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You Auto Know

The 2012 Buick Verano

After years of French names like LeSabre, LaCrosse, and Lucerne, Buick has decided to head south in naming their new compact Verona—which translates to “summer” in Spanish. Good thing, because if they’d stuck with French, I doubt if a new Buick Été would have gone over very well. Imagine the ad campaign: “Buick Été, where the accent is on you…and the É…and the other é.”

The new Verona also speaks another language for Buick: compact. It’s their first small car since the 1997 Skylark. Well, technically since the 1998 Skylark, but that final model year was made available only for fleet sales, so you can find a used one today but you wouldn’t have been able to buy a new one for private use.

When I settled into the driver’s seat of a Black Onyx Verano recently at East Aurora Buick GMC Cadillac, I couldn’t help but remark to sales consultant Bruno Lombardo, “Boy, we could have used a car like this a few years ago when I was selling Buicks.” I can’t tell you how many folks would pull into our dealership with their older Skylarks, looking for a new Buick compact, and the smallest car we had was the family-sized LaCrosse (which, due to an unfortunate French translation issue in Canada, was marketed as the Allure until 2011, when I guess GM Canada decided, “Hey, if you can’t take a joke…”). The Verano, which is based on Chevy’s Cruze, was a bit of a surprise to a guy like me, who has spent a lot of time in a Buick these past few years. Other than the familiar Tri-Shield staring me in the face from the center of the wheel, I wouldn’t have guessed it was a Buick. It did have a definite GM vibe to it, but seemed like a pleasant departure from past Buick models.

The optional leather seats were very comfortable, and, even with the headspace-robbing sunroof, I was able to adjust to a comfortable driving position, thanks in part to the seat height adjustment and tilt steering wheel. The controls for audio and HVAC, in typical GM fashion, were easy to reach; the HVAC was straightforward to operate, but I think the audio system, like on many new cars, has too many buttons to safely operate while driving. It sounded great, but without taking your eyes off the road good luck finding a radio station. The back seat had enough head and leg room for me, and the trunk was roomy, with the back seat folding down to increase cargo-carrying capacity.

I enjoyed my drive in the Verano, due in part to its quiet, comfortable ride, and in part to the fact that from East Aurora it’s easy to head south into the hills of Wyoming County, just a beautiful drive that gives you the opportunity to test hill-climbing, braking, acceleration, and cornering. The Verano’s 2.4-liter DOHC four is rated at 180 horsepower, and even in the hills there were no complaints from the driver (me). It’s mated to an electronically-controlled six-speed automatic (which can also be shifted manually—but why would you?) which was a smooth shifting piece of machinery, even, again, on those steep hills.

Why, one might ask, would someone pay $28,200 for this test car (note that Verano prices start at $23,470), when one could buy a Cruze for as little as $16,800? Well, there’s certainly a different level of equipment, from the drivetrain right on through to better sound insulation. And there are looks, which are subjective; I give this one to the Verano, but I must comment here: Only six color choices…and two of them cost extra?

Still, all in all, the Verano is a nice car if you’re looking for Buick quality in a smaller size. That’s true in any language.

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Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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