2016 Buick Verano Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 11, 2016

The 2016 Buick Verano delivers heavily on comfort and quiet, even if it's not much of a sport sedan.

The 2016 Buick Verano may share more in common with the Chevrolet Cruze from which it's based and that's OK. The Verano is certainly not to be confused as a Cadillac, but neither is it priced like one. 

The Verano was a well-timed addition to General Motors' premium-brand lineup. Buick decided to take an existing GM architecture, and make it more powerful, quieter over the road, and richer feeling. As a result, it has a truly distinctive offering in this new segment, one worth shopping if the sporty edges of the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class are a turn-off.

Stylistically, the largely carried-over Verano slots neatly into the Buick range, with just enough subtle hints of its decades-long heritage in its grille and nicely outfitted interior to hide its small-car proportions. Almost all its styling cues are uniformly tastefully subdued, aside from the hood's portholes—those are straight Pep Boys. The interior really has its act together, with a richly finished dash and softly lit gauges. The Verano Turbo gets high praise for being swift without telling the world with gaudy badges or spoilers.

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A 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is standard on the Verano. Not quick by any stretch, it's capable only of 0-60 mph times of 8.6 seconds, but the front-driver feels a little more eager than that, thanks to a responsive 6-speed automatic and an overall level of refinement that's easily among the best in its segment, if not the best.

The 250-hp Turbo changes the mood of the even-tempered base car, lifting its tepid performance into something more interesting. It's good for 0-60 mph times of 6.2 seconds, and top speed drifts up to about 129 mph, with almost no perception of lag or audible change from the engine bay. There's a manual transmission available, but it's not common on lots.

The Verano shares some significant suspension and body structures with the compact Cruze, but it's tuned for a comfortable, composed, and silent ride.  Base models deliver a soft feel, while Turbos come in just a hint firmer. All models handle predictably and safely, but they don't overwhelm with sportiness.

Interior appointments are worthy of being compared to those of any luxury car this size. The front-wheel-drive layout grants the Verano a very spacious interior. Superb front seats boast all-day support suitable for a wide range of drivers thanks to no shortage of seat travel plus head room for the tallest drivers. The Verano's rear seat has good room for two adults and a third in a pinch, but legroom is highly variable. Tall people up front? There's not much in the rear. But four average adults will fit fine.

Trunk space is big for the class and shaped well, and the rear seat backs fold forward nearly flat, with a wide opening.

A phenomenally refined, comfortable, quiet interior distinguishes the Verano from less-expensive compact sedans. Quiet Tuning is a keyword at Buick, and it describes much of the Verano's personality. With its 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.

Crash-test ratings from the NHTSA come in at five stars overall. However, the Verano no longer comes in as an IIHS Top Safety Pick since it has not been subjected to the new small-overlap crash test. Equipment-wise, it's all here: ten  airbags,  stability control, and anti-lock brakes with brake assist, not to mention OnStar Automatic Crash Response. Rear parking assist is available, and a rearview camera is standard on all but the base model; Turbos have blind-spot monitors standard, too.

Starting in the low $20,000 range, the Verano comes standard with a decent roster of features, including dual-zone automatic climate control, steering-wheel audio and cruise controls, an AM/FM/CD player, and a USB input. However, Buick has created a new base model this year that omits Bluetooth, the rearview camera, and the Buick IntelliLink touchscreen interface, which includes voice controls as well as Pandora and Stitcher apps. They're available on all other Verano models. A Convenience Group adds heated side mirrors, an auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, heated front seats, and rear parking assist, while a Leather Group adds a driver power seat, Bose surround sound audio, keyless ignition, and premium leather upholstery. All that comes standard on the Turbo. A heated steering wheel and navigation are among the few options, with a fully loaded Verano priced around $30,000, where the Turbo price begins.

Gas mileage isn't stellar for a compact car. The Verano is rated by the EPA at 21 mpg city, 32 highway, 25 combined not so impressive considering the Chevrolet Cruze's top 42-mpg highway figure. The Turbo penalty? Just one mile per gallon more, so why not? 

