2021 Buick Envision Essence FWD Review

Near-premium sometimes means cutting corners

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Positives: 2nd-gen sheetmetal levels up nicely, comfortable ride, solid infotainment system, solid room for four.
Negatives: Sole engine lacks grunt, disconnected and lackluster driving experience, heavy plastics use and mediocre ergonomics make it feel less than premium.
Bottom Line: The second-gen Envision looks great, and it will satisfy most owners with its power and room, but it can't compete with the Germans, Japanese, or the Koreans when it comes to luxury and power.
The first-gen Envision was really a Chinese crossover that made its way here, and it wasn't easy on the eyes. The new 2022 Buick Envision looks totally different and comes out all the better for it. The sole engine is a 228-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a a nine-speed automatic transmission with optional all-wheel drive. It competes with such premium vehicles as the Acura RDX, BMW X3, and the Cadillac XT4. But in this fancy field, the Envision has an uphill battle since it leans more towards a lower tier of premium with less power and interior style. We drove the mid-pack Essence FWD trim for a week to see if the redesign was convincing. Read on for our detailed review.

Driving Experience



There's nothing wrong with the way the Envision drives, but don't expect it to be thrilling. It can't keep up with the offerings from BMW and Audi in terms of power and handling, but it does have excellent ride quality, and it feels composed in most situations.

Ride Quality: It absorbs bumps without feeling unstable or jarring. It's one of Buick's trademarks, and the Envision upholds it well.

Acceleration: 0-60 comes in 7.4 seconds, which isn't bad, but the competition is quicker. There's minor turbo lag, but the throttle response is good, and shifting from the 9-speed is responsive.

Braking: The brakes very good, and the pedal feel is progressive. We had no problem bringing the Envision to a stop quickly.

Steering: The steering lacks feedback, but it's on-center and the turn-in is good.

Handling: There is some noticeable body roll, but at least the Envision feels fairly balanced and doesn't nose dive hard in the turns.




GM's infotainment system that's used across brands is better than it's ever been. We liked the system, despite the fact that there are hardly any more physical control buttons for it. We do wish more vehicles would have either center console button controls or a controller between the seats.

Infotainment System: The Envision's upsized 10" touchscreen is crisp and clear, and the icons are large and legible. The menus are easy to navigate, and the visuals are kept very simple for quick legibility.

Controls: The Envision's control buttons on the steering wheel, center stack, and center console are decently sized. We're just glad it doesn't eschew all the buttons for screen-based controls.




The new Envision is way better looking that the somewhat awkward first-generation vehicle. It now looks cohesive, a bit muscular, and definitely more athletic.

Front: The wide grille, slim headlights, and sleek vents all work together well to make for a very attractive front fascia.

Rear: The back end looks as nice as the front with slim taillights, a crisp liftgate, and some tasteful chrome trim that kinda look like exhaust ports.

Profile: Muscular quarter panels, handsome creases, and short overhangs help give the Envision great proportions and a sleek side view.

Cabin: Buick interiors are not our favorite due to the overuse of plastics and piano black trim, but the Envision is way better than before. The dashboard is clean, the faux carbon fiber is actually pretty nice, and the door trim styling looks very good.




For the most part, the Envision retains its interior comfort levels, as well as passenger space. While it's not huge inside, the Envision comfortably seats five average-sized adults. There is still a bit too much hard plastic for our liking.

Front Seats: These seats are a step up from the last Envision, and the perforated leather looks and feels great. There's just the right amount of cushioning and bolstering, and adjustability is good.

Rear Seats: The rear seats are quite comfy. There's 39.3 inches of legroom, and there's some nice contouring in the outboard positions. Even the middle position isn't overly flat in the cushion or the seatback.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): While it's not as quiet inside as the pricier Enclave, the Envision does fine with wind and road noise. The build quality appears to be pretty solid, as well.

Visibility: Visibility is generally good. We liked the seating position that allows a nice view out the front. The thicker pillars in back do obstruct, a sacrifice to styling.

Climate: The climate system worked just fine with no issues with air flow. It's responsive and quick to fire up.




The new Envision was tested by the NHTSA but not the IIHS. It performed very well. The safety features that come standard are very strong, and only a small fraction of the feature set is optional.

IIHS Rating: Not tested.

NHTSA Rating: The new Envision earned five stars in federal crash testing.

Standard Tech: The Essence comes with Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist w/ Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Automatic Emergency Braking, Following Distance Indicator, Intellibeam Auto-High Beams, Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Rear Park Assist, and Teen Driver that limits radio volume, speed, and phone usage.

Optional Tech: Our tester came optioned with Front Park Assist.




The interior of the Envision is pretty good for small item storage, but its cargo space dimensions are smaller than the 1st generation Envision. It's about midpack for the near-premium small crossover segment.

Storage Space: The center console is pretty good at keeping small items within reach, namely the retractable door cubby in front of the shifter. It's deep and easy to reach. The cupholders are also front and center, and the door pockets are medium-sized.

Cargo Room: The Envision now has less cargo space than the previous model with 25.2 cubic feet with the seats up and 52.7 cubes with the seats folded flat. That's down from 26.9 and 57.3 cubes from the previous year. While it's smaller than the Acura RDX, it eclipses the Cadillac XT4.

Fuel Economy



Our time in Envision was pretty much on local roads, so our mileage was lower than it would've been in combined driving. That said, we weren't able to hit the EPA estimate, but we did drive in Sport mode most of the time.

Observed: 18.4 mpg.

Distance Driven: 97 miles.




The $2,500 Technology package includes a Bose 9-Speaker Premium Audio System that sounds pretty good. We didn't have any issues with the sound quality, and it was clear with a good amount of bass.

Final Thoughts

The Envision is better than before, despite the fact that it's down on cargo space. The styling is now attractive and appropriate for the near-premium segment. Tech, ergonomics, occupant comfort, and aesthetics are very good, but there are better driving choices out there. Only the top Avenir trim looks like it can compete with other premium brands like Acura, Cadillac, and Lincoln, and that's the choice we would go with since it has better trim, standard all-wheel drive, heated rear outboard seats, HD Surround Vision viewing, and Wireless phone charging.
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