The 2014 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, and 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 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.

What's New for 2014?

The Verano sees minor trim changes for 2014. Forward collision alert and lane departure warning are now standard on all models except the base Verano, as is a universal garage door opener. Additionally, heated front seats are now included in the Convenience trim.

What We Like

Upscale cabin; compliant ride; affordable in comparison to other luxury marques; amply equipped in up-level trims

What We Don't

Tight rear seat; busy control layout; relatively low performance

How Much?

$24,700-$30,000

Fuel Economy

Base-level Buick Verano models are propelled by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 180 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is standard. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this engine returns 21 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

The new Verano Turbo has 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/30 mpg hwy when equipped with the automatic. The manual Turbo returns a 1-mpg advantage on the highway.

Standard Features & Options

The 2014 Buick Verano comes in four available trim levels. Base models are called simply the Verano. From there, Buick offers the Verano Convenience, the Verano Leather and the Verano Premium.

The base-level Verano ($24,700) is well-equipped. Standard features include a remote starter, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control and a center-mounted touchscreen display for Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system. There's also Bluetooth capability, a USB port for music, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack for music players.

Step up to the Verano Convenience ($25,900) and you get heated mirrors, a power driver seat, blind spot monitoring and park assist. New for 2014, Convenience models and above also get heated front seats, a universal garage door opener and two more safety systems: a lane departure warning system and a forward collision alert system.

Above the Convenience is the Verano Leather ($27,900), which adds keyless access and starting, leather upholstery, an upgraded Bose audio system and a heated steering wheel.

Topping the range is the Verano Premium ($30,000), which includes the potent 250-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. It also adds a rear spoiler.

In terms of major options, the Verano only has a few. One is a sunroof, while shoppers can also select a navigation system on every Verano model except the base-level trim.

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.

In government crash testing, the Verano received a 5-star overall rating -- the best rating available. It earned four stars in rollover tests, along with five stars in frontal and side impact assessments.

Behind the Wheel

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 nonturbo 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 nonturbo 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 the base car's 0-to-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 nonturbo 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 (though a redesigned sedan is on the way). 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 nonturbo Verano. Both vehicles offer a ride that's comparably quiet and compliant.

AutoTrader's Advice

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 Verano package 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 2014 Verano like a true luxury car.

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