7

2016 Buick Verano

Styling

Handsome but subtle to a fault, the Verano's best side is its high-quality, low-gloss interior.

The Buick Verano owes a lot of its small-car curves to the related Chevy Cruze, but there's enough here to place it as a member of the Buick family.

Most of the differentiation comes in the form of occasional chrome bits. The grille and the headlamps are swathed in it, and both are somewhat small by recent GM standards. They're cleanly integrated into a more smoothly sculpted nose than is found on the Cruze. Yes, it's a mild, generic look, but it's just handsome enough to avoid the pitfalls of small-car design.

The foibles are few, but they could easily be corrected. Toning down the brightwork would give the Verano an even cleaner look, but it's a tough call to make when even the compact German sedans are using pounds of the stuff these days. We'd start by drilling out those fake chromed ports on the front fenders; they're not functional pieces, and look more like the Buick that GM wants to leave behind. Alt, control, delete.

Spotting the Verano Turbo requires just a look at tidy back end of the Verano. It gets dual exhausts and a small rear spoiler. No mesh grille inserts are applied, no faux carbon fiber is peeled or stuck to it. Some of the pieces are available on other Veranos now in an optional styling kit.

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 each door 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 glass at the front of the front doors fit in stylistically, and help with visibility, too. 

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7

2016 Buick Verano

Performance

Quiet and controlled, the Buick Verano is hard to get unruffled--or interested.

The Buick Verano is a comfortable sedan, not a sporty one. It's a compact that excels as a daily driver, even if it wouldn't be the car we chose for spirited weekends drives—though the turbocharged model adds some rewarding acceleration to the near-luxury mix.

Instead of the related Cruze's 1.4-liter inline-4, the base Verano ups displacement under the hood to 2.4 liters. Its base 4-cylinder turns 180 horsepower and, through a 6-speed automatic transmission, ticks off a manufacturer-estimated 0-60 mph time of a reasonable 8.6 seconds. That's slightly zippier than the Cruze executes, and about on par with cars like the Acura ILX. In our tests, we've had to throttle the inline-4 insistently through the lower rev range; it fires to life really only at about 4,000 rpm.

The automatic doesn't reall hesitate, but shifting it on your own means placing a hand to the shift lever—the Verano isn't equipped with shift paddles. Manual shifting is almost counter-intuitive anyway—the Verano is so quiet, the engine always sounds distant, and the perceptions of speed always seem remote.

The differences with the Cruze are far more subtle at the ride-and-handling level. Underneath, the Verano's suspension configuration and geometry are shared with Chevy's Cruze, and it feels like one, with a controlled ride its best feature. Front MacPherson struts come paired with a Z-link (Watt's linkage) design out back. Engineers at General Motors 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.

Handling is better than you might think, given the Verano's relatively soft ride; it's safe and responsive, with a sense of confidence and more enjoyment than in cushy alternatives such as the Lexus ES 350. It works fine for an economy-minded car with lots of premium features, but it's not particularly suited to compete with the newest German rivals launched into its price class.

The  Turbo pitches a more commendable game against the other turbocharged compacts we've driven, including the Mercedes CLA and Audi A3. With displacement downsized to 2.0 liters and augmented with a turbocharger, the Verano Turbo's boosted to 250 hp and peak torque of 260 lb-ft, available down at 2,00 rpm to a useful 5,500 rpm. There's barely a growl or turbo whistle to hint at how it's spooling to full boost, but the Verano Turbo reels off 60-mph runs in a quick 6.2 seconds or less. Top speed is tire-limited to 129 mph, and gas mileage barely suffers a mile per gallon. The Turbo suits this balanced chassis quite well.

A relatively quick steering ratio combined with a fat, somewhat small-diameter steering wheel completes the hints of sportiness, and four-wheel disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power, even if the pedal feel is old-luxe spongy. The manual transmission offered as an option on the Verano Turbo shifts well, but you'll have to look long and far to find one on a showroom floor.

