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2021 Buick Encore GX vs. 2021 Hyundai Kona: Which Is Better?

The 2021 Buick Encore GX and the 2021 Hyundai Kona are part of a bumper crop of subcompact SUVs. Which is better?

Quick Facts

  • The Buick Encore GX is a sibling to the Chevrolet TrailBlazer.
  • The Hyundai Kona is the brand’s second-smallest SUV.

2021 Buick Encore GX

2021 Buick Encore GX

Base Price: $25,195 / Read our 2021 Buick Encore GX review

What we like: Luggage space; passenger room; wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto

What we would change: Underpowered base engine; fuel economy no better than 4-cylinder rivals

Overview: The Buick Encore GX is just slightly larger and pricier than the regular Encore, but it’s a closer sibling to the Chevrolet TrailBlazer. The Encore GX is better-looking than the Encore outside, and inside there’s a surprising amount of space. Adults can fit in the rear seat and ingress/egress are easy. Luggage space behind the rear seat is an impressive 25.3 cubic feet, expanding to 54.4 with the rear seatbacks folded, and the front seatback folds flat to accommodate longer items. The Encore GX features light steering and a plush ride. Under the hood is a choice of turbocharged 3-cylinder engines. The base 1.2-liter makes 137 horsepower and comes with a CVT and front-wheel drive. The optional 1.3-liter musters 155 HP and can be had with the same CVT/FWD combo or with a 9-speed automatic and AWD. Its extra power makes the 1.3-liter the better choice, and it also gets better mileage: 29/33 mpg city/highway, although AWD drops that to 26/30 mpg.

What’s new for 2021: Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and satellite radio are new standard features. Adaptive cruise control can now be optioned on the base model.

Features and technology: The Encore GX is offered in Preferred, Select, and Essence trim levels. All include a user-friendly 8-inch infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and a Wi-Fi hotspot. The Preferred includes forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and 18-inch wheels. The Select adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a power driver’s seat, heated seats, and dual-zone climate control. The Essence has leather and LED headlights. An available Sport Touring package brings sporty design elements, while an Advanced Technology Package bundles adaptive cruise, navigation, a surround-view camera, and a head-up display.

What does the future hold: The Encore GX is only in its second model year, so we don’t expect any major changes next year. See 2021 Buick Encore GX models for sale near you

2021 Hyundai Kona

2022 Hyundai Kona Front in Blue

Base Price: $21,540 / Read our 2021 Hyundai Kona review

What we like: Brisk acceleration from the available 1.6-liter turbo; EV variant boasts 258 miles of range; AWD can be had with either engine; nimble handling

What we would change: Tight rear seat; cargo space is less than most rivals; electric version offered in only some states

Overview: The 2021 Hyundai Kona provides more excitement than is typical among subcompact SUVs. It starts with extroverted styling and continues with a lively optional powertrain, point-and-shoot handling, and a spunky EV. A modest 147-hp 2.0-liter base engine is paired with a 6-speed automatic and powers the lower trims, but the upper grades enjoy a lively 175-hp turbo 1.6-liter with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. Both offer AWD, and EPA combined estimates with either engine are 30 mpg (FWD) and 27 mpg (AWD). There’s also a Kona EV with an impressive 201 hp and 258 miles of range, but its availability is limited to those states that follow California emissions rules. The Kona is among the shortest vehicles in its segment, which is great for street-parking and maneuverability but less so for interior space. Rear-seat legroom is tight, and the cargo hold is on the small side. Don’t expect fancy cabin materials, although the controls are simple and straightforward. Hyundai’s long warranty coverage and 3-year/36,000-mile free scheduled maintenance are pluses.

What’s new for 2021: There’s a new Night Edition trim. The two wildest paint colors, Sunset Orange and Lime Twist, have been discontinued.

Features and technology: The 2021 Hyundai Kona is offered in six trim levels. The SE, SEL, and SEL Plus get the 2.0-liter engine, while the Night Edition, Limited, and Ultimate get a more entertaining 1.6-liter turbo. The base car includes forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, and a driver-attention monitor. It also gets an easy-to-use 7-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The SEL brings blind-spot monitoring, heated seats, 17-inch wheels, keyless entry, roof rails, satellite radio, and an optional contrasting-color roof. Features of the SEL Plus include a power driver’s seat, wireless smartphone charging, and premium audio. Besides the turbo engine, the Night Edition includes black styling accents and 18-inch wheels. Leather seats and automatic climate control arrive with the Limited, while the Ultimate gets an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, a head-up display, rear parking sensors, and more.

What does the future hold: For 2022, the Kona will get revised styling and new powertrain choices and will also add a sporty N Line model. See 2021 Hyundai Kona models for sale near you

Encore GX vs. Kona: Strengths comparison

Buick Encore GX Benefits: Cargo space; rear-seat accommodations; ride; wireless Android Auto/Apple CarPlay.

Hyundai Kona Benefits: Turbo engine’s acceleration; available EV lively handling; great warranty; 3-years free scheduled maintenance.

2021 Buick Encore GX vs. 2021 Hyundai Kona: Which is better?

The Buick Encore GX will appeal more to those who prioritize room and comfort. Overall, though, the Hyundai Kona offers more with its zippy turbo engine, available EV, engaging handling, lower pricing, and longer warranty. See 2021 Buick Encore GX models for sale or See 2021 Hyundai Kona models for sale

2021 Buick Encore GX 2021 Hyundai Kona
Popular Powertrains
Engine 1.2-liter turbo I3 2.0-liter I4
Horsepower 137 hp  @ 5,000 rpm 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm
Torque 162 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission CVT 6-spd automatic
Fuel Economy 29 mpg (28 city/31 hwy) 30 mpg (27 city/33 hwy)
Also Available 1.3-liter turbo I3; 9-spd automatic; AWD 1.6-liter turbo I4; 7-spd automatic; AWD; EV
Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 10 years/100,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 4 stars 5 stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 102.2 inches 102.4 inches
Overall Length 171.4 inches 164.0 inches
Width 71.4 inches 70.9 inches
Height 64.1 inches 61.0 inches
Turning Diameter 36.8 feet 34.8 feet
Headroom, Front 39.7 inches 39.6 inches
Headroom, Rear 38.1 inches 37.8 inches
Legroom, Front 40.9 inches 41.5 inches
Legroom, Rear 36.0 inches 34.6 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 55.4 inches 55.5 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 53.6 inches 54.5 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 94.3 cubic feet 94.1 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 25.3/54.4 cubic feet 19.2/45.8 cubic feet


Joe Lorio
Joe Lorio
Joe Lorio is an author specializing in automobiles. He says, “I have been into cars ever since I started with Matchboxes, and have been sharing my opinions about them for almost as long. Granted, I was pretty young at the time, but my parents really should have listened to me when I told them not to buy an Austin Marina.”

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