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2020 Buick Envision Review

LIKES
  • Pleasant styling
  • Composed ride
  • Decent turbo punch
  • Good infotainment system
DISLIKES
  • Safety tech should be standard
  • Thirsty turbo-4
  • Gets expensive fast
  • Rivals generally more compelling
BUYING TIP
  • Buick frustratingly reserves active safety tech for the range-topping Envision Premium II, so that’s the one we’d buy. Ask for a big discount.

The 2020 Buick Envision has a pleasantly innocuous personality, but it’s outclassed in terms of value and performance.

The 2020 Buick Envision is a five-seat crossover SUV that blurs lines between mainstream and luxury, not to mention foreign and domestic. Built by the longest-running American automaker at an assembly plant in China, the 2020 Envision squares off against rivals as disparate as the Hyundai Santa Fe and BMW X3. 

Overall, we rate the 2020 Envision at 5.2 out of 10.

It scores well for its comfortable ride and quality feel, but its interior is narrow and its price climbs quickly with options we think most buyers will want. 

For 2020, the Envision receives updated touchscreen infotainment software but otherwise carries over last year’s base, Preferred, Essence, Premium I, and Premium II trim levels. 

A 252-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 sends power to all four wheels through a 9-speed automatic transmission on Premium trims, while other versions use a less-refined 197-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 teamed with a 6-speed automatic and either front- or all-wheel drive. 

The Envision has a soft, composed ride, with quick steering. It’s not as eager to be hustled as its German competition, but its sedate demeanor suits it well. 

Inside, the Envision has good room for four passengers, though three in the back seat is a challenge. The standard 8.0-inch touchscreen comes with Apple and Android compatibility responds quickly and anchors a pleasantly uncluttered dash. Leather upholstery comes on Essence and higher trims and a power moonroof is a popular option available on all but the base model. 

Cargo space is decent at about 57 cubic feet with the rear seat upright, though the liftover is relatively high. 

Safety-wise, the Envision has earned mixed to good ratings from the IIHS and the NHTSA, though testing is incomplete. The feds rated last year’s model at five stars overall while the IIHS awarded it top marks in crash tests but hasn’t evaluated its headlights. Frustratingly, Buick charges big bucks for active safety gear such as automatic emergency braking now standard on nearly every rival. That equipment is optional for the range-topping Envision Premium II and unavailable otherwise, a serious oversight in our eyes. 

Another weak spot is fuel economy. Front-wheel-drive versions earn a reasonable 25 mpg combined, but the turbo engine mandatory with all-wheel drive saps that to just 22 mpg combined and it requires pricey premium fuel. 

Styling
The 2020 Buick Envision raises few eyebrows, though its styling is pleasant enough.

The 2020 Buick Envision blends into any setting, and that’s just fine with us. We rate it perfectly average for its styling at 5 out of 10.

There’s not a bad angle when it comes to the 2020 Envision—truthfully, there are few angles to its curvy shape at all. Its big headlights are graceful, if forgettable, and its slab sides add more heft than its actual dimensions would suggest. 

Big wheel wells are easily filled with the 19-inch wheels fitted to the Premium trim level, though the standard 17- and optional 18-inch wheels on other trims have bigger sidewalls that absorb bumps better. 
Inside, the Envision is again pleasing but not particularly interesting. Its dash is composed of organic shapes and its 8.0-inch touchscreen is conveniently if inelegantly mounted high. Climate control buttons mounted low serve as a minor distraction. Buick offers a broad color palette, but most versions that make their way to the U.S. are swathed in low-excitement tan or black inside. 

Performance
The 2020 Buick Envision rides and handles well enough.

Even with the optional 252-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 underhood, the 2020 Buick Envision is light on driving thrills. For most buyers, it’s just fine, which is why we wind up at an average 5 out of 10 score for its performance.

The base 2.5-liter inline-4 is rated at just 197 hp, which isn’t a lot to lug around a crossover SUV that weighs around 4,000 pounds. It’s quite enough thanks to extensive sound deadening but struggles when it comes to highway passing. The standard 6-speed automatic transmission delivers smooth shifts, and the base engine is the only choice for Sun Belters looking for front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional with the base engine and mandatory for the turbo-4 fitted to the Envision Premium I and Premium II. 

