May 23, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 26 July 2012 11:06
U.S. automakers haven’t had much success applying big-car luxury and comfort to the compact segment. Mercedes-Benz, Audi and the premium Japanese brands have done better. But General Motors, creator of the late and unlamented Cadillac Cimarron, is giving it another try (courtesy of its Buick Division): the new-for-2012 Verano.
Our white Verano, loaded with luxury features, had a sticker price of $27,345. That makes it competitive with another Buick model, the Regal, a sedan that’s bigger and sportier.
But the Verano’s main targets are the diesel-powered Audi A3, as well as compact sedans from Acura, Infiniti and Lexus.
Based on the popular Chevrolet Cruze, the Verano is a five-passenger sedan that aspires to near-luxury ride and accoutrements. The ride is big-car smooth and quiet, interior materials are of high quality, and the Buick didn’t skimp on legroom and headroom.
Buick pitchman Shaquille O’Neal may not fit comfortably in the driver’s seat, as he does in the full-size LaCrosse, but the Verona easily accommodates 6-footers. Even the back seat is comfortable for tall passengers, as long as those in front slide the power seats forward a few inches.
At the risk of returning to its roots in the senior-citizen market, Buick seemingly created the Verano with older drivers in mind. The Verano’s 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder, 180-horsepower engine’s acceleration and response are fairly leisurely; creature comforts abound in the cabin; and the car is small enough to fit easily into a garage or parking space.
Younger drivers likely will prefer the competitors’ models, which offer more stimulating performance — at least until the turbocharged, 250-horsepower version comes out for the 2013 model year.
All 2012 Veranos come with the 2.4-liter engine, 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. This package delivers 21 mpg in the city, 32 highway.
The base model starts at $22,585 — more than $5,000 higher than the base Cruze. Our Verano, with the 1SL and leather packages, listed for $27,345 and had just one option: the White Diamond Tricoat paint, $495. Standard features included Ultrasonic rear parking assist, OnStar emergency and navigation system, heated and power-adjustable seats, leather upholstery, keyless ignition, remote starter, automatic dual-zone climate control, and XM satellite radio. Buick’s Intellilink system, which enables drivers to link their smartphones with the car’s sound system, is standard in all Veranos.
For people who travel extensively, the Verano has an unusually large trunk, with 15 cubic feet of luggage capacity. The rear seat backs also fold forward. But the cheap materials used in the trunk are somewhat jarring, given the car’s overall refinement.
The Verano was selling well in the early going since its introduction late last year, reaching 11,578 by the end of June, according to wardsauto.com.
Rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Verano is a new model with no reliability data. Comfortable and accommodating, it’s a safe but unexciting choice in the near-luxury segment — at least until the turbo model arrives.
Engine: 2.4-liter inline Four, 180 horsepower, 171 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,300 lb.
Suspension: Four-wheel independent, MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Wheels: 18x8-inch alloy
Tires: P235/45R18 94H all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 15 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 15 gallons
Fuel economy: 21 mpg city, 32 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular; flex-fuel
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