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.

What's New: New Verano Turbo; standard backup camera; available blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning.

The 2013 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 small Chevy. 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 premium amenities 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 might be its originality.

Another set of buyers who might 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 a choice that's long on value but still delivers the refined equipment they're used to.

The Verano's modern demeanor helps Buick round out its model range and combat the brand's stodgy, yesteryear image. It might not have the visibility or reputation enjoyed by so many other premium sedans, but it is absolutely well positioned 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 long-haul 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 cu-ft, 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.

Now available in four trims, the Verano offers a range of standard and optional convenience features. For 2013, a backup camera and Buick's IntelliLink system come standard across the lineup. The base model comes equipped with dual-zone climate control, remote start, cruise control and a 6-speaker stereo. The midrange Convenience trim adds a power-adjustable driver's seat and heated exterior mirrors. The Leather trim adds leather seating surfaces, push-button start, heated front seats and a premium nine-speaker audio system. Finally, the new Verano Turbo is equipped with the all the upgrades from the Leather trim, plus the new turbocharged engine and sporty styling tweaks. A sunroof is optional on all but the base model.

Overall, the Buick Verano looks and feels like a near-luxury car, especially in Convenience and Leather and Turbo trim.

Technology

The 2013 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. A backup camera system is now standard, and the midlevel Convenience trim adds rear parking sensors, blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning. 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 lb-ft of torque. Energy is managed by a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. Government fuel economy for the Verano is 21 mpg city/32 mpg highway.

The new Verano Turbo gets a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that produces 250 hp and 260 lb-ft torque. It, too, comes with a 6-speed automatic, but a 6-speed manual is optional for those who prefer to enjoy the Turbo's sportier character by rowing through the gears. The Verano Turbo is EPA-rated at 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway when equipped with the automatic. The manual Turbo gets a 1-mpg advantage on the highway.

Safety

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. Further elevating occupant protection are ABS, traction control and stability control. Meanwhile, the new standard backup camera helps rearward visibility, and the available blind spot and cross-traffic warning on the top-trim models provides additional peace of mind.

Driving Impressions

Despite sharing the same platform as the Cruze, the Verano's ride quality is considerably more upscale and comfortable. It swallows up most road blemishes with ease and would have to drive across a very rough surface for occupants to feel discomfort. 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. That's possibly the strongest mechanical suit for non-turbo models. The 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 non-turbo 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.

The Verano Turbo, on the other hand, offers serious grunt. It's considerably quicker off the line, shaving 2.4 seconds off of the base car's 0-60 mph time. Plus, the turbocharged engine offers considerable torque even at low engine speeds, allowing better highway passing speeds without the need for a downshift.

Other Cars to Consider

Acura TSX: The TSX is a more able handler than the Verano. Although the Verano's steering system might be more responsive, the TSX enjoys better overall dynamics for a sportier feel. The TSX also benefits from more power, stronger acceleration than the non-turbo Verano 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 than the Verano and 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 non-turbo Verano. Both vehicles offer a ride that's comparably quiet and compliant.

AutoTrader Recommends

Before the Verano Turbo was introduced, we liked the Leather trimmed version. It offers the amenities--heated seats, push-button start, and, of course, leather upholstery--that separate a luxury car from a more pedestrian vehicle. And if a powerful engine isn't a big deal, the Leather package Verano is still a great choice. But if you're looking for a sporty, entry-level luxury car, the Verano Turbo is the clear winner. It eliminates our only real issue with the Verano--its lack of power. And opting for the manual provides a truly engaging driving experience. Choose the navigation and sunroof to equip the 2013 Verano like a true luxury car.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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