The new Verano shares GM’s Delta II platform with the Chevrolet Cruze, but having been built to compete with the Audi A3, Infiniti G and Lexus IS 250, it’s unmistakably a Buick.
The distinction begins with the engine: a 2.4-liter Ecotec I-4 that delivers 180 hp at 117 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s a huge boost over the Cruze’s 1.4, and the Chevy doesn’t have the Verano’s decoupled MacPherson front struts and Watts Z-link rear suspension. Early testers gave the Verano high marks for cornering and stopping and low marks for acceleration — clocking zero-to-60 times of up to 9.0 seconds. Buick claims 8.6, which is still a bit slow for the segment; a 2.0-liter turbo Verano is in the works.
The exterior owes much of its styling to the mid-size Regal, including the understated, waterfall chrome grille, chrome accents and raked-back windshield. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels are standard, and the optional “Appearance” package adds a black-chrome grille and rear spoiler.
Things get even more upscale in the cabin. Lit by the same ambient LEDs as the larger LaCrosse, the Verano’s interior is full of soft-touch materials, nearly seamless panels and luxury appointments. Even the A-pillars are wrapped in fabric, a nice touch that helps dampen engine and road noise. The Verano’s sound-absorbing laminated glass, triple-seal doors and five-layer roof liner do their part as well.
Keyless entry and remote ignition are standard, as is cruise control, fog lamps and blue, translucent projector-beam headlights, a seven-inch touchscreen interface, Bluetooth connectivity and Buick’s Intelli-Link smartphone system. The second-level “Convenience Group” includes heated sideview mirrors, rear parking sensors and power-adjustable driver’s seat, while the top-of-the-line “Leather Group” adds cowhide upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, keyless ignition and a nine-speaker Bose audio system.
The list of standard safety features includes a set of 10 airbags, brake assist, OnStar with Automatic Crash Response, and electronic traction control and brake force distribution systems. Rear parking assist is available as an option on the 1SG and 1SL models.
Fleet buyers tasked with finding a luxury compact for less will be compelled to take a hard look at the Verano. It starts at $22,585, and doesn’t stray above the $26,000 mark, even for the tricked-out Leather edition.