I’ve never been a big fan of Buick cars – or GM in general, even though I’ve owned a couple of Chevy’s (Camaro & Malibu) and a Saturn. My experience with the Chevrolet brand has been terrible, but I must admit I really liked our Saturn Vue. So why am I driving a Buick Verano? Quite by accident really – my wife’s car was in the shop for repairs and the dealership gave us a rental. Being a car guy – it’s never just a drive – everything is a test drive for me and so why not? Let’s give this car the full test treatment….
What Is It?
- Small-mid-size sedan
- Buick are way off the mark by offering this as a luxury car
- Up against similar cars like the Honda Civic and Ford Focus, this car is a true, fierce competitor
How Does It Look?
- I hate to admit it, but it’s a good-looking car – I really like it in white
- Its proportions are nice – nothing awkward about the way it looks – something you can’t have said about Buick’s in the past
- Could almost pass as a European car
- From the outside the trunk looks small, open the lid and it’s huge!
What’s It Like Inside?
- The driver’s position is almost perfect, although I didn’t like the height of the shifter – too high for when you use the sport shift
- The seats were quite comfortable – a HUGE improvement over any other GM I’ve driven – they’ve always felt like the lumbar area was removed – these seats are much better than anticipated, however…
- a lumbar adjustment is glaringly missing and definitely needed for both front seats
- The driver’s seat is height-adjustable and there is plenty of seat under the legs – right up to my knees. My biggest beef with GM seats over the years has always been their obsession with only giving us ½ a seat to sit on, with it usually ending around the middle of my thighs
- Rear seats are likewise very comfortable and unlike a lot of similar-sized cars, you don’t feel claustrophobic – there’s plenty of light back there
- Getting in was easy, but getting out was extremely hard due to the very small lower door opening for your feet, combined with the recline angle of the rear seat. I’ve got small feet and found it hard to get them out of the car and then pivot my body out
- The dashboard and instrument cluster are top-notch – very nice to look at and I really like the shade of blue used
- His ‘n’ her climate controls was a surprise – as were the missing heated seats. In Canada all cars should have heated seats as standard.
- The centre console was logically laid out – very un-Buick
- Fit and finish was way above what I’d expected and almost bordering on luxury – loved the nice touches like the pull handles and the fake wood in the door insert – classy, not tacky
- Visibility out and about town is very good, but reversing is a challenge with the very high rear parcel shelf. Spring for the optional back up camera – you won’t regret it
- The ‘Fuel Remaining Until Empty” gauge was all over the map. At one point it said I had 334kms before empty, but just 9kms later I had 460kms left before empty and after travelling another 25kms it registered I had 451kms before I had to refuel! On another occasion I travelled 101kms, but the car said I’d only used 75kms worth of fuel. So if you see a Verano at the side of the road, you’ll know that the driver was trusting the gauge and not the fuel needle.
So How Quick Is It & How Does It Handle?
- It’s a relatively small car, so it doesn’t need a big V6 engine and it doesn’t have one
- Transmission shifts were noticeable, but not intrusive
- You need to make a concerted effort to get this thing going off the line, but once up and running it’s fine
- Steering input is very good – not too light, with just the right amount of feedback. At parking speeds, it felt like it boosted the steering to make it very light and easy to turn
- Running through the twisty back roads, the Verano was very capable and firmly planted – very enjoyable to drive in a spirited fashion
- Passing slower cars, the 80-120 km/h sprint was effective and quick
What Does It Cost?
The base Verano comes with a 2.4L 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission putting out 180 hp @ 6,700 rpm and 171 lb-ft. torque @ 4,900 rpm. There is an optional turbo model (250 hp) that would certainly make this an interesting little car.
- Fuel economy is rated at City: 10.5 L/100km and Highway: 6.2 L/100km (city seems quite thirsty).
- Even with the dodgy on-board Fuel estimator, I got around 10 L/100km of mixed driving – quite poor because it should have been much closer to 7 L/100km as is the norm for this size of car.
- Canada: 2 years/40,000 kilometres of scheduled maintenance, including oil changes and oil filter changes. It complements Buick’s four-year/80,000 kilometre bumper-to-bumper limited warranty and six-year/110,000 kilometre powertrain limited warranty.
- U.S.: 6-year/70,000-mile Transferable Powertrain Limited Warranty with no deductible + Bumper-To-Bumper 4 years/50,000 miles + Roadside Assistance – 6 years or 70,000 miles
GM Claims – Small Luxury: BMW 2 Series, Mercedes CLA
In REALITY: Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda6, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
- Fit and finish were much better than expected and attention to detail is something I didn’t expect from Buick
- Visually it’s a good-looking car and from the inside it a nice place to spend time
- Points off for no heated seats and no adjustable lumbar – unacceptable in this class of car
- Rear seat ingress is good, but egress is terrible
- This is NOT a near-luxury car by any stretch of the imagination – it’s just a tarted-up Chevy Cruze
What’s The Verdict?
Based on my short time with the Verano, I’m pleasantly surprised to have liked it – I didn’t want to, to be honest. My wife really liked it and wouldn’t rule it out to replace her present car – but wait there’s more (below). Would I buy it? Nope, the rear seat exit would be a deal-breaker because anyone you transport back there would have the same or a worse experience than I did – you might as well have a coupe.
The Verano is touted as a small “Luxury” sedan which would put it in the Volvo, BMW, Mercedes and Lincoln arena, but this car is nowhere near that category. It’s more likely to compete in the above “Reality” list. Size and price-wise its closest competitor in the luxury segment would be the Mercedes Benz CLA and that would be really pushing it. Based on price – it’s firmly in the Ford Fusion, Chrysler 200, Kia Forte, Hyundai Sonata area and that is a tough market for any vehicle to compete in. I originally thought its main competition would be the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra etc., and I firmly believe that is the market this car is really in – not the luxury crowd, and definitely not the mid-sized either – if luxury is its true competition – not a chance.
I told my wife this was a luxury car and she burst out laughing – “It’s a decent attempt at a regular car – that’s all I’ll give them.” She compared it to a Civic or an Elantra, and I must admit she’s usually spot on when it comes to guessing the value of a vehicle.
Copyright © 2015 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: GM / Iain Shankland
Also Published on DrivenToday & Flagworld