(Detroit) With the Envista, Buick is trying to capture SUV-weary, cost-conscious buyers.

There are customers looking for a vehicle capable of combining – not without compromise – the attributes of a car and a truck. Experimented more than once, this interbreeding has so far had mixed success. Buick, however, believes it has figured out how to make the Envista a success: by offering it for less than $30,000.

The Envista therefore presents itself as a crossbreeding of genres. From this effort of synthesis was born a car that is both slender and massive, multiplying the references to the brand’s new aesthetic vocabulary. The consistency of the lines is not always obvious, but the object catches the eye, and this is obviously the desired effect. In addition, this model tries to embody the revival of the firm in North America. For Buick, it has become more than a goal: a necessity. The manufacturer who has long relied on the Chinese market to cover its costs must now broaden its horizons. And, in doing so, redefining its range, rejuvenating its image and attracting new customers. A whole order.

Rather than go hunting on land that is too crowded, the Envista produced in South Korea does not want to pass for the honest little car that one chooses without particular interest. It wants to establish itself as a functional sedan, favoring comfort and having equipment in tune with the times. This unconventionally shaped compact claims – rare enough to be noted – “popular” model status with a starting price set at $28,999. This now makes it the brand’s entry-level ticket.

This car is distinguished by its curved roof which gives it a false air of a coupe SUV; the Envista adopts Buick’s new aesthetic vocabulary (see “Specifications” tab). Three versions are part of its catalog (base, ST and Avenir).

Far from placing the driver at the heart of the interior architecture, the cabin, with its dashboard tattooed with a large digital slab, seeks to maximize the feeling of space. The slightly raised driving position will remind many of that of an SUV, but whoever is at the controls will immediately miss the dizzying height of the central armrest. The latter is much higher than those of the storm doors. Add to this discomfort the weak support of the seats (at the front) and their insufficient padding. In the back, the Envista settles its occupants rather well. The floor is flat, the legroom, to say the least, amazing. You only have to be careful when entering and exiting because of the arc described by the roof. Too bad that the materials used in the lower part of the cabin are mainly made of plastics and that the atmosphere lacks a bit of cheerfulness.

To tie in with the digital age, the dashboard features an instrument cluster and another for entertainment, both easy to read and user-friendly. Also, the C-pillar (the one that sits all the way to the rear) somewhat impedes visibility, while the lack of a rear window wiper leaves us rather perplexed. Officials of the brand ensure that its presence would have been useless, but doubt is allowed.

In keeping with Buick tradition, the Envista is surprisingly quiet and comfortable considering its engine capacity and size. That’s only true when the Envista adopts Watt’s trailing-arm, parallelogram-beam rear suspension. This is standard on the Avenir trim and optional on the ST. The base model is not eligible. The presence of this rear suspension is, in our opinion, a must. It helps make the Envista more stable when changing trajectory.

However, regardless of the livery chosen, all Envistas are powered by a 1.2L three-cylinder engine. This is mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission. This tandem doesn’t claim to make the Envista a rocket ship, but performance is perfectly adequate under normal use.

As appearances can sometimes be deceiving, it should be pointed out that only the front wheels are driven (traction). Even though the vehicle technically derives quite closely from the Encore GX, a four-wheel drive mode isn’t – at least for now – in the Envista’s career plan.

With the Envista, Buick dreams of being a kind of affordable luxury manufacturer. A brand without fuss, truly transgenerational, cultivating a casual and reassuring double dimension, capable of addressing a young and predominantly female clientele.

From $28,999 to $33,899

8.5L/100km

To ride differently without breaking the bank

La Presse will soon publish the test of the following vehicles: Acura Integra, Audi RS7, Ford Mustang and Toyota Crown. If you own one of these vehicles or are considering one, we would love to hear from you.

The Encore GX (our photo) and the Envista have a lot in common. These two models share the same architecture, the same nomenclature and the same assembly plant. However, the Encore GX has the advantage of offering four-wheel drive. This is standard on the entire range, with the exception of the base model. Additionally, the Encore GX raises its hood to an engine (1.3L) that’s both more powerful and more frugal than the Envista.

The Wildcat concept study serves as the canvas for all Buick products today. The Encore GX was the first to adopt some styling cues from that prototype, but the Envista incorporates many more. That said, despite its sleeker profile, the Envista is surprisingly no more aerodynamic than the Encore GX. The latter claims a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.355 compared to 0.353 for the Envista.