2021 Buick Envision Review

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | May 13, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Buick deals!

With big, bodacious Buick sedans, coupes, convertibles, and wagons now firmly in the rearview mirror, General Motors’ oldest brand settles into 2021 with an all-SUV lineup. The selection of sport-utilities at the Buick store is one of the freshest in the business, bolstered this year with an all-new, second-generation 2021 Envision.

The compact Envision is the only one of Buick’s four SUVs imported from China, a market that buys twice as many Buicks as the U.S. does with a buyer base that’s half as old. Without the strong demand for Buicks in China, it’s safe to say the storied brand likely would not have survived General Motors’ bankruptcy in 2009.

For 2021, the Envision gets repositioned as a sportier, more upscale, near-luxury compact SUV. Lower, wider, and shorter overall, but with a longer wheelbase for greater rear-seat passenger space, the new Envision has the sloping roof, shorter overhangs, and overall proportions that, except for the Buick badge, one might associate with an Audi or Mercedes-Benz. The new Envision still embraces the brand’s emphasis on quiet comfort but now does so with a more contemporary look.

The 5-passenger Envision is available in base Preferred, mid-level Essence, and range-topping Avenir trim. 

What Owners Say About the 2021 Buick Envision - Find the best Buick deals!

2021 Buick Envision Avenir Black Front Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 50% of Buick Envision owners are male (vs. 51% for the segment), and the median age of an Envision owner is 69 years (vs. 59).

Owners say their favorite things about the previous-generation Envision were (in descending order) the:

  • Driving feel
  • Exterior design
  • Getting in and out
  • Driving comfort
  • Feeling of safety

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the previous-generation Envision were (in descending order) the:

  • Interior design
  • Powertrain
  • Setting up and starting
  • Infotainment
  • Fuel economy 

In the J.D. Power 2020 APEAL Study, the Envision ranked number 13 out of 15 midsize SUVs.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Buick Envision - Find the best Buick deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of a front-wheel-drive Envision Avenir equipped with the following options:

  • Technology Package II (adaptive cruise control, enhanced automatic emergency braking, enhanced automatic parking assist, adaptive damping suspension, rear camera mirror with washer, enhanced LED headlamps) 
  • Panoramic moonroof
  • Ebony Twilight Metallic paint

The price of the test vehicle came to $45,505, including the $1,195 destination charge.

Getting In and Getting Comfortable

2021 Buick Envision Avenir Front Seats

Photo: Ron Sessions

Open a door, and the Envision Avenir invites you to sit down, settle in and get comfortable. As expected in something wearing the Buick badge, the Avenir’s heated, ventilated, and perforated leather-clad front bucket seats are comfy to sink into but supportive enough to keep you alert and focused. Both front seats have standard power lumbar adjustment, so you can move support to that spot where it’s needed most. Failing that, the Avenir’s driver can queue up the massaging seat to help deal with any persistent kinks.

In Avenir trim, the Envision is nicely appointed. Soft-touch surfaces cover a driver-oriented dashboard that sweeps artfully into the doors. The driver grips a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel and faces a clean- and tidy-looking traditional analog white-on-black speedometer and tachometer. The gauges bracket a configurable 8-inch information display. A dual-zone automatic climate control system with a built-in ozone-scrubbing air ionizer provides set-and-forget comfort. 

Outward visibility to the front and sides is good courtesy of a low instrument panel, slimmed-down windshield pillars, and free-standing side mirrors. Standard ambient lighting accents the door, dashboard, and console trim under low light, and an optional panoramic moonroof increases opportunities for budding celestial observers to catch a glimpse of a falling star.

Up front, storage is decent with a generous-sized glovebox, deep door pockets, a pair of console cup holders that can handle a wide range of beverage sizes, and a roomy covered bin under the split-design center armrest. There’s another, smaller bin at the front of the console, covered by a slider door and perfect for keyfobs, small electronica you might need to keep charged, snacks, and other road-trip items. Pushbutton-style automatic transmission controls on the console allowed designers to open up the space underneath the center console for things such as a purse or tablet.

The Envision is a proper 5-passenger SUV with an adult-capable 3-passenger rear seat. A wheelbase stretch for the 2021 Envision translates to nearly 2 inches greater rear-seat legroom than was offered in the 2020 model. The 60/40-split folding rear seat has a fold-down center armrest with twin cup holders, and rear passengers benefit from air conditioning vents as well as a pair of USB charge ports.

