The Buick Verano was a timely addition to GM’s premium-brand lineup. Buick decided to take an existing GM architecture, and make it more powerful, quieter on the road, and richer in feel. As a result, it has a truly distinctive offering in this new segment, one worth shopping if the sporty edges of the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class are a turn-off.
From a styling point of view, “carryover” is fine—the Verano fits neatly in the Buick spectrum, with just enough hints of its heritage in the grille and interior to mask its small-car proportions. Almost all its styling cues are uniformly tasteful and subdued, save for the hood’s portholes. They’re afterthoughts. The interior skips even that flaw: it really has its act together, with a richly finished dash and softly lit gauges.
A 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is standard on the Verano. Not quick by any means, it’s capable only of 0-60 mph times of about 8.6 seconds, but the front-driver feels a little more eager than that, thanks to a responsive six-speed automatic and an overall level of refinement that’s easily among the best in its segment, if not the best.
The 250-horsepower Turbo changes the mood of the even-tempered base car, lifting its tepid performance into something more interesting. It’s good for 0-60 mph times of 6.2 seconds, and top speed drifts up to about 129 mph, with almost no perception of lag or audible change from the engine bay. There’s a manual transmission available, but it’s not common on lots.
Gas mileage isn’t stellar for a compact car. The Verano is rated by the EPA at 21/32 mpg, not so impressive considering the Cruze’s top 42-mpg highway figure. The Turbo penalty? Just one mile per gallon more, so why not?
The Verano shares some significant suspension and body structures with the compact Chevy Cruze, but it’s more comfortably tuned and relentlessly quiet. Base cars have a softly sprung feel, and Turbos dial that to only slightly tauter settings. Handling? It’s predictable, safe, and can even be fun if you don’t mind ample body lean. The modestly faster steering and slightly firmer ride of the Turbo could easily be adapted to the base car, in our opinion. Four-wheel disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power, even if the pedal feel is old-money spongy.
Interior appointments are worthy of being compared to those of any luxury car this size. The front-wheel-drive layout grants the Verano a very spacious interior. Front seats are superb, with all-day support for a wide range of drivers, along with plenty of seat travel and headroom for the tallest drivers. Rear seats are well contoured for adults, too; the only thing that calls the Verano out as a compact is the need to compromise legroom between front and rear if there are several lanky occupants riding at once. Trunk space is large and well-shaped, and rear seatbacks fold forward nearly flat, with a wide opening.
A phenomenally refined, comfortable, quiet interior distinguishes the Verano from less-expensive compact sedans. Quiet Tuning is a keyword at Buick, and it describes much of the Verano’s personality. With its meticulous sound-deadening measures, like triple-sealed doors, laminated side glass, an acoustic windshield, and various foams, baffles, and mats, the Verano is very, very quiet inside. Buick has worked to isolate road, wind, and engine noise, so even if you’re driving the Verano hard, on some of the coarsest surfaces, you’ll be able to have a soft-spoken conversation.
Crash-test ratings from the NHTSA come in at five stars overall, but the Verano no longer rates as an IIHS Top Safety Pick, since it hasn’t been subjected to the new small-overlap crash test. Equipment-wise, it’s all here: ten standard airbags, electronic stability control, and anti-lock braking with brake assist, as well as OnStar Automatic Crash Response. Rear parking assist is available, and a rearview camera is standard on all but the base model; Turbos have blind-spot monitors standard, too.
The Verano is clearly not a Cadillac, but it’s not priced as one either. Starting in the low $20,000s, the Verano comes equipped with an impressive roster of features, including dual-zone automatic climate control, steering-wheel controls, an AM/FM/CD player, and a USB input. However, Buick has created a new base model this year that omits Bluetooth, the rearview camera, and the Buick IntelliLink touch-screen interface, which includes voice controls as well as Pandora and Stitcher apps. They’re available on all other Verano models. A Convenience Group adds heated side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated front seats, and rear parking assist, while a Leather Group adds a driver power seat, Bose surround sound audio, push-button keyless start, and premium leather upholstery. All that comes standard on the Turbo. A heated steering wheel and nav system are among the few options, with a fully loaded Verano priced around $30,000, where the Turbo price begins.