The Buick Verano tries to tap into a burgeoning niche—buyers who are concerned about fuel economy and their budgets, but still want an upscale car. But other models in GM's lineup, and some inherent shortcomings, don't help the Verano's case.
Built on a platform shared with the Chevrolet Cruze, the Verano improves upon attributes of the Cruze that didn't really need improvement. For instance, adopting the 180-hp four-cylinder engine from the larger Buick Regal boosted performance a bit, but it brings unimpressive fuel economy. The Cruze is already one of the quietest small sedans you can buy, and the Verano is even quieter. Nice, but it is too bad the Verano doesn't improve on the Cruze's tight back seat.
Luxury touches in the Verano add appeal, such as interior stitching details and an available heated steering wheel. However, the lack of power seat recline and adjustable lumbar support seem cheap in a nearly $28,000 car that aims to be a luxury sedan. Further, some elements that appear luxurious to the eyes often are not to the touch.
One challenge that GM has, with four different divisions to feed, is building cars with a distinct purpose from one another without overlap. The Verano handily illustrates that. A loaded-up Chevrolet Cruze LTZ is a solid-feeling and quiet car that costs several thousand dollars less than our Verano. On the other hand, the Buick Regal is better finished and much more entertaining to drive than the Verano yet costs little more. Never mind that for the price of the Verano, there are many leather-lined family sedans with both better performance and fuel economy. Just like with the Acura ILX, you have to want to pay a premium to get a smaller car.
Overall, the Verano scored decently in our tests, but there are abundant details that a car shopper should consider before taking the plunge, as itemized in our complete road test.