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2013 Buick Verano Pros and Cons: Why (Not) This Car?

Buick Verano front quarter view

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With Pontiac gone, Buick has extra shoes to fill. It's hard to say whether compact cars or driver-oriented ones present more of a stretch for a brand traditionally associated with neither. As if this weren't enough, Buick also must find a position meaningfully above Chevrolet without stepping on Cadillac's toes. All of these challenges come together in the Verano compact sedan when equipped with its optional turbocharged engine.

The Verano Turbo has no direct competitors. The Dodge Dart and Ford Focus have some semi-premium aspects, but dont't attempt (or achieve) a near-luxury position. The new Civic-Based Acura ILX serves as a closer match.

Verano Reviews: Buick Verano front quarter view

Not especially sleek despite a steeply raked windshield. more Verano photos

Verano Reviews: Buick Verano interior

Warmly hued two-tone interior. Metal pedals attend turbo engine.

Tested: 2013 Buick Verano

4dr Sedan turbocharged 250hp 2.0L I4 6-speed shiftable automatic FWD

Compared: 2013 Acura ILX

4dr Sedan 201-horsepower 2.4L I4 6-speed manual FWD

Why the 2013 Buick Verano?

  Compared to the ILX
Quietness: Much better Better Worse

While the Verano extends the Buick brand in multiple directions, it doesn't neglect the make's traditional strengths (with one exception that we'll get to). Buick has made quietness a top priority for at least a decade, and the Verano could well be the quietest compact car you can buy. Combine this near-silence with a solid body structure and a well-damped suspension that maintains its poise across all but the worst pavement, and the Verano feels like it's barely moving at around-town speeds.

Acura clearly had different priorities, and the ILX, though hardly loud inside, isn't nearly as quiet as the Verano. Nor does it feel as solid or as composed over badly maintained roads.

Front seat support & comfort
Front seat support & comfort: About the same Better Worse

The Buick Verano's impression of substance and solidity extends to its seats. The front buckets are larger and more thickly padded than those in the typical compact sedan, yet have a firm, properly supportive underlying structure. They look and feel "premium." The Acura ILX's front seats, with more prominent side bolsters, provide better lateral support in hard turns, but don't feel as solid or as luxurious.

Verano Reviews: Buick Verano rear quarter view

Roofline resembles that of the new Dodge Dart.

Verano Reviews: Buick Verano instrument panel

Overly thick steering wheel rim, too many buttons.

Powertrain performance
Powertrain performance: Better Better Worse

GM hasn't worked any magic to grant the Verano the silence and solidity of a large, upscale car. With a curb weight of 3,300, the compact Buick weighs as much as the average midsize car, and much more than the typical compact. Pitted against this mass, the standard 180-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine accelerates the car adequately, but only by revving to and above its lofty 4,900 rpm torque peak. To the extent luxury presupposes effortless acceleration, the standard-issue Verano isn't luxurious.

The solution: an optional turbocharged 2.0-liter engine good for 250 horsepower--hot hatch levels--and at 5,300 rpm rather than the standard engine's 6,700. The torque peak falls and plumps even more dramatically, with 260 pound-feet (up from 171) on tap as soon as 2,000 rpm (and readily evident by 3,000). Give the engine free rein, and the nose gets light as it struggles to maintain a straight line, typical of powerful front-wheel-drive cars. Even with another 200+ pounds to contend with (for a total over 3,500), the stronger engine moves the Verano quickly. Just don't expect it to feel as quick as it is, owing to the highly effective insulation.

But this turbo isn't really about full throttle acceleration. It's about more effortless acceleration in regular driving, and in this it succeeds. A manual transmission is a no-cost option, but probably doesn't suit the character of the car.

The Acura ILX follows from a much different approach. It's five inches shorter, an inch narrower, three inches lower, and, most importantly, over a quarter-ton lighter. Its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, shared with the Acura TSX and Honda Civic Si, produces 201 horsepower by winding even higher than the Verano's similarly-sized standard powerplant, with the power peak at 7,000 rpm. An engine that requires revving as much as this one is best paired with a manual transmission, and in the ILX the 2.4 is only available with a slick-shifting six-speed. Prefer an automatic? Then the ILX is only available with a weak 150-horsepower 2.0-liter or an even weaker 111-horsepower hybrid. Acura has been hinting that the 2.4 will be offered with an automatic transmission in the future. But, while a good, even thrilling engine for driving enthusiasts willing to downshift a gear or three, the 2.4 can't remotely deliver the sort of effortless motivation at which the Buick's turbocharged engine excels.

Materials & workmanship
Materials & workmanship: Better Better Worse

Even Chevrolets are much nicer inside than they used to be. The Verano's interior, with padded surfaces and rich leather, is about as nicely furnished as they come without stepping up to some truly pricey machinery. This said, the glossy plastiwood trim could be more convincing. The ILX's interior avoids the extreme cheapness of the 2012 Civic on which it is based (a rushed upgrade for the 2013 Civic dramatically reduced the difference). But there's more evident hard plastic inside the Acura than inside the Buick.

Price or payments
Price or payments: About the same Better Worse

The turbo engine is only offered as part of a $6,025 Premium Group that includes nearly all of the features available on the Verano. With this package the Buick's price starts at $29,990, $1,810 more than a similarly equipped car without the turbo. Add $900 for a sunroof and $795 for navigation. Many reviewers have found this price too dear, perhaps because the Verano looks like just another cleanly styled compact sedan.

