Quick Spin: 2012 Buick Verano car test drives reviews luxury cars buick
2012 Buick Verano. Click image to enlarge

First Drive: 2012 Buick Verano
DBDR: 2012 Buick Verano

Manufacturer’s web site
Buick Canada

Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2012 Buick Verano

Not only is the Verano the best small car Buick has produced in some time; it’s also one of the upscale General Motor’s brand’s best cars, period, in some time. That’s a big statement to make right off the top of a car review, but this is a small sedan worthy of big words.

The Verano is a re-skinned version of the Chevrolet Cruze – a good starting point, but an economy car all the same. In order to distinguish its car from the Cruze, Buick skips the Chev’s 1.4 and 1.8 L engines in favour of General Motors’ 2.4 L four-cylinder. For now, this is the only engine available, and the only transmission offered is a six-speed automatic.

Given my previous impressions of this engine/gearbox combination, as driven in the Buick Regal, Chevrolet Orlando and Chevrolet Equinox, I went into this Verano test drive without much enthusiasm.

Quick Spin: 2012 Buick Verano car test drives reviews luxury cars buick
2012 Buick Verano. Click image to enlarge

As it turns out, I was in for a pleasant surprise: where this power team has left me thoroughly underwhelmed elsewhere, it proved to be orders of magnitude better in the Verano. Whether it’s a factor of this car’s lighter weight or a transmission recalibration, it pulled off clean, smooth upshifts every time and willingly downshifted in response to deep stabs of the throttle. Both of those characteristics are in contrast to the (relatively speaking) rough shifting and lazy responses I’ve noted in those other vehicles.

Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption estimates for the Verano are 9.9/6.2 L/100 km (city/highway); my tester averaged 10.5 L/100 km in mostly city driving. The Chevrolet Orlando I tested averaged 10.7, and a Buick Regal I drove way back in 2010 did 10.4 L/100 km; both in mostly city driving.

In the Verano, the 2.4 L engine makes 180 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque (close to the Regal’s 182 hp and 172 lb-ft), but the Verano is lighter by about 125 kg (1,497 kg/3,300 lbs versus 1,624 kg/3,580 lbs in the Regal). Not surprisingly, then, the Verano feels more athletic in a straight line. Buick’s efforts to maximize refinement show in how quiet this car is compared to the Cruze it’s based on; in particular, engine noise is muted to the point of sounding sterile. While the Verano is quick enough to make it fun to flog, there’s not much mechanical joy to be had in doing so.

Quick Spin: 2012 Buick Verano car test drives reviews luxury cars buick
2012 Buick Verano. Click image to enlarge

Instead, the joy comes from the way the Verano goes over the road. In spite of a cushy ride, the Verano corners enthusiastically, even if the body leans over a bit in the process. All of Buick’s sedans now ride on chassis’ designed by GM’s European Opel division, and it shows: this car and its larger Regal and LaCrosse siblings are the kinds of vehicles that prove Buick is serious about reinventing itself as a youthful brand. It’ll take a long time to convince 30- and 40-somethings that a Buick is the car they want, though, when the brand is lining itself up against other premium cars like Jettas, 3 Series’ and A4s, not to mention a raft of Japanese models, and even Hyundai and Kia, when you think about it.

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