2012 Buick Verano Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
January 24, 2012

The 2012 Buick Verano is a comfortable compact sedan that feels like a luxury car but isn't priced like one.

The all-new 2012 Buick Verano certainly isn't the first compact sedan from Buick. But while past lackluster efforts have been merely badge-engineered versions of Chevrolet models, GM argues that the Verano is something markedly more luxurious—and worth the extra few thousand over the nearly identically sized Chevrolet Cruze.

The Verano is, in all fairness, a completely different vehicle. It's assembled in a different plant than the Cruze and shares no body panels, as well as no parts above the floorpan—even though these two models do share a common architecture. Inside, the Verano gets richer leather, a standard voice-activated touch-screen infotainment system, and true luxury features like a heated steering wheel.

Especially from the side, the Verano tends to look like a large sedan—in particular, Buick's LaCrosse—sized down. The long, arching roofline and additional front mini-windows tend to stretch it out a bit visually, as do the low hoodline combined with the bold vertical grille. We like most of the chrome accents—including the light strokes of chrome that angle around the rear corners then angle downward to the center in back—but the Buick 'ventiports,' which have again found their way atop the Verano's fenders, look tacky as ever.

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The Verano, with its 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine, is by no means quick; but its six-speed automatic transmission has been fully reworked for quicker yet smoother responses, so it's a very refined combination. Four-wheel disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power, even if the pedal feel is old-lux spongy. Handling is better than you might think, given the Verano's relatively soft ride; it's safe, responsive, and even quite fun, with a sense of confidence and more enjoyment than in cushy alternatives such as the Lexus ES 350.

The Verano's EPA ratings, of 21 mpg city, 31 highway, aren't all that impressive next to some other non-luxury compact sedans—like the Chevrolet Cruze or Ford Focus, for example—but they're better than nearly all luxury-brand sedans its size (except for hybrids like the Lexus HS 250h and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid).

What does distinguish the 2012 Verano from less-expensive compact sedans, along with many premium-brand models, is its phenomenally refined, comfortable, quiet interior. Quiet Tuning is a keyword at Buick, and it describes much of the Verano's personality. Through meticulous sound-deadening measures like triple-sealed doors, laminated side glass, an acoustic windshield, and various foams, baffles, and mats, the Verano is very, very quiet inside. Buick has worked to isolate road, wind, and engine noise, so even if you're driving the Verano hard, on some of the coarsest surfaces, you'll be able to have a soft-spoken conversation.

Interior appointments are also worthy of being compared to those of any luxury car this size. And thanks to its front-wheel-drive layout, the Verano has a very spacious interior. Front seats are superb, with all-day support for a wide range of drivers, along with plenty of seat travel and headroom for the tallest drivers. Rear seats are well contoured for adults, too; the only thing that calls the Verano out as a compact is the need to compromise legroom between front and rear if there are several lanky occupants riding at once. Trunk space is large and well-shaped, and rear seatbacks fold forward nearly flat, with a wide opening.

Crash-test ratings aren't yet out for the 2012 Verano at the time of posting, but GM expects to achieve top five-star federal results, as well as Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS. Equipment-wise, it's all here: ten standard airbags, electronic stability control, and anti-lock braking with brake assist, as well as OnStar Automatic Crash Response. Rear parking assist is available.

The Verano is clearly not a Cadillac, but it's not priced as one either. For just $23,470, the base 2012 Buick Verano comes equipped with an impressive roster of features, including dual-zone automatic climate control, steering-wheel controls, Bluetooth, a USB input, and the Buick Intellilink touch-screen interface, which includes voice controls as well as Pandora and Stitcher apps. A Convenience Group adds heated side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and rear parking assist, while a Leather Group adds to that heated seats, a driver power seat, Bose surround sound audio, push-button keyless start, and premium leather upholstery. A heated steering wheel and nav system are among the few options, with a fully loaded Verano priced well under $30k.

6

2012 Buick Verano

Styling

The 2012 Buick Verano looks conservative and understated, yet classy.

The Verano is somewhat related to the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan, but shares virtually no parts--and no sheetmetal--with the Chevy. But like the Cruze, the Buick Verano looks like a big sedan, sized down.

At first look, it's the long, arching roofline that helps give the Buick Verano proportions that are closer to those of the smaller LaCrosse than a larger small car. Otherwise, the look is very conservative. The Verano's flanks have clean, flowing sheetmetal, with a subtle accent beltline; and the vertically straked grille, low hood and large, detailed headlamps (with hints of blue) call it out as a Buick.

Chrome has been overused as an accent in recent years, but Buick has (mostly) done it tastefully; we especially liked the light strokes of chrome that angle around the rear corners then angle downward toward the center in back. But as for the Buick 'ventiports,' which find their way again to the Verano's front fenders...we bet they're still going to be seen as a bit tacky by the younger, more affluent crowd the brand is trying to attract.

The Verano's look inside is quite swoopy and radical for a Buick, with beautiful two-tone themes and a high sill line that wraps around from the top of the doors all the way through the far front of the dash top. Door trim carries through the broad arcs of the dash, and matte-metallic trim looks classy, not garish, here. The small windows at the front of the front doors fit in stylistically, and help with visibility, too.

