The need for better fuel economy is pressuring every carmaker, including luxury brands. Thus, it's not too surprising that Buick is introducing its smallest model since the late, unlamented Skylark departed years ago. The Verano, which is available only as a four-door sedan, slots in below the Regal in Buick's lineup. Much has been made of the fact that the Verano is a sibling to the Chevy Cruze, but in fairness, GM has done a lot more to differentiate these siblings than it has with past models. Exterior styling changes go much further than the nose and taillights, extending to the sheetmetal and the glass area. Inside, the Verano gets exclusive dashboard and door panel designs, higher-grade materials, and wood trim. Leather is available, as are a heated steering wheel, a touch-screen navigation system, and keyless ignition. Although the Buick is 2.9 inches longer than the Cruze overall, it rides on the same 105.7-inch wheelbase, and the two cars have similar interior room and trunk space. Buick talks much about the Verano's extensive sound deadening, but the biggest differentiation is under the hood. The Verano's 2.4-liter engine is significantly larger than the Cruze's 1.4-liter and 1.8-liter units, and the Buick's 180 hp is substantially more than the 138 hp cranked out by both Chevy engines. The flip side is that the Buick's 22/31 mpg ratings (preliminary estimates) are significantly lower than the Cruze's. Also unlike the Cruze, the Verano offers an automatic transmission only. A manual may be added when the turbocharged four-cylinder arrives later in 2012.
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