Buick added the Envision crossover utility to its U.S. lineup two years ago, a premium compact with room for up to five passengers. Built in China, the Envision falls between the larger Enclave, assembled in Michigan, and the smaller Encore, built in South Korea.
For 2019, the Envision starts at $31,995 (plus $995 freight) for the base front-wheel-drive model, and ranges as high as $43,600 for the all-wheel-drive Premium II trim level, which we tested for this report.
Other trims include the Preferred ($35,250) and Essence ($37,550) models, with standard front-wheel drive (add $1,850 for all-wheel drive); and the Premium ($40,700), which, like the Premium II, comes only with all-wheel drive.
The base model is not available with all-wheel drive, but it can be added to the Preferred and Essence models for $1,750.
Base, Preferred and Essence models come with a normally aspirated 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 197 horsepower and 192 foot-pounds of torque, connected to a six-speed automatic transmission. But the Premium trim levels get a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine producing 252 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque. It’s paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission, which is new for 2019.
Envision is the first Chinese-built highway vehicle to be sold in the United States. General Motors has been selling it in China since 2014, where the Buick brand is quite popular. That dates back to the time when Chinese royalty drove Buicks early in the 20th century. GM has suggested that there could be a U.S. production site for the Envision at some point.
Standard are heated front and rear seats and steering wheel; a sliding, 60/40-split rear seat, which can be moved back to add legroom for second-row passengers; eight-way power-adjustable front seats and four-way-adjustable lumbar support; three-zone climate control with rear-seat controls; a programmable power liftgate with hands-free operation; and active interior noise cancellation.
Handling was surprisingly pleasing, and steering was precise and predictable. The nine-speed transmission shifted smoothly, with no detectable gear-hunting and unnecessary shifting when we were driving up and down some hilly roads.
Envision was designed to be lighter and have less wind resistance than typically seen in this class. Buick says that even the moon roof was designed to produce minimal wind noise when open.
The exterior design is similar to that of other Buick crossovers, so it’s easily recognizable as a member of the Buick CUV family. It has Buick’s signature winged headlights and heated outside mirrors with built-in LED turn signals.
There is a “floating” wraparound instrument panel, a large center console storage bin, an 8-inch Buick IntelliLink audio/connectivity screen, and a steering wheel with thumb-operated toggle switches for the IntelliLink menus and driver-information center. OnStar with 4G LTE and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot are included on Premium trim levels.
Safety features include 10 standard air bags, front park assist, a safety-alert seat that pulses to warn the driver of an impending collision, lane-change alert, rear cross-traffic alert, following-distance indicator, electronic stability control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, and cornering brake control.
Also included on Premium trims is Automatic Park Assist, which can identify a suitable parallel or perpendicular parking spot and steer the vehicle into it when prompted by the driver.
2019 Buick Envision
Base price: $31,995-$43,600
Price as tested: $48,235
Engines: 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder, gasoline (base, midlevel trims); 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, gasoline (Premium trims)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic (2.5-liter); nine-speed automatic (2.0-liter)
Trailer-towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
EPA fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 29 highway
Competitors: Infiniti QX50, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Acura RDX, Mazda CX-5, Lexus NX, Lincoln MKC, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain
Bottom line: Refreshed in and out