The Buick Verano is a premium compact car with a luxurious interior that's very enjoyable to drive. Launched as a 2012 model, Verano costs thousands less than the Acura ILX, Lexus IS 250, and Audi A3.
New for 2013 is the addition of a turbocharged engine to the lineup. The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It adds to the fun, giving the 2013 Verano Turbo robust acceleration and willing passing power to go with its natural athleticism. The 2.0-liter engine is available with a 6-speed automatic or a new 6-speed manual transmission that makes its debut in the 2013 Verano.
The 2013 Buick Verano comes standard with GM's 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder with direct injection and variable valve timing comes standard. It makes 180 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque, enough for most situations. It's notably smooth and exceptionally quiet. The 6-speed automatic transmission reacts appropriately whether you're driving casually or hard on the gas.
All 2013 Buick Verano models come standard with a rearview camera and Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system, and Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert are newly available. Buick says the IntelliLink system also has improved voice controls this year. SiriusXM Travel Link is now offered, and SiriusXM Tune Select is added; it allows occupants to tag artists and song names, triggering a pop up on the screen when they are played on any satellite radio channel.
A compact car based on the Chevrolet Cruze, Verano is six inches longer than the Mazda3, and three inches longer than the Lexus IS 250. Verano is an attractive car with a short nose, steeply raked windshield, and crisp character lines.
The Buick interior is classy, with a rugged cloth and vinyl upholstery in the base model and excellent leather especially in higher line models. Interior trim is elegant, the center stack is simple and graceful, and the bucket seats are comfortable.
Verano is a very pleasant car to drive. We were impressed with the sporty character. Cornering, transmission performance, and ride quality are all impressive. We found the handling crisp and responsive. The brakes were firm and progressive as well.
The Buick Verano is a good-looking car. It has a wedge-shaped look with a short nose, but it is still sleek. The trademark portholes appear, never mind that they're not holes. They don't sit on the side of the car. Instead, they are located atop the hood near the windshield. If it's a Buick, it has to have them, just a BMW must have kidney-shaped grilles.
The headlights are simple and attractive, and the grille is the traditional Buick waterfall design finished in chrome and black plastic. Air comes in through invisible black mesh (black or chocolate paint) under the bumper, however.
At the rear, Buick uses chrome creatively, with long chrome eyebrows that highlight and extend past the taillights. This gives the rear end a face. The rear fascia is clean, and it doesn't detract from the look, though one tester found it bland. Non-turbocharged models have one small understated tailpipe, while the turbocharged version gets two, one at each corner. Dark colors enhance the lines, while lighter shades make the rear look a bit dated.
The profile view is highlighted by chrome trim around the window line. Behind the short C pillars are small blacked-out rear quarter-windows that are more visible from the inside than the outside. The aluminum wheels come in two grades and both look graceful with 10-spokes.
The seats offer the kind of bolstering that the cornering ability demands. There isn't anything old-man-like about them. The seats were designed from scratch for the Verano, after about 1000 hours of seat time by testers, from large men to small women. Even with all that input and compromise, they're comfortable, supportive and sporty.
The cloth seats in the base models are rugged. In fact the cloth is so rugged it's a bit coarse, and over long distances you might wish for leather. The optional leather looks classy in brown. It's not the richest leather we've ever felt, but it's about right for the price point.
Otherwise, the cloth and leather interiors are pretty much the same. The trim is satin bronze, satin aluminum or wood. The interior materials are generally soft to the touch and fairly substantial, but the lower dash and some of the door trim is hard plastic. The environment is generally quite refined, but it's not up the standard set by most European and Japanese cars in this entry-luxury class.
The tachometer and speedometer are attractive, elegant in ice blue and easy to read. Digital information is displayed between the gauges. It is easy to read but less easy to scroll through using the left stalk with push-and-twist movements. The center stack has simple pushbuttons and dials, though there are quite a few of them and they are grouped close together, making specific buttons hard to pick out at a glance. Conveniently, the center armrest slides forward, but its bin is fairly small and the door pockets could be bigger. Buick also provides plenty of small cubbies to put keys, cell phones, and the like.
