More misleading information. We're looking at used cars under $12k. The OP wants "Safety, reliability, affordability, interior and exterior styling." Not that I would trust a website that rates the Honda Accord as having worse reliability than a MINI Cooper, but U.S. News does not rate the Cruze #1. For used small cars $10k-$12k, #1 is the 2010 Prius, #2 2011 Honda Civic, #3 2011 Prius, #4 Scion xD and Honda Fit, #6 Honda Fit and MINI Cooper Clubman, #8 Honda Civic. Then #9 is Toyota Corolla, Toyota Yaris, 2011 Chevy Cruze, Civic Hybrid, Kia Soul, and Scoin xB.
The Verano isn't a bad car it's just nothing special. As NY Daily News writes, "2013 Buick Verano serves its purpose, but is still just a higher-end Chevrolet Cruze." Poor sales are leading GM to kill off the Verano with it's last year being the 2017. The interior is a leathered-up Cruze rental car, the exterior styling is really boring and plain, just like the first generation Cruze.
The Verano and 2016-2017 Cruze were not tested for the small overlap test. The 2011-2015 Cruze got marginal ratings in the small overlap crash test, so how could you recommend them if you couldn't recommend the Acceptable-rated 2011-2014 Elantra?
In repsonse to the Mazda parking brake rust recall, it's as simple as telling your dealer, "While I'm getting an oil change can you check the parking brake and replace it if it's rusted?" It's a simple quick fix and it's free. Even if you're in the saltbelt states.
The Mazda 3 has character, style, reliability, safety, fun, and it's affordable.