Review: 2012 Buick Verano

It’s no secret that Buick is looking to capture the affections (and dollars) of a younger demographic. The automaker has been hard at work refining its existing lineup, while also bringing new models into the fold. As it stands, Buick offers up the requisite blend of premium choices that range from a bulky but quite comfortable crossover and full-size sedan down to a somewhat sporty mid-size. Now, the automaker is also offering up a compact sedan, and we just so happen to have the keys to an example wearing White Diamond Tricoat paint.

 The 2012 Buick Verano could be easily dismissed as a Chevrolet Cruze that’s traded it’s GAP t-shirt for a button-down from Banana Republic. After spending a week with the premium machine, however, we’ve found that there’s a whole lot more to like about the Verano than it’s stylish exterior duds.

Typically, when we think of vehicles that offer up top-notch tech, our heads begin to fill with visions of products from Acura, Audi, and even Ford. The 2012 Verano has made it so that Buick is now a part of that list, because this compact four-door is filled with a host of excellent electronic amenities. Buick Intellilink is the name of the game in the cabin space, and it’s the automaker’s name for the new infotainment (ick, sorry we had to use that word… ) system. Once we pair our Bluetooth-capable phone, we can begin to enjoy music in a variety of ways. There’s the standard satellite radio setup that is found in almost all new cars, but with the Inellilink system we were able to bring up our Pandora account. Not only that, we could control the Pandora stream via the seven-inch touchscreen mounted at the top of the center stack, and then like, dislike, or skip songs just as if we were sitting in front of a computer. Satellite radio is fine for most journeys, but the ability to bring up our Pandora playlist is our idea of a more enjoyable auditory experience. It didn’t hurt that the music came pumping forth from nine speakers provided by Bose.

The interior tech extended to comfort features as well. The steering wheel, which boasts various control buttons, is heated, just like the front two seats. Our toasted butts appreciated this feature alongside the dual-zone climate control system, and the heated exterior mirrors. Don’t laugh… our blood is thin, and California mornings leave us chilly.

Still, you’re probably saying that these features should be standard on a car costing over $30,000 and competing in the premium or entry-level luxury segment. The 2012 Verano you see pictured here starts at $25,965, and features an as-tested price of $27,345 with its 1SL trim and $495 paint work. It’s clear that Acura paid attention to the base price of the Verano, because the Japanese automaker recently announced that its own compact offering, the ILX, will sticker for $25,900. Additionally, the ILX also offers a connection to Pandora via Bluetooth. Buick isn’t just competing against the ILX though, as buyers might be cross-shopping the Verano against the likes of the Lexus IS250 and Audi A3. The Lexus and the Audi both feature a higher starting price than the Buick, however, and neither are quite as good looking as the Verano.

Yep, we just said it. The Verano is a looker.

It manages to take the sharp lines from the Regal, pack them down, and the result is a pretty damn good looking machine. The fenders are filled up by the 18-inch machine-faced alloy wheels. Out front, the headlights set the tone by sitting far apart from each other, and the Verano continues to get wider as it moves backwards. Running down the side is a surprisingly subtle shoulder line that is complemented perfectly by a more aggressive cut sitting just above the lower sill. This is the style that will put the automaker on the shopping list of the younger demographic.

Hopefully they don’t care too much about performance though, because the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine leaves a bit to be desired. This Ecotec inline-four produces 180 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque that’s sent to the front wheels, and it’s paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox. It’s not terribly slow, it’s just not an exciting unit despite the Verano only offering up a 3,300-pound curb weight. Still, it does do a solid job if you’re more concerned with fuel economy. The EPA estimates that you’ll get 21 miles per gallon in the city and 32 miles per gallon out on the highway.

It’s not all boring news from behind the wheel though, because the 2012 Verano serves up a surprising amount of handling that helps edge the needle back into the “fun to drive” side of the equation. We had to work harder than we’d like to build speed but once we got to where we wanted, we could keep that speed up on a twisty road. This isn’t to say this is an example of a slow car that’s fun to drive fast (a la the Mazda2) but the 18-inch rollers, four-wheel disc brakes, and MacPherson front/Z-link rear suspension all work together to provide a driving experience that can put a smile on one’s face.

The smile will only wind up on the face of those in the front seats. Why’s that? Take a look at what happens if the driver needs to put his seat all the way back:

This might be a case of class-leading lack of legroom. To be fair though, despite your author’s 6’3″ height mark on the kitchen wall, there wasn’t a need to put the seat this far back. We’re not excusing the abysmal amount of rear legroom, we’re just letting you taller folk know there is plenty of room for those in the seat that matters.

Another thing that now matters again… Buick. The 2012 Verano is further proof that the automaker is moving in the right direction. This compact sedan, while owning a handful of misses, is a car otherwise filled with many hits. The price point, styling, and interior features put it near the top of a group that gets better every year. If they only offered a turbo-four/manual-transmission combination, we’d simply rip out the back seat and smile at the poster of the Grand National hanging in our garage.

Regardless, we can still smile, because Buick is unquestionably back, and ready to reach a whole new audience.

[Disclosure: Buick flipped us the keys to this 2012 Verano, and includes a full tank of gas. We spent a week flipping off nursing homes filled with aging examples of the automaker’s AARP-loving past.]

Photos copyright 2012  Glucker

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