Strengths and weaknesses:
- looks inside and out
- smooth and quiet ride
- upscale positioning
- shopper misconceptions
Small Buick puts forth a great effort
"GM has taken steps to make it the best, most modern Buick in the stable."
ORILLIA, Ont. – Buick wants potential buyers to know that great things come in small packages, and is offering up the new compact Verano as proof.
The company admits that the new sedan is derived from the award winning Chevrolet Cruze (which shouldn’t really be misconstrued as a bad thing, given how the little Chevy has taken the world by storm), but it’s not the Cimarron to Cavalier relationship from the early-’80s.
For one thing, General Motors is proud to promote the Verano as a Buick (something Cadillac was reticent to do early on in Cimarron’s life), and has taken steps to make it the best, most modern Buick in the stable (until the rest of the line-up starts to benefit from the Verano advancements).
For example, it promotes Verano as the quietest Buick ever, thanks to benchmarking it against what are acknowledged as probably the quietest interiors on the market – those of Lexus. It also listened intently to what the mid-sized Lacrosse was doing and achieved the library-like ambience through industry-accepted means – steel-sandwich panels, laminated glass, over-insulated structure and liners, reinforced panels, and thicker materials – and without introducing any noise cancelling trickery (as some luxury car makers are using).
Wherever those initiatives reached, it worked because Verano is truly a quiet riding automobile, and not just on the highway where likely most of its driving will be enjoyed, as evidenced over the broken and uneven pavement on our 300 km round trip from the north shore of Lake Ontario to the northern tip of Lake Simcoe.
Yet, unlike the smooth riding Buicks of old (and some not so old), and totally unexpected in this size of vehicle, Verano maintains a fun drivability factor (befitting its Cruze-racing ties). Steering is direct and the car exhibits an enviable amount of tossability when the road allows a little bit of fun to creep into the driving equation. That’s a tribute to the rear Z-Link suspension – reportedly a descendant of the linkage design from James Watt’s 1784 steam engine piston movement, which has since been used to prevent lateral movement between a vehicle’s chassis and axle. In Verano, that means very smooth and very controlled.
You could call it a sport sedan, and the segment will surely refer to it as such (competing as it does against avowed sport sedans like the Lexus IS 250 and BMW 3 Series), but it’s hard to affix that kind of label onto a vehicle that maintains the Buick hallmarks of pristine styling cues and premium materials. Granted the wood trimmings may not be natural and the leather appointments may lack the premium quality of some upper luxury sedans, but they’re both overtly attractive and pleasant to the touch to keep up the appearances warranted by the make.
The interior is a step up from that of Cruze, but it’s functional and easy to use and it looks good both in the façade and function. The cabin isn’t as roomy as that of its big brothers, but it’s acceptable for two adults front and rear, with the seats granting a pleasant perch for hours of driving.
Verano also receives a larger engine than that in the Cruze – a 2.4-litre Ecotec four-cylinder powerplant borrowed from the larger Regal. It’s a huge step up from the miniscule Cruze 1.8L four-cylinder and turbo 1.4L “four.” Power distribution to the front wheels is handled by a six-speed automatic with manual mode (same as in Cruze).
Verano starts at $22,595 and approaches $31,000 by the time you pile in equipment groupings and standalone options and accessories, which still isn’t bad in light of some of the premium price of its competitors.