Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com
June 20, 2012
Every year, there’s a new trend in the automotive world. One moment, its crossover mania; the next moment, it’s the coupe sedan. The current fad is compact, near luxury cars. And it’s not only the regular suspects that are getting into it. Luxury manufacturers are getting into the game as well: Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Acura, and even Buick. Buick? Yes, Buick.
Last year, the tri-shield introduced their new compact car, the Verano. Buick is hoping to take slice out of the growing luxury compact car market. But does a small compact Buick make sense at all?
At first glance, the Verano looks to be a like shrunken La Crosse. The front end carries Buick’s signature waterfall grill and a set of headlights with a blue tint. On the hood, portholes sit on either side. The side profile carries the same profile from the larger LaCrosse and the standard eighteen inch wheels do a good job of filling in the wheel wells. The back end is short and has a tall trunk lid.
One design cue that I didn’t like on the Verano is the chrome bars on top of the taillights. I’m not sure as to why they are there, but those bars add a touch of tackyness. All I would ask is for those chrome bars to be removed or to be color coded to the vehicle.
The Verano’s interior is one of the better ones GM has done in awhile. The dash layout is logical and most of the materials are soft touch and good quality. The only black mark with the dash lies with the “wood” and “metal” trim around the center stack. Come on GM, you’re marketing this as a premium compact car, at least put some better quality “wood” and “metal”.
Speaking about the center stack, the Verano comes equipped with Buick’s new Intellilink infotainment system. Intellilink provides AM/FM/XM radio, USB and AUX connectivity, and streaming of Pandora and Stitcher Internet Radio. The system had two problems though. After I had used Pandora once and decided to go back to it, the system would play the music but no sound came out. The other problem was when I had iPod connected and would play a certain track, the system would decide to play it at Alvin and the Chipmunks speed. Hopefully GM is working on a fix.
As for comfort, the Verano delivers it in spades. Passengers sitting in the front will find seats very comfortable and pleased to find them heated. Back seat passengers will find the space somewhat tight. Head and legroom come at a premium. The trunk measures out to 14 cu. ft., about 0.2 cu. ft. less than the large Regal.
Next, Ride, Drive, and the Verdict
Ride and Drive
The Verano comes equipped with GM’s 2.4L four-cylinder producing 180 HP and 172 lb-ft of torque going through a six-speed automatic. Getting off the line and driving around town, the Verano provides respectable power. However, on the freeway and/or when trying to make a pass, the 2.4L feels overworked and underpowered. Thank the Verano’s curb weight of 3,300 lbs for that. Luckily for the Verano, a new 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder is on its way later this year.
Fuel economy of the 2.4 stands at 21 City/31 Highway/25 Combined. During my week with the Verano, I matched the combined figure of 25. The Verano's closest competitor, the Acura ILX gets better mileage out of its base 2.0L with 24 City/35 Highway/28 Combined and matches the Verano when equipped with an optional 200 HP 2.4L four (22 City/31 Highway/25 Combined).
Bigger, heavier cars with much more power get similar highway numbers to the Verano (Dodge Charger is one of them), and comparing to the new Acura ILX is natural, but if you're going to do that, you need to compare the power and torque output as well. I haven't driven the ILX 2.0 yet, but I will bet it will be sitting higher in the RPM band than the Verano 2.4L.
The Verano does come back with one of the quietest rides in the class. Road and wind noise are non-existent, even at highway speed. Also, the Verano ride feels very solid and composed, giving you the feeling you’re in a more expensive vehicle.
If you feel like having some fun, the Verano is a willing partner. The front MacPherson suspension and rear Z-link setup keep the Verano stable when cornering, and the steering provides a good feel and weight. But don’t push it, the Verano isn’t a Ford Focus or a Dodge Dart, it will fight back.
Does a compact Buick make sense? Almost. Unfortunately the weak link in the Verano is the 2.4L’s fuel economy. This is a compact car that gets almost the same fuel economy as a full size vehicle equipped with the V6. Hopefully, the turbo engine coming out later this year can rectify this.
Otherwise, the Verano has a lot going for it: a handsome exterior, a comfortable interior, Buick’s new Intellilink system, and a very quiet ride.
As the Verano was being driven away, I wondered how long how it would take to for me to save up enough money to get a Verano Turbo. Yeah, the Verano is that good.
Tail light brows
Year - 2012
Make - Buick
Model - Verano
Trim - 1SL
Engine - 2.4L DOHC Four-Cylinder
Driveline - Front Wheel Drive, Six Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM - 180 @ 6200
Torque @ RPM - 171 @ 4900
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/32/25
Curb Weight - 3300 lbs
Location of Manufacture - Lake Orion, Michigan
Base Price - $25,965.00
As Tested Price - $26,850.00 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)
William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.