By Jim MacPherson
Americans usually have no problem equating quality with small size. Take Fabergé eggs or iPods, for example. Cars have long been an exception, with many equating small with “cheap” and “less desirable.”
That may change, as premium small cars are putting this stereotype to rest. Take the 2012 Buick Verano.
The Verano is a compact sedan that now serves as the least costly and smallest Buick. It shares its platform with the Chevrolet Cruze.
But Buick went to great lengths to elevate the Verano. The interior, with the optional Leather Group, is well above any Chevrolet. And, where the Cruze features only 1.8 - and turbocharged 1.4-liter engines, the Verano comes with a 2.4-liter motor.
Three versions are offered: a well-equipped base vehicle, a Convenience Group model and the Convenience Group version with the Leather Group upgrade. Options are few; a navigation system and power sunroof on the Convenience and Leather models, a Bose sound system on the base and Convenience (standard with the Leather Group) and a small number of paint and wheel upgrades.
The Buick Verano can easily be classified as a luxury car. It’s that nicely finished.
“We had a customer come in and look at the car after he had seen it online,” says Matt Scranton, sales manager at Scranton Motors in Vernon. “His first reaction was that it was smaller than he thought, but he took it out for a test drive. After 10 minutes, he came back and said, ‘I have to have this car.’”
That‘s a testament to the job Buick has done giving the Verano an upscale feeling. The car is very quiet on the highway.
“Red is [the] hot [color], and the leather interior, especially with its two-tone color scheme, makes the car,” Scranton says. Buyers seem to agree, as most are selecting the Leather Group, though they’re passing on the sunroof and the navigation system.
Engine performance is good, with a 0-60 run taking just 8.6 seconds. The engine is audible when pressed for maximum acceleration, but it doesn’t become harsh or grating during these brief runs and it settles down to near silence when cruising. The six-speed automatic, the only transmission offered, shifts very well.
The ride is firm but not harsh. Still, it could have been a little softer over potholes. However, the ability of our review Verano to swallow expansion joints on the highway was most impressive and the firmness detected over some bumps paid dividends in handling. Here, sharp steering responses, straight line stability on the highway and a nicely balanced feel in turns made the Verano rewarding to drive.
The front seats are comfortable, though some adjustable lumbar support would be a nice addition. The rear seat is a little tight.
Scranton says the Verano is appealing to a wide range of customers and it is even doing something no Buick has done in recent memory: drawing younger buyers. “Young people who have just gotten their first real job and don’t want something basic are looking at the Verano,” he says. “Once they sit in it and drive it, everyone has been blown away.”
“It’s exciting,” he adds, “to have a luxury vehicle that we can sell in the mid-twenty-thousand dollar range.”
Starts at: $22,585
Engine: 2.4-liter 4-cylinder
171 lb-ft of torque