2012 Buick Verano first drive review Page 3

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By first accounts, gas mileage is good, too. The Verano's EPA fuel economy ratings, of 21 mpg city, 31 highway, are just okay; but better are the real-world figures we saw—in the mid-20s, even as we drove quickly over low mountain passes and twisty two-laners.

There's very little we'd like to change dynamically, considering the Verano's comfort-over-all-out-dynamics compromises. But a couple stick out in our minds: First, the brake pedal is very soft, bordering on spongy (an issue we've noticed with many non-performance GM cars of late). Secondly, just a few degrees off center, there's either a rapid change—almost a 'kink' in some situations—in the electric power steering's boost, or in the rack's ratio; it can be a little unsettling on mid-speed country-road corners (we thought at first this was sidewall flex, then it happened at lighter loads).

More than a tease of luxury

All versions of the 2012 Buick Verano include automatic climate control, remote start, steering-wheel controls, an electronic parking brake, a USB port, Bluetooth, and Buick Intellilink—basically a touch-screen and voice-activated interface for media and hands-free calling. It's simpler than MyFord Touch but accomplishes most of the same tasks—including voice-activated Pandora and Stitcher streaming, through your smartphone's data connection. At the top of the lineup, the Verano comes with push-button ignition, heated seats, and a Bose surround-sound system that was designed specifically for this vehicle. There are also plenty of smaller storage spots, along with front and rear reading lights.

Options on the Verano could drive the bottom line toward, but short of, $30k. Items of interest include a navigation system, a heated steering wheel, and a rear park assist feature.

Summing up the experience with the Verano is a matter of expectations. Buick officially lists the Verano's key competitors as the Lexus IS 250 and Audi A3, along with the Acura TSX and potentially a loaded VW Jetta or base Infiniti G25. It's about the exact same size as the Suzuki Kizashi, but its focus is completely different.

Cars like this are, by a wide range of predictions, poised for the most sales growth in coming years, and GM will be ready with both the Verano and the upcoming compact Cadillac ATS. In a few years Buick expects the Verano to be in an actual segment, competing against the Lincoln MKC and small Acura on the way.

In a way, the Verano appeals to the same type of shoppers who might consider a Hyundai Genesis or Equus—or even a model like the LaCrosse, to some degree. Applying that logic to a smaller car, the brand might not be upper-tier luxury yet, but the car really feels like it.

The Verano is hardly pulse-quickening, but we don't think that's part of the Verano's mission statement (its extreme quiet might have something to do with it, honestly). For raciness, there's the refined but still giddy Regal GS.

This isn't an enthusiast car, and it isn't a Cadillac. But it's very much a premium car, for a price that's not so premium. Luxury shoppers on a budget are going to like that.


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