When car companies take an existing vehicle, reskin it and hike the price, we're naturally going to be skeptical. But the 2012 Buick Verano silences most of our doubts, as it proves to be an admirable choice for the budget-conscious shopper seeking an entry-level luxury sedan.
On outward appearances, the Verano embodies Buick's latest push into the luxury market with a distinctive European flavor mixed in with the brand's freshened identity. Underneath this understated exterior, however, the Verano shares much of its underpinnings with the compact and economical Chevrolet Cruze. Fortunately for the Verano, many of the Cruze's flaws have been eliminated.
The Buick Verano comes with a larger 2.4-liter engine that is not offered on the Cruze, and its transmission is both quick and smooth-shifting (unlike the Cruze's). Power will likely be adequate for the majority of drivers, though it's hardly impressive. The Verano's interior, on the other hand, makes a favorable impression. Besides the cabin's graceful arching design, most surfaces are pleasing to the touch and the many standard features are easy to use.
Overall, we think the Verano is a viable choice for an entry-level luxury sedan. A similarly equipped Acura TSX -- the Verano's closest competitor -- will set you back a few thousand dollars more, while an Audi A3, Infiniti G Sedan and Lexus IS 250 will cost even more. For the added outlay of cash, you'll get more in the way of performance, but if that isn't an absolute priority, it is definitely worth taking a look at the 2012 Buick Verano.
The 2012 Buick Verano is offered in three trim levels that sound more like option packages, starting with the base model and going up to Convenience Group 2 and Leather Group.
The base Verano standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, cruise control, keyless entry, remote ignition, full power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, split-folding rear seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 7-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth (phone and audio streaming), OnStar telematics and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, a USB/iPod interface, an auxiliary audio jack and Buick's IntelliLink smartphone-connectivity system.
The Convenience Group 2 adds heated sideview mirrors, rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a power-adjustable driver seat. The Leather Group adds keyless ignition/entry, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, leather upholstery and a nine-speaker Bose audio upgrade.
Optional are a sunroof and a navigation system; neither one is offered on the base trim level. The Bose audio system is available on supporting trims, as is an Appearance package (chrome grille and rear spoiler).
While the 2012 Buick Verano is classified as a compact vehicle, it feels much more like a midsize. Head- and legroom are plentiful for four adults, though the rear center seat is decidedly less comfortable and is best used in a pinch. Throughout the cabin, materials quality is on par with other entry-level luxury sedans, with plenty of soft-touch surfaces and tightly fitted panels.
Among the available options, the Verano brings a whisper of technology with its IntelliLink system. Pairing with select smartphones, IntelliLink provides for streaming Internet radio like Pandora and Stitcher. Operation of this and other systems is thankfully easy, with well-labeled buttons and controls and a sharp touchscreen that is standard on all Veranos.
The trunk holds a maximum of 15.2 cubic feet of cargo, but that figure can drop to 14 cubes if you opt for the premium audio or tire/inflator kit. It's certainly spacious for a compact sedan, and is further helped by a lack of wheelwell intrusions or drop-down hinges.
The 2012 Buick Verano is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 180 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic with manual shift control is the only transmission offered.
In Edmunds performance testing, the Verano accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.0 seconds, which is slow for cars in this class. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined, which is about average for this segment.
Knowing that the 2012 Buick Verano is based on the economical Chevrolet Cruze might deter some from considering it a luxury car, but the Verano has managed to exorcize some of the demons that plagued the Cruze. Unlike the Cruze, the Verano's transmission provides smooth and quick gearchanges to suit the driver's inputs. The steering is also more responsive and precise, with a decent amount of feedback. The main dynamic drawback to the Verano is its underwhelming acceleration; most competing models (particularly those with V6s) are quicker by a fair margin.
The Verano's ride quality is quite refined and compliant, with all but the largest of road imperfections smoothed over with ease. The cabin also remains suitably quiet, thanks to a liberal use of sound insulation and laminated front glass. All in all, the 2012 Buick Verano delivers considerable comfort whether on long road trips or running errands in urban settings.
Standard safety features for the 2012 Buick Verano include front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, rear-seat side airbags, front-seat knee airbags, antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control and OnStar. In Edmunds brake testing, the Verano came to a stop from 60 mph in a class-average 122 feet.
In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Verano received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
The 2012 Buick Verano is an all-new model.