2021 Buick Envision Infotainment System Review

2021 Buick Envision Avenir Interior Dashboard

Photo: Ron Sessions

The 2021 Envision Avenir comes standard with Buick’s latest touchscreen infotainment system. Its highlights include:

  • 10.2-inch high-definition touchscreen display with split-screen functionality
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring
  • Embedded navigation with junction-view lane guidance
  • HD Radio
  • SiriusXM satellite radio
  • Voice recognition
  • Alexa Built-in app
  • 4G LTE Wi-Fi
  • Four USB ports
  • Wireless smartphone charging (Qi-enabled phones)
  • Bose 9-speaker premium sound system

You interact with the infotainment system via easy-to-use touchscreen tiles, physical analog knobs for volume and tuning, steering wheel controls, and voice commands. So you don’t get lost, there’s a hard home button on the left side of the screen plus another one onscreen. The Envision Avenir’s rich-sounding Bose premium sound system includes noise-compensation technology.

The infotainment system’s home screen is logically arranged and provides quick (in most cases, one-click) access to frequently used sub-menus such as phone, audio, navigation, and settings. I was easily able to make and receive calls with the system via a paired phone.

Using voice prompts alone, I could not get the system to provide navigation to a point of interest 500 miles away. But after typing in the full street address on the center screen, the navigation system charted a door-to-door route that updated in real-time to bypass heavy rush-hour traffic through a major city. One nice feature of the navigation system is full-screen junction guidance that helps the driver get in the correct lane through complicated interchanges.

For far better voice assistance, download the Amazon Alexa app from the onscreen icon. With a Buick connected services contract, once you’re signed in to your Amazon account you can get directions, make calls, go to a favorite music service, and so on after pressing the voice prompt button on the steering wheel or Alexa tile on the infotainment screen.

What It’s Like to Drive the 2021 Buick Envision

2021 Buick Envision Avenir Black Side View

Photo: Ron Sessions

Part of the Envision’s premium push for 2021 is an all-new turbocharged powertrain. Last year’s base 197-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gets the heave-ho, replaced by a completely new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder shared with the Cadillac XT4 and XT5

With 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque on tap, the new engine offers less power and torque than the optional 2.0-liter turbo Buick offered in the previous-generation Envision. However, the new engine develops its maximum torque starting at a more accessible 1,500 rpm, supplying ample power when accelerating away from a stop. Healthy dollops of torque are also available across a broad range of engine speeds, perfect for merging and passing, as well.

The smooth and refined new engine supples a surprisingly satisfying drive. And thanks to Buick’s extensive Library Quiet soundproofing, as well as an active noise cancellation system that quells annoying booms and buzzes through the Envision’s audio speakers, there was little or no discernable engine sound, good or bad, even during more aggressive throttle applications. The engine stop-start system performed its fuel-saving regimen as advertised, usually shutting off the engine when stopped in traffic, then restarting with a slight nudge when I lifted my foot off the brake pedal.

Equally seamless in operation, the Envision’s new 9-speed automatic transmission replaces the 6-speed automatic found in the old version of the SUV. It delivered nearly undetectable shifts and never failed to serve up the right ratio for the particular driving situation. The new console-mounted shifter buttons that replace the traditional shifter do take some getting used to, however.

The Envision Avenir test vehicle had the optional continuous damping control suspension. It firms up the suspension for improved vertical body control over large-amplitude swells or dips but backs off damping at the onset of sharper ruts or bumps to help quell impact harshness. 

Over most Southern California roads, the system worked quite well, delivering the kind of relaxed composure Buick customers have traditionally prized. However, it met its match over coarse sections of interstate where the good-looking but firmer-riding 20-inch Continental Conti Pro Contact rubber transmitted periods of teeth-gritting vibration and rattles into the otherwise library-quiet cabin.

The Envision’s very firm and linear-responding brake pedal imparted confidence at all speeds. And although the Envision’s steering ratio was suitable for all driving situations, the feel was artificial, digital, with high initial friction and uneven effort. This vehicle feels more cohesive with the lane-keeping assistance technology turned on (using a button beneath the radio). 

Steering feel aside, on a 40-mile section of twisty 2-lane road through California’s coastal mountains from San Juan Capistrano to Lake Elsinore, the tires delivered confidence-inspiring grip with no observable tire squeal even in the sharper switchback sections. Body lean was minimal as well on freeway cloverleafs and sharp curves on serpentine roads.

Buick Driver Confidence Plus Review

JDPA_2021 Buick Envision Avenir Driving Assistance Menu

Photo: Ron Sessions

The bulk of the Envision’s advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) are part of a Buick Driver Confidence Plus package that’s standard with all trims. Its core elements include:

  • Forward-collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking (active up to 50 mph)
  • Front pedestrian braking (active up to 50 mph)
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Lane-keeping assistance
  • Automatic high-beam assistance
  • Blind-spot warning
  • Rear cross-traffic warning
  • Rear parking distance warning
  • Following distance indicator

As with lane-keeping systems in competitive SUVs, the one in the Envision successfully keeps it from wandering out of its lane, but only in the presence of clearly painted lane markings and relatively straight sections of road. The blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems are less sophisticated than those in some competitors because they won’t intervene and brake to avoid an accident if the driver ignores the visual and audio alerts.

