The Buick Verano is a compact sedan positioned below the midsize Regal, with a starting price substantially lower.
A new Verano Sport Touring edition joins the lineup for the 2016 model year, with special 18-inch black-pocket wheels and a rear lip spoiler. Otherwise, little has changed for 2016, other than a switch from a six-way to an eight-way power driver’s seat. Verano was introduced for the 2012 model year.
The Verano emphasizes comfort and quietness over power and we found it well-composed underway and pleasantly hushed beyond its class. Connectivity possibilities and safety score well. Fuel economy is not a strong point, however.
Designers took existing GM architecture, originated for the Chevrolet Cruze, and transformed it into a distinctive sedan for a new premium segment. If the sporty nature of an Audi A3 or Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class isn’t to your liking, the Buick Verano presents an appealing alternative. Overall level of refinement ranks among the best in its segment.
A few hints of Buick heritage can be discerned in the Verano’s grille and interior, helping to sublimate its small-car proportions. Almost all styling cues are tasteful and subdued, except for Ventiports (the simulated portholes found on Buicks dating back for decades). Because Buick is a premium brand, even its entry-level model deserves a richly finished interior, highlighted by softly lit gauges.
Two engines are available, with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 180 horsepower. Acceleration performance from 0 to 60 mph takes about 8.6 seconds. That’s on the slowpoke side of the performance equation, but a large proportion of customers should find it satisfactory.
Buick’s 250-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine alters the Verano experience considerably, reaching well past the four-cylinder’s lukewarm performance. Suffering virtually no turbo lag, the Verano Premium Turbo edition can reach 60 mph in just 6.2 seconds, a very quick performance. Turbos get slightly quicker steering ratio and a modestly firmer ride. A manual gearbox is available.
In government crash-testing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave Verano five stars overall. Verano earned a Good rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but no small-overlap test was run. An opt-in service, called FamilyLink, lets parents know where teen drivers are at all times.
Handsome in a subtle, mildly generic manner, the Verano’s small-car body lines are similar to those of the Chevrolet Cruze, except for differences in the addition of chrome trim elements. Carefully integrated into the smoothly shaped nose, the grille and headlights are heavily chromed, if somewhat smaller than in many recent GM models.
Small windows at the front of each door fit in smartly with the overall design. A Verano might not stand out as much as some compact rivals, but nothing about it is unattractive, apart from those irritating fake portholes on the fenders.
Even though some structural and suspension components are shared with the compact Chevrolet Cruze, Buick’s Verano is tuned for greater comfort as well as supremely quiet running.
Inside, the Buick Verano is spacious and attractive. Interior appointments compare favorably with any luxury automobile of similar size. Two-toning adds a distinctive look, as does matte-metallic trim. The driver faces a thick-rimmed, relatively small-diameter steering wheel.
The driver’s seat provides pleasing support, and even taller drivers should find a comfortable setting, helped by abundant front headroom and ample seat travel.
Back seats are somewhat snug, but nicely contoured to fulfill requirements of two adults. Leg space becomes a problem only if several riders of above-average height are aboard. A third back-seat occupant might balk for anything other than a short jaunt.
The trunk is large and nicely shaped. For additional cargo space, the rear seatbacks fold nearly flat.
Impressive comfort makes the Verano an excellent daily driver, as well as a fine choice for vacation trips. Delivering a quiet and well-controlled ride, Buick’s smallest sedan simply does its job without fuss, imparting a healthy helping of confidence. Because the Verano is so quiet, the engine sounds as if it’s off in the distance.
A responsive automatic transmission helps the standard 180-horsepower engine feel more eager than its specifications suggest. Manual shifting is possible, though no paddles are provided.
With 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, the Turbo is a stronger performer.
Handling is predictable and better than expected, considering the Verano’s relatively soft ride. This is not a sporty car, however. Models with the standard 180-hp engine are softly sprung, and the Premium Turbo’s suspension is only a little more taut. Turbos get a slightly faster steering ratio, also.
The Verano is enjoyable to drive, though when driven hard body lean in curves can become considerable. Despite a spongy brake pedal, stopping power is good.
Gas mileage is not great for a compact. The 180-hp engine is EPA-rated at 21/32 mpg (City/Highway), or 25 mpg Combined. The 250-hp Turbo is almost as thrifty: 24 mpg Combined, with either transmission.
Buick’s Quiet Tuning uses tangible steps for precise sound-deadening, including triple-sealed doors, an acoustic windshield, laminated side glass; plus a variety of foams and baffles. Even on coarse pavement, road, wind, and engine noise won’t impede conversation in soft voices.
The Buick Verano is a smooth, quiet, comfortable compact sedan with predictable handling that’s enjoyable to drive. Performance from the standard engine is leisurely. Drivers who want more responsive acceleration will prefer the optional turbocharged engine, which nearly matches the EPA ratings of the standard engine.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.