehicle

We like less

Basic engine is of no interest
Costly options
No driving pleasure

2019 Lexus UX

We like

Interesting hybrid version
Comfortable front seats
Drive-assist technologies

We like less

Soul-suckingly boring to drive
Small cargo space
High price point

Photo: D.Boshouwers
Photo: Lexus

Specifications

... 2019 Buick Encore2019 Lexus UX
    
 Transmission6-speed autoCVT
 DrivetrainFWD or AWDFWD or AWD
  1.4 T (base)2.0L
 Fuel consumption (city)9.9L/100 km8.0L/100 km
 Fuel consumption (highway)8.1L/100 km6.3L/100 km
  1.4 T2.0L hybrid
 Fuel consumption (city)9.0L/100 km5.7L/100 km
 Fuel consumption (highway)7.6L/100 km6.2L/100 km
    
 Engine1.4 T (base)2.0L
 TypeGasGas
 Output138 hp169 hp
 Torque148 lb-pi151 lb-pi
 Cylinders44
 Displacement1.4L T2.0L
    
 Moteur1.4 T2.0Ll hybrid
 TypeGasGas-electric
 Output153 hp181 hp
 Torque177 lb-ftN/A
 Cylinders44
 Displacement1.4L T2.0L
    
 Capacities  
 Cargo space532 l, 1371 l484 l
 Fuel Tank53 l200: 47 l, 250h: 40 l
    
 Dimensions  
 Length4276 mm4496 mm
 Width1781 mm1840 mm
 Height1657 mm1540 mm
 Wheelbase2555 mm2640 mm
    
 Warranty4 yr/80,000 km4 yr/80,000 km
    
 Pricing$26,400 to $33,700$37,100 to $48,500