That a small Buick would sell in North America seemed a doubtful prospect to some a few years ago but, in the midst of a product turnaround conceived to boost sales and attract younger buyers, Buick’s small cars turned out to be its strongest assets in 2014.
The Verano alone accounted for well over a third of the brand’s sales last year, which is a kind of personal vindication for me: I called the Verano the best car in the Buick line (not to mention one of the best in the entire GM portfolio) when I drove it in 2012, and it seems that at least a few people agreed with me.
Since the Verano’s introduction, the most significant change was the addition of a turbocharged engine for 2013. That motor was in the 2015 model I tested recently; this year, the only update is standard 4G LTE connectivity and a built-in wifi hotspot.
So the Verano’s a strong seller in Buick’s own stables, but the question is what kind of buyer it’s aimed at. Its compact size and $24,000 starting price (the lowest of any Buick) would suggest this is the car best suited to the preferences of those youthful shoppers Buick is so eager to sell to, but on the surface, there isn’t much here that seems in tune with that demographic. The Verano looks upscale, but doesn’t shout about it as loudly as, say, a Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 does, with that big three-pointed star in its grille.
Drive the Verano, and on the surface, it feels grown up, with a quiet ride that’s on the comfortable side of firm. It isn’t until you carry more speed than seems wise into that first corner that you discover the Verano’s chassis (shared with the Chevrolet Cruze) is capable of surprisingly sharp handling and decent steering feel.
Lightning-quick throttle response makes the engine’s intentions more obvious; turbocharged torque lends itself well to moving the Verano quickly when it’s called for; and good brake feel makes for confident stopping.
All the same, the Verano’s responses lack the immediacy of other compact luxo-sedans; the CLA-Class, Audi A3 and Acura ILX (particularly with the updates it’s getting for 2016) all seem more ready to party than the Verano which, despite its ultimately capable dirty bits, feels exactly like you’d expect a Buick to feel.