Pros: Upscale cabin; compliant ride; affordable compared with other luxury marques; amply equipped in uplevel trims
Cons: Tight rear seat; busy control layout; relatively low performance
The all-new 2012 Buick Verano is a compact entry-level premium sedan that shares its basic underpinnings with the Chevrolet Cruze. But don't think the Verano is simply a rebadged version of the Cruze. The Verano is original inside and out, defined by distinctive and upscale European character. Like its near-luxury competitors, the Verano is refined, attractive and well equipped.
The Verano should appeal to young professionals looking for status without breaking the bank. Since it's not as mainstream as, say, the Infiniti G or the Lexus IS, some of the Verano's appeal may be its originality.
Another set of buyers who may find the Verano interesting are current premium-car owners who wish to trade down without completely exiting the luxury segment. The Verano will give these folks the plush motoring style they prefer while saving them money during these difficult financial times.
The Verano's modern demeanor helps Buick round out its model range and combat the brand's stodgy yesteryear image. It may not have the visibility or reputation enjoyed by so many other premium sedans, but it is absolutely poised to compete in the segment.
Comfort & Utility
From a roominess standpoint, the Verano inside looks more like a mid-size than a compact car. The cabin is sophisticated and dramatically styled, with high-quality materials and an artful use of color. The designers set out to mimic much of the style and tone of the Buick Lacrosse - and they succeeded. However, the control layout design is overly complicated and lacks the ergonomics one would expect from a premium car.
The front seats are well shaped and amply padded for maximum comfort. They also offer plenty of head- and legroom, even for occupants over six feet tall. But the Verano's abundance of forward space has resulted in a shortage of rear legroom. It's adequate for smaller adults or children but offers a compromised level of comfort for anyone over about five feet eight inches tall.
The Verano's trunk is a very usable 15.2 cubic feet, which, again, is closer to that of a mid-size car than a compact. It can easily accommodate two large suitcases plus a couple of carry-on bags. This cargo space expands considerably when the split folding rear seats are dropped.
Available in three trims, the Verano offers a plethora of standard and optional convenience features. The base model comes equipped with dual-zone climate control, remote start, cruise control and a six-speaker stereo. The midrange Convenience Group adds a power-adjustable driver's seat and heated exterior mirrors. The range-topping Leather Group trim adds leather seating surfaces, push-button start, heated front seats and a premium nine-speaker audio system. A sunroof is optional on Convenience and Leather trim levels.
Overall, the Buick Verano looks and feels like a near-luxury car, especially in Convenience and Leather Group trim.
The 2012 Buick Verano brings with it a short but notable list of advanced electronics. All models offer standard Bluetooth connectivity, a USB interface and Buick's IntelliLink system, which integrates the driver's smartphone with the car's touchscreen display to enable Internet-sourced audio applications such as Pandora. Although there is no available rear-view camera system, the midlevel Convenience trim adds rear parking sensors. There is also an optional navigation system on the Verano's top two trim levels.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The front-wheel-drive Buick Verano is propelled by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 180 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. Energy is managed by a six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. Government fuel economy for the Verano is 21 mpg city/32 mpg highway.
Like the Chevrolet Cruze, the Verano offers an impressive 10 standard airbags: front, side, curtain, front-seat knee and rear-seat side. It also has OnStar telematics. Also elevating occupant protection are ABS, traction control and stability control.
Despite sharing the same platform as the Cruze, the Verano's ride quality is a good deal more upscale and comfortable. It swallows up most road blemishes with ease and would have to drive across a considerably rough surface for occupants to feel any imperfections. Aside from its relaxed manner, the Verano benefits from a quiet cabin thanks to Buick's sound-deadening efforts. Wind and road noise have been minimized to an almost imperceptible level. The result is reduced occupant fatigue during both interstate cruising and around-town driving.
The Verano is a capable handler thanks mainly to its electric power steering, possibly the car's strongest mechanical suit. This system feels perfectly weighted and responsive, bringing quickness and precision to every turn. And driver inputs are well managed by the Verano's chassis, even at faster speeds. There is a definite fun-to-drive factor here.
When it comes to acceleration, though, the Verano falls short. It doesn't deliver strong off-the-line punch, nor does it have the kind of low-end power needed for confident left-lane passing at highway speeds. For this reason, it's difficult to call the Verano a sport sedan. It's almost there, but not quite.
Other Cars to Consider
Acura TSX: The TSX is a more able handler than the Verano. Although the Verano's steering system may be more responsive, the TSX enjoys better overall dynamics for a sportier feel. The TSX also benefits from more power, stronger acceleration and a longer list of high-end features. The Verano wins when it comes to ride comfort and quietness.
Audi A3: The A3 offers sharper handling than the Verano and is also more practical because of its hatchback body style. But the Verano offers a plusher ride, less road noise and more front-seat passenger room.
Infiniti G: The Infiniti G is more athletic and more attractive than the Verano. It also has a richer array of content. But the Verano offers a quieter and softer ride.
Lexus IS: The Lexus IS is more refined and upscale than the Verano. Although the Lexus is not as performance oriented as others in its class, it still offers more power and acceleration than the Verano. Both vehicles offer a ride that's comparably quiet and compliant.
If you're looking for an entry-level luxury car, the Verano's uplevel Leather Group trim is the one you'll want. Not opting for this model means no leather upholstery, no heated seats and no push-button start - all features that separate a premium automobile from a non-luxury one. These are also all base-line luxury amenities that most owners in the upscale compact sedan segment have grown accustomed to. We also encourage buyers to grab the optional navigation system and sunroof to build a fully loaded Verano that's deserving of true near-luxury status. Even with the extra cost of these upgrades, the Verano remains a more affordable value play than offerings from such brands as Lexus, Infiniti and Audi.