Strengths and weaknesses:
- convenience features
- quality interior
- ride and handling
- faux portholes
- bland design
- some ergonomics
- fuel economy at higher elevations
- a bit underpowered compared to competition
Buick Verano appeals to young and old
"We can agree this is Buick’s best small offering ever."
Buick wants to appeal to a younger audience with its 2012 Verano, but Buick appeals to a traditionally older audience.
To find out, we went to our senior writers for a segment we affectionately call Grumpy Old Car Men.
Harry: When I first laid eyes on it, I thought, “This sure ain’t your granddad’s Buick.” It lacks presence.
Back in the day, out here on the Prairies, the car of choice for the more successful sod busters was a big ol’ Buick. These folks wanted it to be known that they had made it.
This little Buick doesn’t say much of anything. Even the iconic portholes are stuck onto the edge of the hood like an afterthought and serve no useful purpose than to trap grime.
Glen: Here in the east where we don’t have your wide open spaces, but lots of traffic, the Verano is the perfect size for commuting and hauling the kids to see granddad on weekends. With his dinosaur of a full-size LeSabre he sure can‘t afford the gas to come and visit you. Verano will appeal to a much younger demographic.
That said, its fuel economy isn’t as good as the midsize 2012 Buick Regal with eAssist. So far, I’ve achieved just 8.4L/100 km in combined highway-city driving with Verano, where I got 7.2 with the Regal. Then again, out here our cars have to climb hills, not just roll across a landscape as flat as billiard table.
I like its style, and have since I first laid eyes on a production prototype last year. To me the placement of the portholes was a clever way of incorporating Buick’s trademark onto a compact car.
Harry: Count your blessings on fuel economy. Consumption is even worse with my test vehicle. We are a lot higher here in Calgary and we have those big rocky things called mountains, not little pimples you Easterners have to putt-putt over. When you get up over 4,000 ft., you’ve lost a big chunk of the available power and it gets really thirsty. My average was 10.1 L/100 km.
It’s no barn-burner for performance, but it would pass slower vehicles without undue gasping (although it takes awhile at higher altitudes).
Steering is reasonably responsive and the ride, thankfully, is not vintage Buick, but firmer without being harsh.
As for appealing to a younger demographic, that’s possible – if the youngsters can afford more than $30,000 and they don’t want anything that attracts any attention. But age is simply chronological, not a state of mind.
I think the interior is well laid out and I like the seats. They appeal to an older demographic, too.
Glen: I also like the seats in our Leather Edition. The whole family went on a 600-km day trip and my daughter praised Verano’s rear seat comfort. She especially liked the wide fold-down centre console that kept the beagle off her lap.
My test car’s interior is black and in this colour the rough texture of the dash is a real dust magnet. If I were spending $30,000, I’d go for cashmere and wood trim rather than piano black. It looks much richer and shows off the attention to detail GM now puts into all its interiors. However, the front cupholders swallow a small takeout Timmy’s and, when moved forward, the sliding centre armrest makes the back cupholder inaccessible. Trunk space is good, though.
Harry: Since I rarely, if ever, drink in the car, I have nothing to say about the cupholders except that I suspect they’ll handle just about anything I’d want to bring along.
I agree about piano black. It’s a hue that should be reserved for pianos, but it’s a better kind of plastic that real wood from plastic trees.
Gauges are easy to read and switches and knobs are laid out within easy reach. Did you have to hunt for the “start” button? I admit that I did, but that’s a one-time annoyance.
Glen: You’re right about the gauges and controls, but I had no trouble finding the start button. The 2.4-litre Ecotec engine produces 180 hp and is quiet enough on the highway, but for me the nine-speaker Bose audio system is kinda spoiled by noisy 18-inch all-season radials.
Harry: As for the engine, I’d like to compare it to the 2.0L turbo that’s in the works…it will breathe a lot better at altitude.
Overall, I give Verano 3.5 stars (out of 5). I think it’s a “nice” car, rather bland but with some nice convenience features and a fair amount of techie gizmos. Whether it causes a ripple in the younger set remains to be seen, but I suspect there are some older folks who will like it, too. Besides it fits in a garage with room to spare.
Glen: It is a well put together compact car and even in base trim ($27,620) comes with lots of features. And you can’t argue with the 4 year/80,000 km warranty.
We’re both old enough to remember the Skyhawks, Skylarks and Somersets of the 1980s so I think we can agree this is Buick’s best small offering ever.