But what else can you buy with 250 horsepower and an upscale interior for this kind of money? The 201-horsepower ILX 2.4, with a sunroof standard and nav unavailable, lists for $795 less than a Verano with its optional sunroof. Adjust for the Verano's additional features, and the Buick ends up nearly $1,900 below the Acura. But $1,100 of this difference follows from the Buick's automatic. Switch to the available six-speed manual and the sticker price doesn't change, so the car's feature-adjusted price advantage drops to about $800. The same will be the case if an automatic later becomes a no-cost option on the ILX 2.4.

And that new compact, rear- or all-wheel-drive Cadillac ATS? It's priced just below the BMW 3-Series it targets, and at least $10,000 above the Verano even after adjusting for its additional features.

Looking to trade in your vehicle? Get an estimate of how much it's worth.

Why Not the 2013 Buick Verano?

  Compared to the ILX
Rear seat room & comfort
Rear seat room & comfort: About the same Better Worse

While the Buick Verano's exterior is large for a compact sedan, its rear seat is among the tightest. The ILX is a bit tighter still. In it I can just fit behind my 5-9 self. But anyone who requires an adult-friendly rear seat will likely reject both cars (along with the new Cadillac ATS).

The Verano's 14.5 cubic foot trunk--two cubes over the ILX's--is more competitive, and more in line with Buick's traditional strengths.

Fuel economy
Fuel economy: About the same Better Worse

A lot of weight and enough power to move it don't make for class-leading fuel economy. So it should come as no surprise that the Verano's EPA ratings, 21 mpg city and 30 highway, trail those of some V6-powered midsize sedans. The ILX 2.4 does just a single mpg better, though. The benchmark for quick compact sedans is currently set by the BMW 3-Series, with ratings of 23/33.

In my suburban driving the trip computer typically reported low 20s. A highway stretch netted only 27. With a light foot I could also manage 27 in the suburbs. But if you're not going to use the turbo, why pay for it?

Verano Reviews: Buick Verano front view

The most Buick aspect of the exterior: the grille.

Verano Reviews: Buick Verano rear seat

Comfortable rear seat. Pity it's so close to the front seat.

Controls and instruments
Controls and instruments: Worse Better Worse

As in other recent Buick's, the Verano's center stack includes far too many buttons that cannot be distinguished at a glance. It's far from clear what many of these buttons even do. Luckily major functions are still controlled by knobs. Honda has strayed far from its earlier ergonomic masterpieces, but the ILX's button arrays aren't as vast or as confusing as the Buick's.

Handling: Worse Better Worse

The Verano's well-tuned suspension demonstrates considerable competence and very good control when pressed into service along a curvy road. So why is handling among the why nots? Because despite this competence and control the Verano is neither involving nor much fun. In addition to the thorough insulation from the outside world, the steering feels vague and the car feels heavy through an overly thick rim. If you want involvement, GM suggests finding the extra ten grand for the new Cadillac.

Though the ILX's suspension isn't as composed as the Verano's, and its steering isn't much more communicative, it feels lighter and more agile. Between the Buick and the Acura, the latter is more fun.

Exterior styling
Exterior styling: Worse Better Worse

The Buick Verano isn't an unattractive car. Few people will reject it because they hate how it looks. But an overly generic exterior lacks distinction and presence. So love at first sight is equally unlikely. Blame the Chinese. New Buicks are styled with Chinese tastes in mind, and the Chinese apparently prefer clean designs that don't attract attention.

The ILX won't win any design awards, either, but its crisper lines are less likely to be confused with something else.

Other features of the 2013 Buick Verano

  Compared to the ILX
Feature availability
Feature availability: Better Better Worse

If you're into safety features, the Verano easily bests the ILX with four more airbags, rear obstacle detection, and a blind spot warning system (if no xenon headlamps or guidelines on the rearview monitor). But if you feel that the driver's seat in a premium car should include power recline, then the Buick falls short. I've long wondered why many cars include power adjustments for the seat bottom, but no power for the adjustment I use most. Volkwagen understands. In many of its models the only power adjustment is for the seatback recliner. Another feature typically found in upscale cars but not available in the Verano: an integrated garage door opener.

The ILX has an eight-way power driver seat. But you can't pair an automatic transmission with more than 150 horsepower, at least not yet. And you can't get nav (packaged with a universal garage door opener) with the manual transmission.


With the Verano, Buick offers a credible compact, and so fills some of the space vacated by Pontiac. But even when fitted with an optional turbocharged engine it's not as much a driver's car as the Acura ILX, much less any of the many, far pricier BMW 3-Series competitors. Instead, the new small(ish) Buick delivers the opposite of involvement: insulation from the world outside. It's silent, solid, composed, and comfortable. Opt for the turbo, and effortless acceleration joins the mix. If this is the mix you've been seeking, and rear seat room, fuel economy, and distinctive styling aren't high priorities, then perhaps you really would rather have a Buick.

Verano Reviews: Buick Verano turbo engine

Turbo bumps horsepower from 180 to 250.

Verano Reviews: Buick Verano trunk

Roomier than the back seat.

See more 2013 Buick Verano photos

Buick provided an insured car for a week with a tank of gas. I earlier test drove an ILX at Suburban Acura in Farmington Hills, MI.

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2013 Buick Verano pros and cons, according to Michael Karesh: the best reasons for buying (or not buying) the 2013 Buick Verano. Join TrueDelta to post your own impressions.
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