2021 Buick Envision

Envision good compact SUV, falls short of luxury tag

Roseville, CA- The Buick Envision suffers from an identity issue. The compact sport utility vehicle can more than hold its own among standard SUVs, yet it falls short when measured against luxury models in its class.

Historically, Buicks have been marketed as a “premium” brand by General Motors, the parent company. GM has positioned the Envision above its mainstream vehicles and below the luxury Cadillac division. According to GM, the Buick lineup features “luxury cars built with luxury features.”

The Envision made its U.S. debut in 2016 and has experienced somewhat modest sales in its six-year history. It had a sales high of 41,040 in 2017 and last year the total was 34,942. Looking to hike up those numbers, GM redesigned the 2021 Buick Envision. Among the major changers were making it lower, wider and giving it a turbocharged engine.

This is an important year for the Envision because GM essentially shut down the car half of its lineup in recent years due to lackluster sales. This year Envision sales are deemed more important than ever as Buick hopes to establish deeper roots in the U.S. market.

A Tough Sell

interior of Buick Envision

Even with the improvements, the Envision can be a tough sell. It does cost less (starting at just under $32,000) than many other luxury compact SUVs, yet a judicious shopper may find more expensive competitors provide better value. And the bottom line with the Envision is it’s not as athletic or fun to drive as other luxury SUVs. One more strike against the Envision is its built in Yantai, China.

The latest Envision resides on a new platform that is also used by the Cadillac XT4. A five-passenger SUV, the Envision is situated in the Buick SUV lineup between the smaller Encore and the three-row Enclave.

While it is an improvement on the two previous engines, there’s nothing special about the new turbo engine that comes standard in all three trim levels (Preferred, Essence, Avenir). Paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission, the turbo 2.0-liter, four-cylinder that generates 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

There are certainly much faster rivals. The Envision feels quick, yet the numbers tell another story – 0-60 mph in a mediocre 7.7 seconds. Fuel efficiency is good at 24-31 mpg.

The Envision handling is fine, but nothing special. It corners well and is easy to maneuver in tight spaces, while also exhibiting little wind or road noise. Safety features include forward collision mitigation, lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and a safety alert seat.

AT A GLANCE – 2021 BUICK ENVISION

  • Performance: turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 228 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 24-31 mpg
  • Price estimate: $31,900 to $42,100
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; Drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; Roadside assistance: 6 years/70,000; Corrosion: 6 years/unlimited

Interior

The interior design is nothing fancy, unlike many luxury models that offer lots of high-tech qualities. However, the Envision has very few hard surfaces, is smartly designed and has a great user-friendly quality. There’s a sharp 8-inch touchscreen that’s standard and a new optional 10-inch touchscreen, a first for Buick. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are standard.

There is plenty of front seating comfort, thanks to the adjustments that can be made for the driver and passenger. Taller folks may feel a little cramped with leg room on long trips. Like many small SUVs, seating is tight with three passengers in the second row. The cargo area is 25.2 cubic feet and enlarges to 52.7 cubes when the second row is folded down.

The 2021 Buck Envision is a good overall compact SUV. Yet it’s not outstanding in any area, something that one expects from a vehicle with the luxury tag.