I'm told the 2012 Buick Verano is based on the Chevrolet Cruze. I find that very hard to believe.
Now, if you told me the Verano was based on Chevrolet's more upscale Malibu, I would find that very believable. But the Cruze? No way.
The Verano is so much more luxurious. And quieter. It even feels roomier and looks larger.
And my impressions are based not on driving an optioned-up version of the Verano, but the mid-grade 1SG model equipped with no options. Base price is $23,785. Add in destination charges and the as-tested price is $24,670.
That means that seats are covered with faux, not real leather. That means there's no optional heated steering wheel. No push starter button. No Bose premium audio system. No Premium 18-inch wheels. No touch-screen navigation. No sunroof. No rear-parking assist system.
But the standard equipment list does include 10 airbags, StabiliTrak vehicle control with four-wheel disc brakes, Onstar with turn-by-turn navigation information upon request, dual-zone climate controls, front and rear power outlets, a USB audio interface, tilt and telescopic steering column, heated exterior mirrors, chrome exhaust tip, 18-inch machine-faced alloy wheels, auto-on headlamps, fog lamps, XM radio, a driver information system with a 7-inch touch screen and the new Buick IntelliLink infotainment technology.
Powering the Verano is General Motors' 2.4-liter, 180-horsepower Ecotec four-cylinder engine. The engine is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission that sends its output to the front wheels.
The setup is rated at 21 miles per gallon in city driving and at 32 on the highway. We averaged 29.6 overall.
The car rides smoothly and comfortably, though there was a little wind noise somewhere around the driver's door window. But other than that, our only real complaint about the car was the way the gear-selector lever release pinched a finger as we released our grip after sliding it into the Park position; this seemed to happen almost every time we stopped the car and put it in Park.
While not overpowering, the powertrain is plenty perky. It's no slouch off the line and it more than handles traffic at highway speeds.
Buick identifies the key Verano's competitors as the Lexus IS 250 and Audi A3, both considerably more expensive vehicles.