The 2018 Buick Envision slots in between the tiny Encore and jumbo Enclave in Buick’s SUV lineup, and although still a bit on the small side, it may represent a just-right size for many. At the same time, this Chinese-built Buick offers the same ultra-quiet cabin and easy-to-use technology you’ll find in its siblings, plus a considerably higher level of standard features than what you’ll get on Buick’s base-model sedans. For those looking for a safe, comfortable and quiet SUV with good value, the Envision is certainly worth a look.
However, when stacked up against the competition, the Envision is quite simply unremarkable. Competitors from both luxury and non-luxury brands are generally more sophisticated to drive, and you may find the Envision’s cabin quality is lower than that of similarly priced models. Engine choice also leaves much to be desired, as base engine power is weak, and the upgraded engine’s fuel economy is comparatively low. In other words, less value-fixated buyers will probably prefer a competing vehicle.
What’s New for 2018?
The Buick Envision carried over unchanged for 2018. There will be noteworthy updates made next year.
What We Like
Abundant standard features for the money; quiet cabin; easy-to-use touchscreen
What We Don’t
Slow acceleration with base engine; below-average cargo space; disappointing fuel economy; inexplicably expensive Preferred trim; less premium than comparably priced SUVs
The Envision base, Preferred and Essence trim levels come with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 197 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. It has a 6-speed automatic transmission. With standard front-wheel drive, it returns an estimated 22 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in combined driving. That lowers to 21 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/24 combined with optional all-wheel drive. This fuel economy may be among the best in the segment, but it also comes saddled with one of the weakest power outputs.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder found in the Premium trims has a far more competitive output for the segment, boasting 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are standard. However, fuel economy lowers to 20 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined, which is notably lower than the class best.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Buick Envision is available in five trim levels: base, Preferred, Essence, Premium and Premium II.
The base trim level ($33,995) comes standard with 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, LED running lights, fog lights, a hands-free power lift gate, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, remote ignition, proximity entry and push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated 8-way power front seats, a 60/40-split back seat (folds, reclines and slides), cloth/leatherette upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors, OnStar emergency and remote services, in-car Wi-Fi, an 8-in touchscreen, four USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a 6-speaker sound system. The base trim is available only with front-wheel drive and white paint. There are no options available.
After examining the standard features list, the Preferred trim level ($35,870) doesn’t seem to add any extra equipment, despite its higher price. It’s at least available with five paint choices. You can also specify it with some optional vehicle accessory packages and all-wheel drive, but that comes with a further charge of about $2,000.
The Essence ($37,720) does add extra equipment, including roof rails, polished wheels, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, tri-zone climate control, leather upholstery, driver memory settings, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel.
The Premium ($42,320) adds the turbo engine, all-wheel drive, an upgraded front suspension, 19-in wheels, front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers, forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, the Safety Alert Seat (see Safety section), an upgraded trip computer and a 7-speaker Bose sound system.
The Premium II ($44,960) adds adaptive HID headlights, an automatic parking system, a head-up display, ventilated front seats and integrated navigation (optional on the Essence and Premium). The optional Driver Confidence package adds automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and a surround-view parking camera.
A sunroof is optional on the top three trims.
Every 2018 Envision comes standard with front-side and front-knee airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, stability and traction control, antilock brakes, a rearview camera and OnStar emergency communications (which includes automatic crash notification and an emergency-response button). Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems are included on the Essence trim and above. Both Premium trims include forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist and the Safety Alert Seat, which vibrates based on inputs from the parking and accident-avoidance systems. Only the Premium II can be outfitted with optional automatic emergency braking.
In government crash tests, the Envision received 5-star overall and side ratings, and 4-star frontal and rollover ratings. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick for its top performance in the crash protection and prevention categories. Its headlights also received a rating of Acceptable — a minimum requirement for that award.
Behind the Wheel
The 2018 Envision is notably quiet, as Buick’s efforts to add ample sound deadening, acoustic glass and standard active noise cancellation have paid off. If you don’t want to hear a lot from the outside world, it’s a good place to start. The suspension is soft and soaks up bumps well, but doesn’t do a very good job around corners. The Envision can seem a bit out of whack when you throw greater demands at it, and frankly, it’s not really in keeping with GM’s other efforts. One has to imagine the Envision’s Chinese market origin has something to do with this.
Power from the base 197-hp engine is quite simply insufficient, especially when you consider that virtually every compact luxury SUV has a base engine equal to or greater than the Envision’s optional turbocharged engine. Even some non-luxury models outdo it. You may find it capable of meeting modest needs, especially considering its fuel economy, but know that rival models can basically match that fuel economy while greatly exceeding its output. The upgraded turbo engine is fine, but its fuel economy is lower than average.
Inside, the Envision’s materials aren’t up to the standards set by compact luxury SUVs. It looks and feels like what it is: a vehicle that straddles the line between mainstream and luxury models. We’re guessing its ample standard feature content could make up for that, though. Its infotainment offerings are certainly attractive, too, both in terms of the volume of features you get and the easy-to-use 8-in touchscreen that controls them.
In terms of space, there’s plenty for passengers in the back seat, but the Envision’s cargo capacity is low among compact SUVs. Both luxury and non-luxury models will be more spacious and versatile.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Lincoln MKC — This small SUV is probably the most comparable to the Envision, boasting similar size, feature content and noise levels. It’s a bit better to drive, though, and some may appreciate that it’s built in the United States rather than China.
2018 Acura RDX — The RDX provides exceptional value. Not only does it come with lots of standard features itself, but it has more space than other compact SUVs and comes with a strong V6 engine. Reliability has historically been exceptional.
2018 GMC Terrain — Since Buick dealers are invariably GMC dealers as well, it’s also worth looking at the Terrain. It has a newer, more sophisticated vehicle architecture, and although it may not be as quiet as the Envision, we think it’s a stronger vehicle overall.
Used Lincoln MKX — Everything we said above about the MKC also applies to the most recent MKX, albeit with a larger, more luxurious cabin. New vehicle prices are higher than the Envision, though, so considering a used or certified pre-owned version is recommended.
The only reason to pay extra for the Preferred trim is if you want a color other than white, and even then, it seems like an awfully steep price to pay for a color choice. Otherwise, we’d go with the Essence trim, given its extra equipment and a price that still sits well below $40,000.