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VOL. 38 | NO. 50 | Friday, December 12, 2014

Rolling ‘hotspot’ not all the Verano has to offer

The Associated Press

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Buick’s smallest car, the Verano sedan, is a rich-looking, pleasant-riding and surprisingly quiet compact with upscale features.

A new feature for 2015 - OnStar with 4G LTE that can create a Wi-Fi hotspot at the car so passengers can use their mobile devices for video streaming or posting to social media - is a rarity, particularly for this segment.

Better yet, the Verano is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine, which says the Verano’s reliability has been above average.

The 15.3-foot-long Verano also earned the top, five-out-of-five stars in federal government frontal and side crash testing. The four door comes with 10 standard air bags, including knee air bags for the front-seat occupants.

Also, the Verano’s first two years/24,000 miles of scheduled maintenance, including oil changes, is free. Even buyers of a pricier compact like the 2015 Lexus IS 250 don’t get free scheduled maintenance.

Verano prices haven’t changed much from the 2014 model year. Starting MSRP, including destination charge, for a base, 2015 Verano is $24,305 with front-wheel drive and base, 180-horsepower, naturally aspirated, four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The lowest starting retail price, including destination charge, for a 2015 Verano with the 250-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder is $30,140. Buyers of the turbo can select either a six-speed manual transmission or the six-speed automatic at no extra charge. The manual is not offered with the base Verano engine.

Verano competitors include a range of compact four doors, including premium models such as the 2015 Lexus IS 250, which starts at $37,475 with 205-horsepower V-6, six-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive.

Another competitor is the 2015 Acura ILX compact sedan, which has a starting MSRP, including destination charge of $27,970. The base, front-wheel-drive ILX is powered by a 150-horsepower four cylinder.

The Verano is part of the recent success story of 101-year-old Buick; the brand’s U.S. sales last month rose to its highest point since 2003.

The Verano is the entry sedan at Buick, where it slots below the 2015 Regal, which starts at $30,915. But in the compact car segment, the Verano easy looks visibly different from other compacts because it has Buick’s characteristic waterfall grille.

This grille and the stylish exterior lines of the Verano make it look ritzier than many other compact sedans, such as the Honda Civic.

Fact Sheet

2015 Buick Verano Turbo Premium

BASE PRICE: $23,380 for base model; $25,020 with convenience group; $27,050 with leather group; $29,215 with premium turbo group.

PRICE AS TESTED: $32,470.

TYPE: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, five-passenger, compact sedan.

ENGINE: 2-liter, double overhead cam, turbocharged, Ecotec four cylinder with CVVT.

MILEAGE: 21 mpg (city), 30 mpg (highway).

TOP SPEED: NA.

LENGTH: 183.9 inches.

WHEELBASE: 105.7 inches.

CURB WEIGHT: 3,550 pounds.

BUILT AT: Lake Orion, Mich.

OPTIONS: Power moonroof $900; Carbon Black Metallic exterior paint $495; Buick IntelliLink with navigation $495; front and rear splash guards $250; all-weather floor mats $140; wheel locks $50.

DESTINATION CHARGE: $925.

The Associated Press

The Verano also includes standard features that might not be expected in a base model, such as rearview camera, remote keyless entry, dual-zone, automatic climate control, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with voice recognition, 7-inch display and six speakers, Bluetooth for hands-free phone use and music connectivity to the car’s audio system, eight-way adjustable front seats and power windows, mirrors and door locks.

Some usually upscale amenities and safety equipment are available, too, including a side blind zone alert system and forward collision warning. Both worked nicely in the test Verano premium model.

Visual and auditory warnings told the driver exactly where the problems were without shocking the driver.

The most noticeable characteristic of the Verano is the interior quiet. It’s not necessarily expected in a car this size, and it makes for comfortable driving, particularly on long trips where noise can become fatiguing.

The Verano is based on the Chevrolet Cruze platform. But Buick - known for its “quiet tuning” - makes sure the Verano is engineered for noise control.

The test Verano, which rode on uplevel, 18-inch tires, sent a bit of road noise from rough road surfaces to the interior, and the engine could be heard in hard acceleration. But otherwise, the test Verano was impressively quiet.

The overall ride was supple, conveying sufficient road feel to the driver but managing road bumps well.

The 2-liter, turbocharged, inline four cylinder that was in the test car gives the Verano good pep. The tester merged into city and highway traffic easily and, with automatic tranny, ran smoothly.

During hard acceleration, the engine power was strong enough to bring on a bit of torque steer.

Torque from the turbo engine peaks at 260 foot-pounds at a low 2,000 rpm. Both the Verano’s horsepower and torque are higher than what the Lexus IS 250’s base V-6 generates.

Buick says the turbo four mixes strong power, like that from a V-6, with the fuel thriftiness of a four cylinder. This is true if you consider the Verano Turbo’s 21 miles per gallon in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway thrifty government fuel ratings for a compact. The tester averaged 23 mpg in majority city driving, and some sport utility vehicles can get that mileage.

The test Verano’s travel range was just over 350 miles, and filling the 15.6-gallon tank with the recommended premium unleaded would cost $49 at today’s prices.

The interior of the test Verano with leather-covered seats looked well-crafted, and plastics had an upscale appearance. Front bucket seats looked plush, not thin, and gave good support.

Back seat legroom of 34.7 inches is more than what’s in the IS 250 back seat. But much of it can disappear when the Verano’s front seats are pushed all the way back on their tracks. Front-seat passengers are afforded a much more generous 42 inches of legroom.

Passengers do set themselves down a bit onto the seats, and forward views are blocked by larger vehicles.

Trunk space in the Verano is at least 14 cubic feet, which is competitive for a compact car.

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