The Verano Turbo has more solid moves than the base car, increased confidence, and it could easily be tuned even more aggressively for the power on tap. The front shocks are stiffer, but only by about 10 percent, to accommodate about 100 pounds of added weight; the electric power steering gets remapped for quicker, slightly more weighty responses. There are no aggressive air intakes, no fatter tires than the base 235-series rolling stock, no mission creep into Verano GS territory, either. 

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9

2016 Buick Verano

Comfort & Quality

The Verano's still a compact car, and snug in the back seat--but it's exceedingly quiet and comfortable.

The Buick Verano may not be a sport sedan, but it does one thing much better than nearly every rival it has, among compact sedans. It's quiet and comfortable, and those simple virtues make it the kind of small car we'd rather take on extended trips, versus some of its competition.

The Verano starts out as a closely related spin-off of the Cruze, but the attention to detail applied to its powertrain and cabin put clear distance between the compact sedans. The Verano's spacious in front, like the Cruze, but its front seats are better—they're supportive, well-shaped, and plush. They're built for long-distance drives, and they're surrounded by lots of seat travel, leg room, and head room, making the Verano suitable for a wide range of drivers and body types.

The Buick's rear bench seat is contoured for a pair of adults and a third short-stint passenger, too. It's a compact, so there's less legroom, and fitting five long-legged adults in the Verano at once will require some geometry skills. Trunk space is large and well-shaped, and the rear seat backs fold forward nearly flat, with a wide opening. Conveniently, the Verano has  storage for smaller items in the center  console and glove box.

Even if you're driving the Verano hard, on some of the coarsest roads, you'll be able to have a soft-spoken conversation. On the road, the Verano filters the outside world around us, just like a luxury car should. It's more than a Cruze here, too—Buick applies a lot more sound deadening to its small sedan in the form of laminated side glass, triple-sealed doors, an acoustic windshield, and various foams, baffles, and mats. It gives it vastly better isolation from wind, engine, and road noise, and makes the Verano a delightfully quiet vehicle. 

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8

2016 Buick Verano

Safety

Crash-test scores have been very good, but this year the rearview camera has been removed from base Veranos.

The Verano has earned very good crash-test scores, but they're not complete—and that keeps it from making it to the top of our compact-sedan safety list.

The NHTSA gives the Verano a five-star overall safety rating, and five stars in front- and side-impact crashes, with a lone four-star mark in rollover crash protection.

The IIHS gives the small Buick sedan "Good" scores in all the tests it has performed. That doesn't include the notoriously tough, small-overlap crash test. Without that data, the IIHS will not call the Verano a Top Safety Pick or a Top Safety Pick+.

Last year, every Buick Verano came with a standard rearview camera. For 2016, the base model Verano will omit that rearview camera. There are 10 airbags (including knee airbags in front) in every Verano, as well as anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control.

The Verano has standard OnStar with Automatic Crash Response, and a opt-in service named FamilyLink that allows parents to keep tabs on where their teenage drivers are at all times.

Among the other optional features on non-Turbo models are rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts. The Turbo has rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitors standard. Forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems are  offered.

Finally, the issue of connectivity in cars has been addressed with IntelliLink, which uses an LCD touchscreen, Bluetooth, and steering-wheel controls to give drivers a less distracting way to control audio, phone, and navigation while on the go. It's simpler in function than Ford's MyFord Touch, but has less functionality as well. 

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9

2016 Buick Verano

Features

A new base model omits some of the features we'd want on the Buick Verano, but it'll be rare.

For 2016, the Buick Verano is cutting prices—in part, by introducing a new trim level that does away with some of the infotainment and safety features that were standard last year.

The new base Verano is aimed primarily at fleet-car buyers, and retains most of the Verano's standard features, including power equipment, cruise control, an AM/FM/CD audio system with redundant steering-wheel controls and a single USB port; and air conditioning. OnStar is standard, and the Verano's OnStar system now includes 4G LTE connectivity and the ability to establish an in-car wi-fi network.

