2012 Buick Verano HD Video Review

Back in 2007 it was easy to come up with an angle when writing about Buick’s new Enclave.  It was as poised and handsome as it’s predecessor, the Rendezvous, was awkward.  To a person, every auto writer in America wrote “THIS is a Buick?”

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2012 Buick Verano

Then came LaCrosse with its svelte head-turning shape.  Again, the collective scribes wrote “THIS is a Buick?”  Since most consumers still believed the brand was a grandpa’s car, it was like shooting fish in a barrel to talk about the new Buick renascence.

With Verano, it’s not “THIS is a Buick?”, it’s “This is a Buick”.  No question mark, it’s a statement.  Buick is transforming into what Bob Lutz said it had to the potential to be- an American Lexus.  By that, he meant affordable luxury.  It appears the TriShield brand has finally nailed a unique direction, confidence, and purpose.

Competitors?

In a nutshell the Verano is a very appealing car that has no real direct competitor.  It’s the same size as a BMW 3-Series but GM is realistic to point out the uber-sports sedan is not considered competition.   2012 Buick Verano  Starting at $23,470 with destination it’s much less money than other small luxury cars like Audi A3 and Lexus IS and considering the economy and gas prices, its time to market is impeccable.

In the week I drove it, people made it clear that they liked the look of the Verano.  The lines are clean, uncluttered and purposeful, except for the non-functional ventiports but hey, it’s a Buick.  Let’s let them keep that classic style point.  The waterfall grill is classic for the brand, the back has the Angry Birds face going on with the chrome eyebrows.  It’s a nice addition to the Buick family, which is looking pretty stylish these days.

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2012 Buick Verano

Consider this- with exceptionally comfortable heated leather seats, Bose sound, iPod and phone integration, dual zone auto climate, keyless ignition, and heated steering wheel, it retails for…  (and I pause here for dramatic effect)  $27,175 including destination.  Most that rode in Verano this past week guessed mid-thirties and up.  Completely loaded with sunroof and navigation it’s 30K.

Verano is based on the same platform architecture as Chevy Cruse but you’d lever know by looking or driving.  The engine is larger, a 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder with 180 horsepower on tap. Need more speed?  The 2013 Verano will get a 2.0-liter Ecotec turbo that makes 220-hp in the Regal CXL.  Could Verano get even more than that?  That’s the rumor.

The smooth six-speed transmission has a manual mode.   The sheetmetal and interior of Verano are completely different than Cruze.  In short, the days of GM badge engineering are history. Talking to you Cadillac Cimarron.

2012 Buick Verano

Not Just a Cruze

Verano has some spunk off the line, 0-60 happens in 7.5 seconds. There’s also a decent dollop of sport in the chassis tuning.  Really.  My friend Martin Campbell who drives the cars while I shoot running footage, was quite surprised at how crisp the cornering was while at the helm.   Again, this front-drive car is not a 3-Series, but the driving dynamics are quiet good.

Old stereotypes die hard and two classic Buick characteristic remain, but both are desirable.  First, the interior is very quiet so you can hear the Bose sound system better.  This is a great road trip car.  Secondly, it’s very comfortable for a car it’s size, feeling a size larger in its ability to coddle.  That’s appreciated on pockmarked pavement, which seems more common these days.

I’ll stress Verano doesn’t lean and roll in corners like a waterbed on wheels.  There’s understeer but it’s not excessive and even though there’s electric power steering, there’s still a decent amount of road feel.  Brake pedal feel is on the soft side

Fuel economy is EPA rated at 21 city / 32 highway.  Good but not stellar.

2012 Buick Verano

Cabin Comfort

The interior is very inviting with rich colors and very good materials, many of them soft touch.  Vent trim has a tinted satin chrome look.  The parking brake is electric to free up space in the center console cupholders and there are lots of storage cubbies.   A sunroof and navigation is available, just not on this car.  Remember though, with GM’s OnStar you can get audible directions with graphics downloaded to the car just by talking to a friendly agent.

The ignition button is up near the LCD screen, not in the usually spot down by the steering column.  A-pillars are covered in cloth, the headliner is the same material.  At night the ice blue lighting is very soothing, including lighted accents near the door pulls and center stack base.  A telling detail, the red and blue of the dual-zone climate control is lighted, not just painted.  The standard IntelliLink touch screen interface makes it easy to choose audio sources, (it’s also voice activated). Plug in a smartphone and you can use its data plan for Pandora and Stitcher.