Although conventional cruise control is standard on every Envision, adaptive cruise control is only available in an optional Technology Package II. This upgrade also includes a rear camera mirror, enhanced automatic emergency braking, and a front parking distance warning system with ultrasonic sensors that beep with greater urgency the closer the SUV gets to an object.

Another standard Envision safety feature is a rear-seat reminder system that alerts the driver to check the back seat for a child or pet before locking and leaving the vehicle. A Safety Alert Seat haptically vibrates the driver’s lower seat cushion in the direction of a possible threat, such as a vehicle directly behind or in the Envision’s blind spot. One of Envision’s best safety features, the Safety Alert Seat sure gets your attention to a developing safety issue in a hurry.

A Teen Driver feature is perfect for parents with young, inexperienced drivers who might use the Envision. It allows Mom or Dad to limit the SUV’s maximum speed, set a speed warning, set a maximum audio volume, and automatically activates any available ADAS features of a vehicle in the hands of their pre-adult, less-experienced offspring. Along the same lines, a Buckle to Drive feature prevents the transmission from shifting out of Park for the first 20 seconds after starting the engine unless the driver buckles the seat belt.

Avenir trim upgrades the standard backup camera to a 360-degree surround-view camera that gives an overhead view of the Envision and its immediate surroundings. The Avenir trim also has a head-up display showing essential information such as current speed, posted speed limit, and upcoming navigation directions at the bottom of the windshield within easy sight of the driver. 

2021 Buick Envision FAQ - Find the best Buick deals!

2021 Buick Envision Avenir Cargo Space

Photo: Ron Sessions

How much cargo space does the 2021 Buick Envision have?

There are 25.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the Envision’s rear seat and 52.7 with the 60/40-split rear seat folded flat. That’s a few cubic feet smaller than what earlier versions of the Envision offered and is even a bit less spacious than what you’ll find in the Mazda CX-5. Nevertheless, there’s easily enough room to carry four airport roller bags behind the rear seat. Under the cargo floor, around the spare tire, there’s also some space to hide a small purse or camera from larcenous eyes.

A hands-free power liftgate is standard with Essence and Avenir trims. With the key fob on your person, the liftgate motors up with a foot kick between the rear bumper and the Buick shield logo projected onto the pavement. The logo projection is only helpful after dark, though.

Does the 2021 Buick Envision get good gas mileage?

According to EPA estimates, the 2021 Buick Envision should return 26 mpg in combined city/highway driving when equipped with front-wheel drive and 25 mpg with all-wheel drive. 

Our 1,072-mile extended testing loop, which consisted of more than 900 miles of interstate and freeway driving, saw an average of 31.2 mpg, beating the 31-mpg highway-driving EPA estimate for FWD versions. With front-wheel drive, the Envision’s 15.9-gallon tank (AWD versions get a 16.1-gallon tank) provides 490 miles of driving range based on the results of this trip.

Is the 2021 Buick Envision safe?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2021 Buick Envision a full five out of five stars overall, with five stars each for frontal- and side-impact performance and four stars for rollover resistance. As this review is published, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not released any test results for the redesigned Envision.

How much is the 2021 Buick Envision?

Prices for the 2021 Buick Envision range from $31,800 for the base Preferred trim to $40,400 for the top-of-the-line Avenir version. All-wheel drive is a $1,800 upcharge for all trims. The destination charge is $1,195.

What are the 2021 Buick Envision competitors?

In the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), the Hyundai Tucson ranked highest in the compact SUV segment. The Kia Sportage and Chevrolet Equinox were the next highest-ranked models. 

In the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout Study (APEAL), the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5 tied for the highest score in the compact SUV segment. The GMC Terrain was the next highest-ranked model.

Other competitors to the Buick Envision include the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, and Toyota RAV4.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Buick deals!

2021 Buick Envision Avenir Black Rear Quarter

Photo: Ron Sessions

The 2021 Buick Envision is akin to a comfortable sweater you’d select for a wide variety of occasions, but one that’s now available in a more contemporary design. While there’s nothing leading edge about it, the new Envision is a nicely updated compact SUV with a sportier look and feel that should appeal to some younger buyers than the 60- to 70-year-olds that purchased the previous-generation version. Especially in Avenir trim, the Envision is in the unique position of offering style and features typically associated with compact luxury SUVs, but at a price closer to mainstream models.

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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