While the front seats offer plenty of space, rear legroom is scarce; a tall guy behind a tall guy won't work. The specs say 34.7 inches of rear-seat legroom, which is 1.5 inches less than the Mazda3 but 3.1 inches more than the Lexus IS 250. If there's anyone tall in the family, the back seats are best used for children.
The trunk has is fairly large, with 14.3 cubic feet of cargo space in the lower line models. When the Bose sound system is added, that drops slightly to 14.0 cubic feet. A standard split-folding rear seat allows longer items to fit.
Buick's IntelliLink system is standard. It comes with and without a navigation system, and acts as a central control panel for your phone, radio, media players, and navigation system. It also connects with drivers' smartphones to provide access to the Pandora and Stitcher internet radio apps. The system features large icons on the touchscreen and its controls are easy to access and understand. Systems like this are the latest in in-car entertainment, and IntelliLink is certain to offer access to more apps in the future.
GM's OnStar system is standard, so you can always press the OnStar button if you get lost and a real operator will offer to provide directions. More importantly, if you crash and set your airbag off, the OnStar operator will ask if you're okay and will direct the rescue squad to your location if you don't respond.
The Buick Verano rides nice and is delightful to drive. We drove 250 miles over some twisty roads in the Tillamook Forest, just inland of the Oregon coast. The Verano loved it all and so did we.
The 2.4-liter Ecotec base engine produces 180 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque, and that's enough for most needs. Zero to 60 mph takes a modest 8.6 seconds, but it never frustrated us with lack of acceleration, and it impressed us with how smooth and quiet it was. Plus, it delivered 27.5 miles per gallon even with some spirited driving. EPA estimates are 21/32 mpg City/Highway.
Don't count on a lot of torque at 3000 rpm. Indeed, we found the response sluggish when merging from a tight onramp into flying freeway traffic. But the power comes on stronger at 4000 rpm and pulls willingly up to 6000. Though the engine is usually quiet and subdued, it becomes louder as you approach the 6700 rpm redline.
The 6-speed automatic complements the package nicely, being smooth and intelligent. It upshifts sharply at 6000 rpm and beyond, and downshifts quickly to provide extra power when needed.
More fun is the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. It cranks out 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, adding power to the Verano's mix of refinement and responsive handling. Buick says it cuts the 0 to 60 mph time to 6.2 seconds, though it doesn't feel quite that quick. Still, it adds power throughout the rev range, making passing a breeze and offering much more aggressive launches. Despite the extra power, the 2.0 is even quieter than the 2.4, and there is very little fuel economy penalty. The 2.0 is rated by the EPA at 21/30 mpg with the automatic transmission and 20/21 mpg with the new 6-speed manual.
Car guys will like the fact that the 2.0 is offered with a manual. Gearshifts are somewhat long and rubbery, but it's still cool to row your own gears, especially while driving in the twisties.
While the Verano doesn't have an independent rear suspension, its Z-link is almost as good, and it contributes to the car's impressive handling and balance. Bolted to a frame crossmember, the Z-link consists of a pivoting center link attached via joints at its ends, to links that go to the wheels. It works for us. We found a secret spot with 16 miles of relentless rhythmic curves and no traffic, and this Buick was up to the task. While the steering is a bit slow and too light for our tastes, the car is still crisp and responsive upon turn-in. We used the firm brakes pretty hard, and they felt good. The Verano is not a sports sedan, but it handles very well and rides smoothly.
The Buick Verano gets top scores for styling, handling, comfort, and refinement. Verano finds that sweet spot between good cornering and comfortable ride, and tops it off with a very pleasant interior. Two engines are available and both are good choices. Add in reasonable pricing and thrifty fuel economy, and it's a winner. It's one of the better values on the market. We recommend considering it when shopping for a premium compact.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses reported from Portland, Oregon; with Kirk Bell reporting from Chicago.