The turbo engine is smooth and peppy, and it works well with the standard 9-speed automatic transmission. It doesn’t wake the Envision up and turn it into a hot rod, but it suits the crossover’s soft ride and gentle handling well. Steering feel is nonexistent through the thick-rimmed wheel, but the Envision feels pleasantly confident at speed on a winding road. We prefer the 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels fitted to non-turbo Envisions, though the 19s don’t disturb the ride enough to upset us. 

Comfort & Quality
The 2020 Buick Envision swallows cargo and passengers well.

The 2020 Buick Envision’s global roots show through inside more than anywhere else, where its relatively narrow interior feels like it was designed for streets more narrow than wide suburban American boulevards. 

We rate it at 7 out of 10, awarding points above average for supportive front seats and the decent cargo space offered by its crossover shape.

Up front, the standard heated seats offer an unusually wide array of power adjustment on every trim level. The second row has decently large door openings and the bench is mounted high enough for good knee support. Three broad-shouldered adults are a no-go, however, as the interior is fairly narrow for a modern crossover SUV. 

With the rear seats upright, the Envision can hold 27 cubic feet of cargo. Fold the rear seats down and that figure climbs to about 57 cubes, which is five to 10 cubic feet less than many competitors. 

Materials are good throughout, but not special given the prices Buick charges. The standard cloth and synthetic leather upholstery doesn’t impress as much as the soft leather standard on Essence and higher trims.

Safety
Buick’s stinginess when it comes to active safety tech is alarming.

By now, every 2020 Buick Envision imported to the U.S. should be able to stop itself if it detects an impending collision. That’s not the case, so we dock the 2020 Envision a point that it earns back for a five-star federal crash-test score. 

Overall, we rate the Envision at 5 out of 10 for safety.

Eight airbags including knee airbags for front-seat occupants are standard across the line, but that’s about as far as most Envision trim levels go. To get blind-spot monitors, Buick forces shoppers to step up to the Essence. Forward-collision warnings that sound a tone but don’t apply the brakes if they detect a potential impact are standard on the Premium. An extra-cost option package finally adds adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking to the Premium II, which results in a nearly $47,000 Buick. 
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Crash-test results have been good for the most part, at least. The NHTSA awarded the 2019 Envision five stars overall, albeit four stars for frontal crash and four stars in the calculated rollover test. The IIHS hasn’t tested the latest Envision for its headlights, but last year’s model earned “Good” scores in every instrumented crash test.

Features
The 2020 Buick Envision is almost a good value in lower trims, but it’s missing some key features.

The 2020 Buick Envision comes in a wide array of trim levels, yet all is not what it seems. We rate it at 5 out of 10, docking a point for limited standard safety gear that we return for an excellent infotainment system.

The base Envision comes only with front-wheel drive, and only in white, though it’s a decent value for the most part at about $33,000 with its standard power-adjustable and heated front seats, 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, keyless ignition, and eight airbags. 

Most buyers will find themselves starting instead at the Preferred trim level that costs about $1,500 more and yet adds nothing but a wider color palette and the option to spend an additional $1,800 for all-wheel drive. Buick regularly offers a rebate that brings the price of the Preferred down to the base Envision, however.

Safety takes priority when it comes to family haulers such as the Envision, which is why we would begrudgingly spend considerably more to step up to the $45,000 Premium II, which adds leather upholstery, cooled front seats, Bose speakers, navigation, the turbo engine, all-wheel drive, and a host of other goodies. Another $1,500 nets the Driver Confidence package that adds adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. It’s a shame that package isn’t offered on less-costly Envisions, as we would find more to recommend at a lower price point. 

Fuel Economy
The 2020 Buick Envision isn’t particularly thrifty, and turbo versions require expensive premium fuel.

Don’t look for a hybrid version of the 2020 Buick Envision, though one would be nice. We rate this crossover SUV at just 4 out of 10 points for its fuel economy based on the turbocharged version. The base engine isn’t all that much thriftier, however.

Envisions with the turbo-4 are rated at just 20 mpg city, 25 highway, 22 combined, and they require premium unleaded gasoline. There’s no fuel-saving front-wheel-drive version on offer, either. 

Stick with the base engine and the Envision is more economical at 22/29/25 mpg with front-wheel drive but a so-so 21/27/24 mpg with all-wheel drive. The base engine uses regular unleaded.

Most competitors are rated at 24 to 26 mpg combined with similar turbo power, while the frugal Subaru Forester that squares off against the base engine is rated at a healthy 29 mpg combined. 


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