A newly developed fiber-polymer based material that feels like hard carpeting lines the wheel wells. Not to worry, it won’t absorb water, but it does a good job of soaking up sounds from the tires and suspension.
To further improve noise levels in the cabin, Buick engineers cranked up the creativity by using recycled denim. It’s washed, cut and placed under the rear seats to again suppress road noise.
SMART OUTSIDE, LESS INTELLIGENT INSIDE
Carrying the conservative styling you would expect from a Buick, the Verano sports signature features like the brand’s waterfall grille and blue bezels around the headlights. It’s a clean design with a few extra touches of style thrown in to class-up its look. Handsome, yes, but it won’t draw a crowd.
Unfortunately the interior is totally underwhelming. Even at the highest price point ($25,965 before destination) fully adjustable power seats are simply unavailable. The seat cushion slides forward and backward and tilts electrically, but the backrest does not. In fact, adjusting the backrest angle involves fiddling with a poorly placed lever. There’s also no memory function.
It’s also hard to see out of the Verano’s rear, an issue that’s further compounded by the lack of a backup camera. It seems strange that this car would forego such a feature given that the majority of Buick buyers are well on in years.
A thick C-pillar and small window left us wanting more out of a car that claims luxury status. That said, our car did have rear parking assistance, which is available on all models but the base trim.
Thankfully, the steering wheel both tilts and telescopes, even if the lever for this feature almost never wanted to lock back in place smoothly.
What our top-spec model did have was a smart key that unlocks the door when you touch the handle. Get in, press the brake pedal and hit the “Engine Start” button to fire it up. Simple yes, but locating the start button proved to be pesky. It wasn’t where you’d normally expect, and it doesn’t stand out either. Instead it sits above the stereo and looks just like any other button around it — odd.
Leather seats aren’t standard, but are an available option for an extra $2,180.
For a compact, the Verano has a spacious interior, but it still isn’t big enough to fit five adults comfortably. The trunk offers 14-cubic feet, which is as much as most mid-size sedans. Unfortunately the old style C-hinges can get in the way of your cargo.
MODESTLY POWERFUL, REASONABLY EFFICIENT
Buick’s engineers do, however, deserve credit for the Verano’s powertrain. Currently the only engine available with the Verano is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 180 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque.
It’s mated to a smooth shifting six-speed automatic gearbox, which transfers power to the front wheels. Unlike past Buick it doesn’t have a big engine, but it is still smooth and revs up to speed pleasantly. Few drivers will complain about a lack of grunt, but to please those who do, Buick will offer a 2.0-liter, turbocharged motor next year.
For now the current powertrain offers decent pace with solid fuel economy. The Verano is rated at 21 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. Those numbers aren’t bad, but they also don’t stack up to it’s the competing Acura ILX which gets 24/35 mpg city/highway.
Given the dampened ride and reasonable fuel economy the Verano is well suited for highway cruising, but what about city driving? Thankfully the ride on uneven and broken city streets is very good but a 36-foot turning radius makes parking in tight spaces difficult. We were surprised to find areas that would normally take a single maneuver requiring extra adjustment.
As for handling, the Verano is easily one of the best handling Buick’s we have come across – not that there’s much competition within its ranks. You’re not going to feel like taking on the switchbacks, but if you encounter any bends, the car feels competent with reasonably responsive steering.
Standard safety features include 10 airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes, and six months of OnStar.
Branded as a premium model, it also makes for an excellent and highly polished family car. Perhaps its best feature yet is the $22,585 starting price. The mid-level “Convenience Group: package adds $1,200 to the base price, while the top-end “Leather Group” costs $2,180. Considering the Acura ILX starts at $25,900 the Verano is more of a value proposition.
Designed in the hopes of attracting younger buyers to the brand, the Verano is Buick-enough to please loyalists, though it might still feel a little too mature for the Gen Y crowd to get on board.
A smart family sedan alternative for those who don’t need or want a mid-size car, the compact Verano works best for those looking to downsize their current Buick without compromising most of what the brand stands for.