I’ve said it a few times before, but I think there is a lot of potential in the premium compact segment. I’ve grown to appreciate all the modern luxuries that are now commonplace in the big pricey luxury sedans and SUVs we get to test at DoubleClutch.ca; but the practical commuter in me knows that I don’t need 3 feet of legroom behind me and 350+ horsepower under the hood to get me to work and back. This is precisely why I like the new players, such the Acura ILX, which incorporate the same type of refinement and luxury, but in much smaller, more commuter-friendly packages.
Buick has been making a lot of headway in this segment, demonstrated by strong sales of the Verano. Since I had yet to drive one, our friends over at GM sent me a top-of-the-line 2015 Buick Verano T Premium, equipped with the hot little 2.0L turbo engine. Much like the weather we’ve been having in Toronto, it took me a while to warm up to the little Buick. Though, once I spent some quality time with it, I really began to enjoy it.
Admittedly, my initial coldness towards the Verano has a lot to do with its aesthetics. While the exterior dimensions are bang on; small enough to easily fit and park anywhere in the city but big enough that it still looks and feels substantial on the road, the car is styled to look simply like a smaller version of the Regal. I don’t mind the lines of the Regal at all, but they just look awkward to me on the Verano. The chrome waterfall grill, chrome trim pieces everywhere and the little blue rings in the headlights make it feel dated. The exterior is not without its nice touches though. My turbocharged tester came with a subtle little “T” badge and small lip spoiler on the trunk lid, giving the slightest hint that there’s more to this Buick than meets the eye. I think I’d like lines a bit more if Buick had done a little more to make the Turbo model feel special. Color matching all the chrome and giving it a more aggressive stance would really go a long way.
The key to any good premium car is its interior, and the folks at Buick have clearly made an effort to instill the refinement and luxury of the Verano’s larger siblings into this small package. Overall they’ve done a pretty impressive job with abundant use of soft-touch materials and bits of classy wood trim. I’ve learned to expect extremely quiet interiors from Buick, and happily the Verano did not disappoint. Using Buick’s QuietTuning technologies, the Verano has to be one of the quietest, if not the quietest, compact I’ve ever driven. The driving position is near perfect for me, and the Ebony black leather seats in my tester proved extremely comfortable and relaxing. Also, in the midst of the coldest month ever on record in Toronto, I was very appreciative of the Verano’s heated steering wheel, seats, mirrors and remote starter.
I absolutely forgot all about those little niggles I had as soon as I started driving the Verano. The 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder and its 250 horses are perfectly at home here. Throttle response is sharp at all RPMs, turbo lag is at an absolute minimum and this little Buick really scoots! GM claims the Verano turbo will do 0-96km/h in just 6.2 seconds – properly quick for a compact as comfortable as this. The steering is just right as well with almost no noticeable torque steer, despite the front-wheel-drive setup. There’s enough feedback to keep the driver engaged, but not so much that it would distract from the otherwise peaceful and relaxing drive. Speaking of which, the ride of the Verano represents the perfect balance for me; it’s plush and silent on the highway, comforting on the buckling city streets, yet still manages to feel responsive and connected to the road. It’s been a long winter and it’s been a while since I’ve driven anything I’d consider to be a driver’s car. Bravo Buick, Bravo.
A great driving experience always comes with a price tag, and in this case it’s about $3000 to upgrade from a fully loaded Verano with the standard 2.4L to the 2.0L turbo in my test car, which carries an MSRP of just over $35,000. Unfortunately, the 2.0L turbo is only available at the top-of-the-line Premium trim level, which means it isn’t really a performance ‘bargain’. However, when I think about the complete package that my test car offers, it starts to make a pretty strong case for itself.
I had a couple of forces working against my fuel economy throughout my week with the Verano; the first of which being the extreme cold, and the second being the Verano’s playful turbo encouraging my foot to be just a little heavier than it otherwise would be. That said, I managed a respectable 11.3L/100km on my mixed commute. I’ve never found turbos to be particularly fuel efficient, but I am willing to bet that I could easily have the Verano down around 9L/100km without much effort given better weather conditions.
The Verano Turbo isn’t without its faults, but it does represent a very interesting option as an everyday commuter car. It’s the perfect size for the city, has all the amenities and refinement of a much more expensive and larger sedan and now has the performance and driving experience to match. If you can get past the small stuff and a few awkward looking angles, the Verano could prove to be the perfect commuter. I know that if the folks at Buick would invest a little bit into making the turbocharged model look and feel like something special, I’d add it to my own shopping list.
2015 Buick Verano T Gallery