The Chevrolet Cruze is an unqualified hit on several levels. But can the 2012 Buick Verano, which shares the same platform with the Cruze, be more than a rebadged GM project? For readers who like jumping to the last chapter before reading the whole book, I am not going to spoil the ending, just read on.
The Verano is neither a rebadged Euro-market sedan (like the Regal) nor a “pure” Buick design like the LaCrosse. It splits the difference between the two designs, marrying a conservative design with a few discrete Buick cues such as the signature waterfall grille and the silly do-nothing portholes on the hood. The overall impression is of a clean, classy car with signature Buick styling with more youthful energetic looks.
The 2012 Verano has a direct-injected, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated to deliver 180 horsepower, driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Buick says the Verano accelerates zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, adequate for a sedan touted as entry-luxury. Fuel economy EPA estimates are 21 mpg (city) and 32 mpg (highway) using regular fuel. After a week traveling more than 300 miles in mixed driving, I averaged 25 mpg overall.
For those seeking more power, Buick confirms a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder is Verano is pending later in 2012.
The newest addition to the Buick family performs admirably, with smooth throttle modulation and enough muscle to merge into the fast lane without pushing your heart rate into the danger zone. The steering feel is good, with a decidedly “European” feel. it’s quite accurate, loads up nicely when cornering forces build, and assures Verano’s capabilities. Brake could be a firmer, but the Buick stops confidently. The Verano feels substantial going down the road, and pleasantly feels bigger than it is.
Body roll is minimal, adhesion is strong, and the car feels competent. When pushed to the limit, the all-season tires, low-displacement engine and soft suspension all seem to "throw in the towel" together at about seven-tenths. It performs better than expected, but it still won't run with the more expensive Acura TSX, Audi A3 or Volvo S60.
The 2012 Buick Verano is as quiet as a monastery. Absorptive mats are fitted behind the dash to arrest engine compartment noise. The headliner is comprised of five layers, and the floor’s carpeting is of varying thickness to selectively dampen sound. Thick acoustic laminated glass and triple door seals abate road noise. The body structure is glued and welded and high-strength steel is employed freely. The exhaust system is tuned to push noise away from the car — while permitting the engine to breathe freely.
With a starting price of $23,470 (including destination charge), the Verano’s feature-set is competitive via comfort and convenience. Bluetooth phone and audio streaming are standard, as are satellite radio, an auxiliary input for an iPod, dual zone climate control, and passive keyless entry. The Buick IntelliLink infotainment system is also standard on all Verano models. It feature a seven-inch high resolution touch screen to control stereo functions and smartphone-related apps such as Pandora and Stitcher.
The optional leather seats are as good as anything in GM's line, including Cadillac. But the entry-level leatherette-with-cloth-inserts seat coverings are handsome as well. The caramel leather interior option includes aqua stitching that matches well with the “ice blue” instrument panel lighting and ambient cabin lighting. Trunk space, more than the Lexus IS250 and Acura TSX offer, is a cozy 14.0 cubic feet. The theated rear seats, which fold to extend the Verano’s trunk space further, are a nice touch.
The 2012 Verano is a small sedan equipped with front-wheel drive and generously topped with traditional American luxury cues. Class competitors include the Acura TSX, Audi A3, Chrysler 200, Lincoln MKZ, Volkswagen CC, and Volvo S60.
Buick's objective was to develop a quieter, more luxurious and better-equipped vehicle than any others close to its $23,470 entry cost. Even loaded with every option, the Verano won't exceed $29,000. That price undercuts by several thousand dollars all aforementioned luxury imports.
Who cares if the 2012 Buick Verano is not that fast? if you want something faster, buy it. If you want a comfortable, easy-to-drive, fully loaded luxury car for less than $30,000, this is the car.