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2012 Buick Verano Road Test and Review

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
May 15, 2012
7 min. Reading Time

Buick’s recent renaissance has unfolded entirely according to plan, and until the current model year there was but one piece missing from the premium brand’s fresh portfolio of automobiles: a compact sedan.  The 2012 Buick Verano is the first affordably-priced, entry-level option to be offered by the domestic car company since the ill-fated Buick Skyhawk of the 1980’s, a poorly-conceived clone of the thoroughly uninteresting Chevrolet Cavalier.

The Buick Verano is itself also based on a Chevrolet product – the excellent Chevrolet Cruze – but while the platforms might be the same the end result is quite different.  Buick has gone to exceptional lengths to give the Verano its own distinct personality through the use of the brand’s well-established styling language, a unique drivetrain and a level of high end equipment that can’t be found on its more pedestrian sibling.  For the very first time Detroit has stepped up to the plate with an honest option for drivers more used to looking overseas for a comfortable compact car.


2012 Buick Verano: Competition

The 2012 Buick Verano faces virtually no rivals on the domestic scene.  Instead, one must look to Japan in order to find the nameplates that will be cross-shopped against the compact sedan.  Buick has so far done an exceptional job of displacing Acura as the brand of choice for drivers seeking a comfortable, insulated and stylish ride without breaking the bank.  Ostensibly the Verano goes up against the Acura TSX as its primary foe, and although it doesn’t offer the same type of sporty handling or image it does present a compelling value proposition as it is priced at nearly $8,000 less.  A similar story is found when examining the differences between the entry-level edition of the Lexus IS.

Acura, perhaps realizing that it was about to ceded the affordable entry-level sedan market entirely to Buick, has elected to build a new compact car called the Acura ILX.  The ILX, which is in many ways the upscale twin of the Honda Civic, will debut later this year and provide a more price and size-appropriate foil to the Verano.



2012 Buick Verano: Pricing and Trim Levels

The 2012 Buick Verano starts at an MSRP of $22,585.  Buick has elected to divide the Verano’s trim levels into various equipment groups, mimicking a trend that has become increasingly popular in the premium segment.  The Verano ordered with the Convenience Group of features increases the sedan’s price to $23,785, while the Leather Group retails for an MSRP of $25,965.

The 2012 Buick Verano lent to us for a week of road testing by General Motors Canada was a Leather Group model.  After tallying up the vehicles optional equipment the sedan we drove rolled out the door with a sticker price of roughly $28,000.



2012 Buick Verano: Exterior

Buick has enjoyed a warm reception when it comes to the design cues that have proliferated across its recently renewed lineup.  The 2012 Buick Verano proves that this same success can be duplicated across a much smaller canvas.  The Verano in no way resembles the Chevrolet Cruze whose mechanicals it shares, as the sedan cribs Buick's angular grilles, large headlights and gently scalloped sides and puts them to excellent effect.

The compact car is nicely proportional, with none of the awkward overhangs that sometimes result when shrinking styling that was originally intended for a much larger vehicle.  Perhaps the only area where the Verano's feels overwrought come when examining the car from the rear three-quarter angle, but with time the sedan's sheet metal, chrome and glass begin to form a familiar and pleasing package to the eye.  Our test vehicle was silver in hue, but darker colors tend to enhance the Buick's looks to a greater degree.  The Verano in our possession was also shod with upgraded 18-inch rims that dressed up the exterior quite nicely.



2012 Buick Verano: Interior

The 2012 Buick Verano presents a passenger compartment that makes a commendable effort at providing a comfortable driving experience for the individual behind the wheel as well as those riding along in either the front or rear positions.  As with all modern Buicks, the catchword used to describe the Verano's cockpit is 'quiet.'  The compact sedan has been subjected to the same extensive 'QuietTuning' approach applied to all other vehicles offered by the automaker, which in the case of the Verano means that its chassis has seen as many gaps as possible filled with sound deadening foam, its doors have been triple-sealed, its glass has been laminated and any and all vibrations have been tracked down and dealt with prior to them making their presence known within the confines of the sedan's interior.  The effort has paid off, as the Buick Verano is a remarkably peaceful place to spend some time.  Small cars are not known for their tranquility at speed, but the Verano manages to rise above the average and present an almost Lexus-like level of calm, even with the vehicle's sunroof open.  Pavement imperfections are imperceptible from within the sedan, and wind noise is virtually non-existent.

Buick has also made an effort to ensure that few potential buyers will be raising their eyebrows at similarities between the Verano's interior and that of more affordable compact cars offered by General Motors.  The sedan certainly shares items such as its steering wheel controls with vehicles found across the GM portfolio - a cost-saving measure that is impossible to avoid in even the General's priciest offerings - but for the most part few will mistake the Verano's passenger compartment for that of the Cruze.  Buick's blue-lit round gauges face the driver and offer a more elegant (although not always easy to read) font on the tach and speedometer, while the center stack features a button layout that can trace its lineage to the mid-size Buick LaCrosse sedan.  The simple, yet pleasing dash in the Buick Verano is also framed by two front quarter windows that let additional sunlight into the vehicle's interior, although somewhat intrusive vents aimed at defrosting the sedan's side glass stick out from the interior frame of each.

