So many things in today’s world are topsy turvy — even stuff you accepted as fact for decades. When it comes to General Motors, the order is Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and then Cadillac, right? RIGHT? Not so much anymore, and in our review of the 2024 Buick Envista, Headlight.News highlights that change.
Is a Chevrolet, Ford, GMC or Toyota better than a Buick?
In the General Motors pantheon, Buick is allegedly just below Cadillac in prestige and price. But that hasn’t been the case for decades, as GM executives frittered away whatever prestige the brand had. Need proof? Check out each GM brand’s average transaction price, according to Cox Automotive’s Kelley Blue Book.
In June, the average transaction price (or ATP) of a Buick was $37,630. Honda came close to matching it at $37,006. But it gets worse.
OK, given GMC’s dependence on SUVs and pickups, it’s no surprise that showroom sibling GMC handily beats Buick with an ATP of $63,561. But astoundingly, so does Chevrolet, at $48,436. The same is true of Ford at $56,087, Dodge at $52,702 and Toyota at $39,947.
Maintaining a premium facade
Enter the brand’s new entry-level vehicle, the 2024 Buick Envista. In case you were keeping score, it supersedes the wart-like Encore in the Buick lineup. The Encore’s larger sibling, the Encore GX, continues in production.
The 2024 Buick Envista, along with the Buick Encore GX, Chevrolet Trax and Chevrolet Trailblazer are built by GM at their facilities in South Korea. And all use the same powerplant and transmission and come with an odd contradiction.
The Buick Envista and Chevrolet Trax are larger than the pricier Buick Encore GX and Chevrolet Trailblazer. But the latter two offer a slightly larger engine option and all-wheel drive, two things the more sizable but less powerful Envista and Trax do not. The Envista and Trax come solely with front-wheel drive.
The 2024 Buick Envista is the longest of the bunch, which plays into Buick’s pitching the Envista as a premium product. But it’s not just size that proves the point, it’s styling. This rig looks spendy, with a face derived from the Buick Wildcat EV concept car. Its sloping greenhouse, slot-like LED lighting and blackout trim belie its price.
The Envista’s entry-level trim is called the Preferred, and wears a horizontal slot grille. Mid-level Sport Touring and top-of-the-line Avenir models wear a diamond-patterned grille. The latter sports chrome trim, the other does not. Certainly, the murdered-out Envista looks expensive. But looks can be deceiving.
The inside story
Climb inside and you’ll find out why.
Sure, its interior design is fun, featuring the same rounded-trapezoid digital display found on the Encore GX. But here, it imparts a far more midcentury modern feel, livening up an otherwise average cabin.
But the Buick Envista doesn’t feel significantly different in quality from the Chevrolet Trax, with lots of hard plastic. And while it functions well, true premium touches, like automatic one-touch up/down windows, are nowhere to be found.
But there are good points to the Envista. It’s roomy for a compact SUV, a testament to its 182.6-inch length. Its welcoming 20.7 cubic-foot cargo hold grows to 42 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded.
Standard technology makes a convincing case for its premium nature, with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot and optional wireless phone charging. And its software design makes it a breeze to use.
Small but mighty
Powering the Envista is the powerplant found in its three GM Korea stablemates: a pocket-sized 1.2-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine generating 137 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque through a 6-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels.
It’s EPA rated at 28 mpg in city driving, 32 mpg highway. The question is why Buick doesn’t offer more power than the Chevy? It does in China. There, the Buick Envista is powered by a 181-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine.
Standard driver-assistance safety gear is impressive, and includes standard lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, forward collision alert, following distance indicator and automatic high beams. If you need adaptive cruise control, rear parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change alert with side blind zone alert and rain-sensing front wipers, check the options list. But kudos for offering such a wide array of systems.
Same as it ever was
Given an engine identical to the Chevrolet Trax, the Envista feels much like its petite GM cousins. Off-the-line acceleration is pokey until the turbo kicks in, then it becomes satisfactory, particularly at speed. The Envista proves to be a perfectly perky little city dweller, a perfect companion to city life, thanks to its perkiness around town.
Yet merging onto a highway requires preparation and good timing, reminding you that its outward appearance suggests a speediness this Buick’s performance belies. Yet this was the brand that once gave us the Grand National and Grand Sports.
Like any wee transportation device, the Envista generates road, engine and tire noise, harsh reactions to big bumps and body lean in corners. None are a deal breaker, they’re typical of this class.
Although the Buick Envista is positioned as an entry-level premium car, it possesses the Trax’s performance, fuel efficiency and interior quality. Only its design and added length — admittedly a plus — make it worthy of consideration over a Trax.
Fashion has its price
Given that the average transaction price of a new car in September was an eye-watering $47,899, the 2024 Buick Envista starts less than half of that, at $23,495, including destination charge, which will make it a popular choice. Even the top-of-the-line Avenir comes just a bit more than $30k. While that may not seem like much given the usurious prices automakers charge for new vehicles, it’s still $3,095-to-$5,795 more than you’ll pay for the mechanically identical Chevrolet Trax.
Personally, I find the Buick Envista charming, the perfect car to buy, use and use up. But it’s lack of any meaningful performance upgrade, either in fuel efficiency or performance, makes it a questionable buy over the Chevy. Then again, given the average transaction price of a Chevy, the bowtie brand seems to be far more premium.