2014 Buick Verano

The Verano is a compact near-luxury sedan designed to help continue Buick's transformation into a modern and desirable brand. Though it shares a platform with the less-expensive Chevrolet Cruze, the Verano justifies its higher pricetag with more powerful engines, additional premium features and a quiet, upscale interior.

Recent Changes
For the latest model year, the Verano sees minor equipment changes and the addition of optional Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning safety systems.

Last year brought a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 250 horsepower and an available six-speed manual transmission.

Overview
Following Buick's current design language, the Verano features a waterfall grille flanked by blue translucent projector beam headlamps not unlike the units used on the larger Regal. Retro-flavored porthole vents mounted on the hood complete the Verano's front end.

A steeply-raked windshield and fast-sloping rear pillars are intended to give the Verano a decidedly sporty look, culminating in a rear end that is fairly unique within the Buick lineup. However, some might not agree with Buick's decision to use chrome accents on the rear taillights.

The Verano's cabin continues the theme of luxury and elegance, featuring a flowing dash and center stack along with plenty of pleasant materials. All Veranos come standard with Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system, which provides voice command smartphone access in addition to streaming audio through Pandora and Stitcher SmartRadio. A number of other premium features are optional, including a heated steering wheel, heated front seats and touch screen navigation.

Despite its entry-level designation, Buick engineers went gone to great lengths to ensure the Verano's cabin is as quiet as possible to give the little car a luxurious feel. The Verano is fitted with details like hydraulic ride bushings, a five-layer headliner, triple sealed doors and 4.85-mm laminated glass to keep as much noise out of the cabin as possible.

The standard motor for the Verano is the same 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine used in Buick's midsize Regal sedan, generating 180 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. This engine is more powerful than anything found in the Verano's platform-mate, the Cruze, and it comes exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission. However, some buyers might be let down by the Verano's fuel economy ratings of 21 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.

An optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder ups power to 250 ponies and and 260 lb-ft of torque, with 90 percent of peak twist (234 lb-ft) available from just 1700 rpm. A six-speed automatic comes standard with the turbo, while an enthusiast-friendly six-speed stick can also be spec'd. Fuel efficiency is rated at 21/30 mpg with the auto and 20/31 mpg with the manual.

The turbo four-equipped Verano also features a moderately stiffer suspension and recalibrated steering system for sportier handling than the standard model.

Standard and Optional Features
The Verano comes standard with the 2.4-liter motor in addition to a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system with a seven-inch LED touchscreen display and AUX and USB inputs, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity with audio streaming, cloth seats with leatherette bolsters, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and 18-inch alloy wheels. Expected niceties such as dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control and power windows and locks are also included.

The optional Convenience Group adds heated mirrors, heated front seats a power-adjustable driver's seat with manual recline, an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror, a universal garage remote, Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert. Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning (explained below) are now part of the Convenience Group for the latest model year.

The Leather Group brings leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a nine-speaker Bose stereo system and a passive entry key with push-button start.

The range-topping Premium Group adds the turbocharged four-cylinder (and its attendant chassis and steering tweaks) in addition to aluminum pedals, dual exhaust outlets and a decklid spoiler.

Stand-alone options include a sunroof and navigation system.

Occupant Safety
All Verano models come equipped with an impressive 10 airbags, including dual front, front knee, front side, rear side and full-length side curtain airbags. Also included are traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

The newly available Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning notify drivers if there's an impending collision or if the Verano is wandering into an adjacent lane, respectively.

Key Competitors
As a semi-premium compact sedan, the Verano's most direct competitor is the underwhelming Acura ILX. Otherwise, it doesn't really have any true rivals. At one end of the price spectrum sit fully-loaded variants of mainstream small sedans like the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra, while at the other are more expensive compact models from established luxury brands like the Audi A3.