However, this base model omits the IntelliLink infotainment system with the large touchscreen interface that was standard last year; Bluetooth is unavailable, and the rearview camera isn't a part of the new model's features list, either.

Above that base model, standard equipment on the 2016 Verano includes power windows, door locks, and mirrors; automatic climate control; remote engine start; cloth seating surfaces; satellite radio; IntelliLink; Bluetooth; and a rearview camera.

Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system is easy enough to operate and features numerous redundant buttons on the center stack (perhaps too many) and it comes with easy-to-pair Bluetooth for phone calls and access to certain apps like PAndora and Stitcher.

IntelliLink now features Apple's Siri Eyes Free tech that allows drivers to tap into its voice interface for live search. The navigation system has occasionally given us pause, mostly when searching through its menus for destinations, but it's a relatively inexpensive option.

On the options list are a few premium-equipment bundles. In the available Convenience package, there are auto-dimming rearview mirrors, heated seats, and rear parking sensors. The Verano's leather package gets its standard cloth-and-leatherette seats covered in the real stuff; it also gets keyless ignition, Bose audio, and a power driver seat. Fully decked out, the non-turbo Verano's price can approach $30,000.

With an entry price at about $30,000, the Buick Verano Turbo has its own standard features that go above and beyond those offered on the normally aspirated car. They include dual exhausts; sport pedals; a small rear spoiler; and the items from the Verano's optional convenience and leather packages, including Bose audio, and a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel. 

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7

2016 Buick Verano

Fuel Economy

Compared to less expensive sedans, the Buick Verano's gas mileage isn't all that impressive.

The Buick Verano does well enough with its fuel economy figures, but compared to other small cars, things could be better.

With the base Verano, it's worth a comparison to less expensive cars. The Verano is a near twin with the last-generation Chevrolet Cruze, which had a smaller pair of 4-cylinder engines on its equipment list. The Cruze delivers up to 42 mpg highway using its turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4—and up to 36 mpg highway with the 1.8-liter inline-4 in the Cruze Limited.

The Verano instead includes a larger-displacement 2.4-liter inline-4 that drags on its fuel economy. Outfitted with its standard 6-speed automatic, the Verano is unfortunately pegged at 21 mpg city, 32 highway, 25 combined by the EPA. It's not only a fair bit lower than what the Cruze is rated at, it also comes in behind non-luxury compacts like the Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus Ford Focus, even below than that of the Mercedes-Benz CLA, its freshest competitor in the burgeoning premium-compact class.

The Verano Turbo is surprisingly good considering its performance. It's rated at 21/30/24 mpg with its automatic transmission. With the manual transmission, it's rated at 20/31/24 mpg. That's still well off the pace of mid-size, similarly priced sedans like the Altima, Accord, and Fusion, but closer to their performance-minded models. 

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April 22, 2016
For 2016 Buick Verano

Tops out at 136 mph..lol

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nice car to drive, over all nice car on hwy and city driving. seats suck but does have lots of room in car.
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March 7, 2016
2016 Buick Verano 4-Door Sedan Premium Turbo Group

Amazing car if you get the turbo

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Get the turbo edition it's a rocket ship with all the premium options. When I tried to build a 228i bimmer navigation keyless entry heated seats and other features were not included and balloon the price tag... + More »
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December 16, 2015
2016 Buick Verano 4-Door Sedan w/1SD

A doe eye'd fox terrier with a personality disorder.

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First off let me start with a disclaimer, I have leased the Verano because they made me an offer I could not refuse and now that I have driven it everyday for the past 3 weeks. Lets start with the exterior... + More »
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October 8, 2015
2016 Buick Verano 4-Door Sedan Convenience Group

A Chevy Cruz with different emblems.

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I have one of these for a rental. I do understand that compared to real luxury brands it's price in the compact luxury sadan segment is half the price. But you get half the car. The car is by no means as quite... + More »
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