7

2012 Buick Verano

Performance

For a vehicle that emphasizes comfort and quiet, the 2012 Buick Verano is surprisingly capable and fun to drive.

The 2012 Buick Verano is hardly pulse-quickening, but we don't think that's part of the Verano's mission statement (its extreme quiet might have something to do with it, honestly). For raciness, there's the refined but still giddy Regal GS.

The Verano gets a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission in all variations (it's the only powertrain), and it's by no means quick, but it's responsive enough for most needs and very smooth. Buick says 0-60 mph takes 8.9 seconds (just a few tenths shorter than the Cruze 1.4T), and the 2.4-liter, while it has decent grunt off the line, seems to lack its full stride if you're much below 4,000 rpm or not really mashing the throttle. There are no paddle-shifters, but you do have full manual control if you slide the shift lever over to the side.

The suspension layout, and the basic geometry of it, are actually shared with the Cruze, although the pieces themselves are different. With a MacPherson strut design in front, paired with a Z-link (Watt's linkage) design in back, GM engineers argue that you actually get better, more predictable response and better body control on quick transitions—no matter the surface. even compared to an independent setup. Four-wheel disc brakes and a relatively quick steering ratio (with a fat, somewhat small-diameter steering wheel) complete the hints of sportiness.

Four-wheel disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power, even if the pedal feel is old-lux spongy. Handling is better than you might think, given the Verano's relatively soft ride; it's safe, responsive, and even quite fun, with a sense of confidence and more enjoyment than in cushy alternatives such as the Lexus ES 350.

And all the while, if you're driving hard, this whole “quiet tuning” thing plays mind games. With so much foam and matting, engine sounds distant, even at full throttle--not at all a bad thing, really.
9

2012 Buick Verano

Comfort & Quality

The 2012 Buick Verano is roomier inside than its exterior suggests--and a standout for those who want peace and quiet.

What does distinguish the 2012 Verano from less-expensive compact sedans, along with many premium-brand models, is its phenomenally refined, comfortable, quiet interior.

Quiet Tuning is a keyword at Buick, and it describes much of the Verano's personality. Through meticulous sound-deadening measures like triple-sealed doors, laminated side glass, an acoustic windshield, and various foams, baffles, and mats, the Verano is very, very quiet inside. Buick has worked to isolate road, wind, and engine noise, so even if you're driving the Verano hard, on some of the coarsest surfaces, you'll be able to have a soft-spoken conversation.

Interior appointments are also worthy of being compared to those of any luxury car this size. And thanks to its front-wheel-drive layout, the Verano has a very spacious interior. Front seats are superb, with all-day support for a wide range of drivers, along with plenty of seat travel and headroom for the tallest drivers. Rear seats are well contoured for adults, too; the only thing that calls the Verano out as a compact is the need to compromise legroom between front and rear if there are several lanky occupants riding at once.

Trunk space is large and well-shaped, and rear seatbacks fold forward nearly flat, with a wide opening.

9

2012 Buick Verano

Safety

If you want a sedan that's a bit smaller than mid-size, the 2012 Buick Verano is one of your safest bets.

The 2012 Buick Verano is shaping up to be one of the safest bets among mid-size sedans, with top-notch crash-test ratings from the IIHS along with a very well-stocked list of safety features.

Federal crash-test ratings aren't yet out for the 2012 Verano at the time of posting, but GM expects to achieve top five-star results. The 2012 Verano has already earned Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS.

And equipment-wise, it's all here: ten standard airbags, electronic stability control, and anti-lock braking with brake assist, as well as OnStar Automatic Crash Response. Rear parking assist is available.

9

2012 Buick Verano

Features

The Buick Verano offers a Cadillac feature set, at a Chevy price; what's not to like?

Even the $23,470 base model of the 2012 Buick Verano includes automatic climatecontrol, remote start, steering-wheel controls, an electronic parking brake, a USB port, Bluetooth.

Also included is Buick Intellilink—basically a touch-screen and voice-activated interface for media and hands-free calling. It's simpler than MyFord Touch but accomplishes most of the same tasks—including voice-activated Pandora and Stitcher streaming, through your smartphone's data connection.

A Convenience Group adds heated side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and rear parking assist, while a Leather Group adds to that heated seats, a driver power seat, Bose surround sound audio, push-button keyless start, and premium leather upholstery.

All said, options on the Verano could drive the bottom line toward, but short of, $30k. Items of interest include a navigation system, a heated steering wheel, and a rear park assist feature.

7

2012 Buick Verano

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage of the 2012 Verano is about middle-of-the-road for this size of sedan.

The 2012 Verano is about the same size and weight as the Chevrolet Cruze sedan. Yet while much of the Cruze lineup makes do just fine, GM decided to install a larger 2.4-liter four in the Verano. That gives the Verano a smoother, more confident character than it would likely have with the Cruze's 1.4-liter turbo engine, but its gas mileage isn't nearly as good.

At an EPA-rated 21 mpg city, 31 highway, the Verano's gas mileage is, however, better than nearly all luxury-brand sedans its size (except for hybrids like the Lexus HS 250h and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid).

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