2012 Buick Verano

You want airbags?  There are 10, including knee units for those up front.  Verano has been named a 2012 Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.   That means all Buicks have that designation.

Evil Twin Rated

Evil Twin has a lot to say about the back seat. The seats are very comfortable and the height is raised so passengers don’t sit with their knees up to their chin.  Foot and legroom isn’t overly generous but for a smaller car that’s expected.  It’s a very usable space with pockets on both seats, side torso impact airbags, power port, storage nooks, and a fold down arm rest.

Keep it to two smaller adults in back and people will be happy. However, those with long legs might hit their lower shins on hard plastic trim and it doesn’t feel good.

2012 Buick Verano. (10/19/2011)

Gripes?  I like the proximity key option that unlocks the doors with a touch of the handle.  The whole idea is to keep it in pocket or purse but with no handle or release on the trunk lid  owners will have to dig the fob out and use a button (or the interior trunk release).  A backup camera is not available though there is a helpful sonic warning system that beeps faster when closing in on objects.  Vented seats up front and heated seats in the back are not available.

Verano is not a big car so I was kind of curious about the trunk size.  It’s nicely trimmed and gets a real spare tire.  Size wise its’ about average taking on six packs. The rear seats split and fold too.  There’s a chance for seven but gooseneck hinge arms will do damage to cargo, and I have to bring the TP I borrow from Costco back un-squeezed.  Hmmm, wonder what Mr. Whipple is doing these days…

Back To It’s Roots

In the days when GM held 50 percent market share in the US, Buick was considered the “doctor’s car”.  In other words, if your physician drove a Cadillac he charged too much.  If he owned a Chevy or Ford it meant he wasn’t very successful.  The elegant but understated Buick made the perfect impression.  Verano seems to be aimed like a laser at that segment of the market.

2012 Buick Verano

It’s true that 27 grand will get a buyer a loaded Hyundai Sonata or Kia Optima.  Both are good looking, both roomier and better equipped than the Verano.  But like other premium brands there’s something more sumptuous about the Buick’s experience even though it’s smaller.  Only a buyer can make that decision.  That is why there are test drives.

It’s not like Verano is aimed at the Scion crowd, but it should draw buyers that are younger than ever.  You have to experience this car to appreciate the sweet spot Buick has hit.  Verano may be their most affordable car, but it defines what the brand stands for.  This is a Buick, and it is good.

NOT JUST ONE, BUT TWO GALLERIES BELOW (IN CASE YOU PREFER BROWN TO CRANBERRY).  ALL STILL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY GM EXCEPT THE TWO “GRAFFITI” SHOTS BY PRODUCTION ASSISTANT MARTIN CAMPBELL .

25 Comments

  1. Cars123 says:

    Hi I’m always have been a Buick person but i was wondering if you could do a review on the new encore coming out in early 2013? If you can that would be great. I really want to know about that car.

  2. denisrenepl says:

    On minute 1:29 the road has this half moons sticking out with a sign. I have a question about that Tom. Were you at a track? or at a regular street? if you were at a regular street, wont you agree that those half moons, are a little bit stupid?
    P.S. Verano is a Spanish word that means Summer

    • TV says:

      Not at a track. Those are called “chicanes” and they put them on Seattle streets to “calm” traffic. In other words, slow speeders. It basically ends up being a challenge for those speeders to see how fast they can get through them. An idiot driving on my street ended up on his roof in my neighbor’s yard doing that. Those chicanes are now gone.

      Thanks for the Spanish lesson!

  3. kenwenzel says:

    This motor should be in the Cruze, and they should make the turbo they used in the Chevy HHR an option in this car. 1400 cc engines just seem like they should be in my motorcycle, not in my car. Nice interior. My wife used to make fun of Buick saying “nice grill”, since the rest of the car was just bland.

  4. ssc308 says:

    I just saw the Verano at the NY Auto Show. Compared to the Cruze, I could not justify why I should not buy the base Verano model since it is so much nicer and slightly bigger. The Buick rep there told me that a 2.0 Liter turbo is coming out soon with a marginal price difference and they are hoping to put the new GM Smartphone interface with the touchscreen which is supposed to cost only a 100$ and uses navigation from the data plan. TV, could you please review the new Encore as well, when you get hands on one. It would be nice to see how it stacks up against the BMW X1. Thanks..

