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2012 Buick Verano First drive

By KBB.com Editors on October 26, 2011 10:26 AM
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As Buick continues its path to relevancy, a question emerges. How can a brand whose name is synonymous with early dinners and forgotten flashing turn-signal blinkers reach the hearts and minds of younger buyers? One answer is value. That's where the 2012 Buick Verano comes into play as a smaller, accessibly-priced addition to the Buick family.

The 2012 Buick Verano is a compact sedan that shares its core architecture with the Chevrolet Cruze. For some, mentioning Cruze and Verano in the same sentence dredges up haunting memories of GM's "badge engineering" era --a dark period where sub-par cars were shared among countless GM brands, distinguished only by grilles, trim and other superficial details. Sad times indeed. That's why we were pleased to find that the Buick Verano sedan is not the second coming of the Cadillac Cimarron. In fact it's really quite good. 

The first thing going for the 2012 Verano is its looks. With an athletic stance and tasteful styling, the Verano looks like a premium car. More importantly, it looks nothing like its platform mate, the Chevy Cruze. Go ahead and park a Verano next to a Cruze. Beyond general size, we challenge you to find visual similarities. The same goes for the interior. In look and feel the Verano cabin is more akin to its larger sibling, the Buick LaCrosse, albeit on a smaller scale. This leads to our first complaint, tight rear seat leg room. When offering your 6-foot-plus buddies a ride in your Buick sedan, be sure to clarify that you bought the small one. On the other hand, when seated up front, you'll notice the Verano's smaller dimensions fade into the background, thanks to decent front-passenger space and the way the Verano drives.

As a moderate technology snob, I'll be honest: Even with a supplemental Watt's link, the Verano's non-independent torsion-beam rear suspension seemed a bit lowbrow for a Buick. Heck, my friend's 1992 Honda Civic had a fully independent rear suspension. My concerns quickly disappeared once underway along some of Oregon's beautiful back roads. In motion, the Verano's suspension handles road imperfections with a level of sophistication not always found in compact cars, offering the kind of smooth competence that makes long-distance travel a pleasure. With a 180-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission, acceleration is good, though we're guessing the upcoming turbocharged engine might encourage us to change that "good" to "great." In current form, we wouldn't describe it as sporty, but Buick's compact entry certainly feels capable and predictable. Lastly, the Verano is quiet. Really quiet. Over the long haul, few features do more to enhance occupant comfort and improve perceived quality than a quiet cabin.

Our time with the 2012 Buick Verano left us impressed. It's a quiet, comfortable, compact sedan with plenty of upscale touches and a youthful design. Interestingly, Buick isn't playing it up but the Verano's trump card is its starting price of $23,470 including destination charges. Even the highest trim level checks in at less than $27,000. Let's see, we've got a nice car offered up for a reasonable price. Sounds like a brilliant formula for bringing car buyers back to Buick...and not just the young ones.

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