ANN ARBOR, MI.
– What if I told you that Buick – yes, Buick – is the fastest-growing automotive marque in Canada, with a sales increase of 78.5 percent through May 2023?
Would you believe me?
I understand your skepticism, but it’s true. Buick is a hot automotive brand right now. In Canada, it posted a 143.1 percent sales increase (3,746 units) in the first quarter of this year, which was not only its best showing since Q1 2017, but its best first quarter ever.
Since the debut of the Wildcat EV
concept last summer, during which time it also announced it will become an all-electric brand by 2030, with the first EV model arriving in 2024, Buick has announced new products for the shorter term.
The updated compact Encore GX SUV
went on sale this past spring, and there’s an all-new mid-size Envision coming next year and sandwiched in between those two is the first-ever Envista subcompact crossover. The latter slots into the space previously occupied by the discontinued Encore as Buick’s entry-level vehicle.
The Envista, set to arrive at Canadian dealerships in late summer, follows a similar path to that of the Encore GX sibling regarding size, packaging, and pricing. Like the Encore GX, the Envista is Korean-built on GM’s VSS-F (Vehicle Set Strategy – Front-Wheel Drive) platform, which also underpins the Chevrolet Trax and Trailblazer, but with an even simpler offering.
Whereas the Encore GX is mostly all-wheel drive, save for the base Preferred grade which is also available with front-wheel drive, the Envista is front-drive only. Its 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine (137 hp / 162 lb-ft.) is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Like the Encore GX, and future Buicks to come, the grade walk for the Envista consists of Preferred, ST (Sport Touring), and Avenir.
From a packaging perspective, the Envista comes well-equipped. The Convenience 1 Package is standard on all trims in Canada and includes an 8-way power driver seat, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, passive entry, and remote start.
The Advanced Safety Package, standard on Preferred and ST, bundles together rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert, and Adaptive Cruise Control. A similar standard package for Avenir models includes all the foregoing plus Rainsense Wipers and an Auto-dim Outside Driver Mirror. A moonroof is also available for ST and standard on Avenir.
From a styling perspective, the Envista carries forward the “new face of Buick” as first shown on the Wildcat EV, which include its forward-leaning nose, large grille, and slim LED headlights. Buick’s new tri-shield logo and typefaces are also present.
Given its sloping roofline, the Envista is more car-like in its profile and general proportions, which Buick says will help it appeal to buyers who have owned sedans or other passenger cars previously.
To gain a better sense of how it performs in the real world, Buick recently invited a small group of journalists to drive the Envista in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
When I attended the Envista reveal in April, I thought it to be quite handsome, with an appearance that is clearly SUV, but with enough car essence to appeal to sedan owners.
I’ll be frank – I prefer its looks to those of the Encore GX which, with its boxier styling, is much more solidly in the SUV column. The Envista, on the other hand, is a bit of a tweener, and that’s part of its appeal for me.
Despite its car ethos, the Envista delivers the benefits of modern crossovers, in terms of interior space for both occupants and cargo. Its maximum cargo volume rating is 232 litres less than that of the Encore GX but is still spacious for a vehicle of its size. Sitting in the rear seat to take photos, my six-foot frame had ample leg and headroom to be comfortable despite the rearward slope of the Envista’s roofline.
Up front, the star of the show is the standard 19-inch Infotainment Screen, which consists of two screens housed within one panel. The 11-inch multimedia display is a touchscreen which houses controls for items such as navigation, climate functions, and stereo controls. The other screen, an 8-inch display, is a configurable instrument cluster.
Both screens offer pin-sharp HD resolution with quick response times and are easy to use. As someone who prefers climate functions to be located on physical buttons due to their ease of use and because they’re minimally distracting, I’m pleased to see these buttons are present in the Envista below the 11-inch display. These functions are also located on the touchscreen.
The Envista’s cabin is quite inviting. The leather seating is comfortable and the contrast stitching and embossed headrests (ST and Avenir), provide pleasing accents. The flat-bottom steering wheel (standard on all trims) is another nice touch, as are the piano black trim inserts in the console and dashboard. Rearward visibility is a bit pinched due to the car’s styling.
On the road, the Envista Avenir we drove acquitted itself well regarding overall comfort, ride, and handling. I’m not going to mince words here – this is not a fast car. The tiny 1.2-litre turbo takes a while to get the car moving, and it's pretty loud when you mash the throttle, as I discovered during the drive.
However, once up to cruising speed, the Envista offers a quiet and composed ride thanks in part to Buick’s QuietTuning, which provides a good amount of sound insulation to tamp down road noise. A Watts Link suspension, which is standard on Avenir and available on ST, also helps to smooth out the bumps and keep the Envista more planted to the road. An electrohydraulic brake booster, which is also standard, exists to deliver “on-demand” braking when needed.
On public roads – there was no closed course testing – the Envista delivers a comfortable driving experience, and while it lacks performance, it will certainly meet the daily needs of commuting, shopping, and taking kids to and from school.
During the product presentation, one slide said Buick’s vision for the Envista is for it to become the “conquest champion” in the GM portfolio. That’s quite bold, but given the Envista’s attributes and aggressive pricing, it doesn’t appear to be an unrealistic goal.
2024 Buick Envista pricing
Preferred – $28,999
ST – $30,299
Avenir – $33,899
The 2024 Buick Envista goes on sale in late summer.
2024 Buick Envista
Front-engine, front-wheel drive, 6-speed automatic transmission
1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder (137 hp / 162 lb-ft.)
(Regular 87) 8.4 / 7.4 / 7.9 L / 100 km (city / highway / combined)
1,189 / 586 litres (42 / 20.7 cu ft.) (behind first / second row)
$28,999 base, excl. freight, taxes, and fees