    • TV says:

      I’d be happy to do both, as soon as they become available at an event or added to the press fleet. I’ve seen the X1, very curious about the Encore.

  5. K G says:

    I sat in one at NAIAS. Nice up front. Leg room is bad (imo) in rear seats.
    I worked at a Buick dealer during Skylark and Skyhawk days (http://tinyurl.com/7z2pm79). Early 80s not a good time for GM. I really wanted a J car when I was in high school. (Shudder!)

    This car seems very good, though. I still have not driven one. I have driven Prius C mentioned above. My daily driver is 2001 Prius.

    What camera was used for the interior video if you don’t mind sharing?

    Boy that iPod image on their touchscreen is ‘old school’ ! LOL (original looking 1 thru 3 gen)

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  7. GusGT says:

    TV, when you mentioned the engine size I thought the Verano would be in the Chevy Malibu category. However, if it is based on the Cruze platform then the overall look is sure deceiving in video to my old eyes.

    Maybe TV unlocked the door with the key of imagination. Beyond another dimension of sound, sight, and mind…Maybe i’ve crossed over into the…April 1st zone! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself with the silly reference.

    • TV says:

      It’s 3 inches longer than the Cruze so while it’s not exactly small, it’s not big. Dang, wish I would have posted an April 1 joke…

      • raschmidt says:

        I’m still surprised that Buick is offering 3 sedan’s all starting for under 30k. Seems like they’re making a car for every niche that Cadillac and Chevrolet don’t already fill. The Lacrosse might have some problems with the Impala and XTS coming out in the next year. Verano seems like a pretty good deal compared to the Cruze, even though fuel economy isn’t as good it seems like the interior is worth the extra gas.

  8. kay3460 says:

    Looking forward to see which is better: Verano or Acura ILX.

    • TV says:

      True that

      • raschmidt says:

        TSX! When acura announced they’re killing of the TL or TSX to make room for the ILX I was a bit confused, why not just kill off the RL that the world has forgotten about, and move the TL and TSX up a little?

        If Buick can justify a Verano, Regal, Lacrosse, Acura can justify a ILX, TSX, TL.

  9. Smeg says:

    Did I miss the mpg part, Tom? I’ve heard the Cruze mileage is a bit disappointing, whereas a friend is pulling a fairly impressive 26mpg average in a 2011 Chrysler 300 Limited with a V6. I imagine the new 8-speed in the Chrysler will be a bit better, and so I would expect even more from this smaller Buick.

    • Smeg says:

      I meant real world mpg, by the way – not the official ratings. I thought after a week you’d have a feel for if it beats, meets, or disappoints.

    • TV says:

      EPA is 21 city / 32 highway, I got around 32 on the highway but couldn’t really keep track of city. The price of the Chrysler is considerably more and some people just don’t want as large of a car. Size is personal choice really. I know a woman who was going to test drive the Verano because her new house has a small parking spot. Simple as that.

  10. FinalBlue says:

    Yikes, those taillights are pretty terrible. Far too immature for what the Verano is trying to be.

    Riddle me this, Tom: Why would someone go for a Verano when they can just get a high-end Cruze?

    It’s a shame that Buick can shake off its stereotypes, but Toyota still gets called boring even when they bring out the sporty FR-S, Camry SE, Yaris SE, and (relatively sporty) Prius C.

    • FinalBlue says:

      Whoops, missed one; add the Lexus GS to that list as well.

    • TV says:

      The interior of the Verano is nicer. It really is. Quieter on the road and the seats are more comfortable too. Personally I like the design of the Buick better, though that’s subjective.

      Yaris SE and Prius c?! Yikes, FB. Those are not sporty at all. Very few people have had the chance to drive the GS, those who do should be impressed.

      I’ll leave the marketing to the pros. Perception is a hard thing to change but I’ve had a few co-workers ask me about LaCrosse and Enclave. These are people in their 40s. We will see…

      BTW, I met a very attractive professional woman who looked to be in her late 30s driving an Enclave the other day. She gushed about it. Didn’t seem to know about the brand’s history either.

      • raschmidt says:

        I get the impression that as our society becomes more interested in technology and gadgets and less interested in the cars themselves, they’ll stop caring about brand names. Part of me thinks BMW was smart at getting away from the ultimate driving machine slogan (though sad as well), I think they realized that most new drivers just plain out don’t care about driving a car they just want to see all the stupid gizmos it has. Soon the Ultimate Driving Machine will be the car that drives YOU from point A to B.