Buick has made a lot of progress in the past few years at forging a new brand identity with its stylish LaCrosse and, recently, the muscular Regal GS. Now comes the Verano, which shares underpinnings with the Chevy Cruze. The Verano, however, is more of an uptown cousin — Buick's attempt at a luxury compact.
Appearance: The look will be familiar to those who've seen Buick's Regal, only more compact. There is the distinctive waterfall grille and what passes for those old-school trademark portholes, only these rest on top of the hood instead of on the body, and tend to get lost visually. Overall, the car has a taut look that is set off by 18-inch premium alloy wheels and projector-beam headlights. We both agree: The exterior side mirrors are a bit small and the triangular shape sacrifices visibility. Our tester's premium paint — white diamond tricoat — also gave the car a luxurious look.
Performance: There is only one engine available in the Verano — a 2.4-liter, 180-horsepower 4-cylinder. It won't remind you of a performance sedan, but it's enough to provide fair acceleration in the city and in highway driving. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly, and the steering is nimble and gives adequate feedback. The ride is comfortable and composed for a small sedan. In all, Buick managed to hit the sweet spot in performance, giving drivers an all-around enjoyable experience with just the acceleration leaving something to be desired. (We may see a turbo version later this year.)
Interior: The Verano may be the most quiet compact sedan we've driven, and Buick was smart to make that a priority. After all, the noise level (or lack of any) is one of the first things you notice in a premium car. Buick's Quiet Tuning technology includes acoustic laminated glass, triple-sealed doors and a chassis made to absorb vibrations and sound. Our tester came with the Leather Equipment group, which made for an attractive two-tone cabin that said "upscale." The stitched Choccachino Leather seats are comfortable — Peter drove it across the state and his back felt just fine when he got to Melbourne. Most of the cabin surfaces are soft-touch, although there is some hard plastic, especially in the door and center armrest. One thing we both noticed: The driver has six-way power adjustable seats, but the seatback recline is manual and the short lever is difficult to reach. Why? The back seat is a tight fit for adults and may be okay around town, but we can't see sitting there on a long trip. The 7-inch Buick IntelliLink color screen is easy to use (even its voice recognition) with simple controls. The background image changes according to category when listening to satellite radio. There's also streaming Internet radio.
Our 3 favorites
Sound level: Noise only intrudes under hard acceleration.
Cabin: The two-tone Choccachino and dark brown cabin is attractive.
Refined: Solid and composed ride made for an enjoyable trip.
Ambient lighting: Ice-blue around the gauges and cabin.
Quiet ride: You can actually hear the nine-speaker Bose sound system.
IntelliLink: Infotainment command center with easy to use dial to navigate.
The bottom line: You can argue whether the Verano can compete with some of the compact (and pricier) import sedans, but Buick has managed to produce a car that does most things well and nothing poorly.