One platform-sharing 'gotcha' that unfortunately mars the Verano's interior styling has to do with it's keyless ignition system.  The sedan maintains the same steering column outfitted to the Cruze, and Buick elected to cover the Chevrolet's ignition key slot with a poorly fitted plastic cover that grafts an unsightly bulge onto an otherwise attractive dash design.  Moving past esthetics, we also discovered that it was possible to operate the Verano even if the key was not inside the automobile - the car, once started, would happily drive off into the distance and leave the key fob behind, occasionally flashing a 'key not in vehicle' message on the information screen but otherwise keeping the sedan completely functional.  This would seem to be a legitimate safety and security concern with the Buick's keyless ignition.

Our Leather Package car was outfitted with leather seats front and rear (heated, of course) and many of the plastic components in the car that are destined to encounter the hands and arms of occupants were appropriately soft.  Partial power adjustments made it simple for the driver to achieve a comfortable vantage point, and rear legroom was good, if not spectacular.  In terms of trunk space, the sedan also delivered a respectable performance.

Our Verano came with the brand's new Intellilink system, a multimedia and communications interface that is highlighted by the inclusion of a seven-inch LCD touch screen that can be used to navigate radio stations, control vehicle settings or interact with a mobile phone.  We were able to easily pair an Android device to the car using Intellilink, which then allowed us to make hands-free calls as well as stream music directly from the phone.  In Canada, features such as Stitcher online radio are not yet available, and it would also have been nice if Intellilink offered voice navigation - or even control - over a device's music storage and playback.  The Verano we piloted was additionally outfitted with an upgraded Bose stereo system, but we found that sound quality was not quite up to par with similar systems installed in other Buick models, regardless of which audio source was selected.



2012 Buick Verano: Powertrain and Fuel Economy

The 2012 Buick Verano is available exclusively with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine under the hood.  This unit can be counted on to generate 180 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque, output that is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel economy for the Buick Verano is listed as 21-mpg in city driving and 31-mpg on the highway.  During our time with the sedan, we saw 14-mpg in almost exclusively around town driving, a surprising number that could be related to the extremely low mileage on the brand new test vehicle that was in our possession.



2012 Buick Verano: Driving Impressions

The 2012 Buick Verano benefits from a platform that takes the most compliant aspects of the suspension system employed by the top-end edition of the Chevrolet Cruze and makes them standard across the board for the compact sedan.  This includes the Z-link rear suspension pivot that provides additional smoothness in a straight line and stability through turns, plus slightly larger shock absorbers that do a better job of deflecting road insults away from the cabin.  When pushed through a corner the Verano acquits itself remarkably well for a small, front-wheel drive car, especially considering that all-out performance is not its primary mandate.

Buick was smart to give the Verano it's own power plant, divorcing it from the naturally-aspirated and turbocharged small-displacement four-cylinder units found in the Cruze.  The 2.4-liter motor provides more than adequate acceleration in almost every conceivable driving situation, and while the car doesn't leap off of the line it never feels underpowered and is able to execute authoritative highway passes, even uphill.

Even more impressive is the refinement of the sedan's six-speed automatic transmission, which suffers from none of the subtle gear-hunting confusion we experienced when piloting the Cruze this past fall.  In fact, the difference between the two gearboxes was almost night and day, giving the Verano a definite edge in terms of providing almost undetectable shifts when left in auto mode.  Manual mode displayed the typical delays when nudging the shifter over to change gears that are part and parcel of a torque converter-equipped car, but given that few drivers will ever make use of the feature this is a minor quibble.

The Buick Verano drives almost exactly as advertised: a small, comfortable automobile that offers a premium ride that won't bore drivers to death should they decide to occasionally sample a twisty road. 



2012 Buick Verano: Safety

The 2012 Buick Verano is an extremely safe vehicle despite its small size.  The Verano is equipped with ten airbags - front, side curtain, seat-mounted side airbags for both forward and rear occupants and knee airbags up front are all included free of charge.  The sedan is additionally outfitted with StabiliTrak electronic stability control, traction control, pedals that collapse and detach in the event of an accident and of course GM's OnStar telematics system which can track a stolen car and automatically notify emergency responders should a crash occur.



2012 Buick Verano: Final Thoughts

The 2012 Buick Verano is a car without pretensions.  It doesn't try to sell you on a sporty, canyon-carving image, nor does it present itself as the be-all and end-all of luxury sedans.  Instead the Verano is marketed as a small vehicle that can be configured with a generous range of comfort options and convenience items without asking customers to open up their wallets too wide, making it an upscale and economical entry-point into Buick's value-oriented lineup.  There is no doubt that this car is going to appeal to the same buyer base that used to scoop up compact Acura models before their push to more polarizing styling, but it's also going to snag sales from shoppers who may have previously considered a fully-loaded Cruze or Ford Focus as their daily driver.

What We Like About The 2012 Buick Verano:

  • Finally, a compact premium car from General Motors worth bragging about
  • Smooth drivetrain and extremely quiet interior
  • Very affordable in base trim, still competitive when fully loaded

We Aren't So Hot On:

  • Keyless ignition system that allows for vehicle operation with the fob outside of the vehicle
  • Plastic bulge covering key inlet on steering column


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