Buick’s push to find a younger customer base may have started with the Enclave crossover and continued with the 2011 Regal, but the quest continues with the launch of the 2012 Verano — the brand’s smallest model since the demise of the Skylark in 1997.
“Verano expands our lineup, continues our momentum, and gives us a great opportunity to attract a new generation of customers that delivers on their expectations for design, performance, and technology,” said John Schwegman, vice president of Buick marketing.
It also helps unify Buick’s global product portfolio. As is the case with the Regal and LaCrosse, the Verano — built off GM’s compact Delta II architecture — has been sold in China for the past several months. For the most part, the North American and Chinese models are indistinguishable — a good thing, as the small sedan is blessed with a taut, sculpted form from that is balanced and remarkably handsome.
Beneath the skin, however, the North American Verano differs a little from its Chinese siblings. Stateside, buyers will find GM’s 2.4-liter I-4 as standard equipment, which drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. GM rates the 2.4 at 177 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, which reportedly propels it from 0-60 mph in eight seconds flat, and allows the car to achieve an estimated EPA highway rating of 31 mpg. Those seeking more power, however, need to wait a little longer — GM’s turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 will be available shortly after launch, and may offer buyers up to 250 horsepower.
The extra power is interesting, but Buick expects to lure more customers by packing luxurious amenities within a compact, efficient package. Unlike previous compact Buick offerings, the Verano appears to have a gorgeous cabin, rivaling those of its larger siblings. Soft-touch materials are used throughout the cabin, while rich wood and aluminum accents adorn the center console and door panels. Cloth seating will be standard on lower-trim models, but leather — the same leather used in the LaCrosse, to be precise — will also be available. Engineers have also worked hard to insulate the cabin from road noise, going so far as to triple seal each door, develop special hydraulic ride bushings, and sandwich steel between damping mats to help isolate dashboard noise.
Buyers may be more impressed with the extensive list of available features. Available features include a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, a dual-zone automatic climate control system, Bluetooth phone connectivity, push-button start, and a Bose audio system. If that weren’t enough, a new radio design incorporates OnStar’s next-generation technology, which pairs with a driver’s smartphone to read text messages aloud, and interface with apps like Pandora and Stitcher.
Specific content packages and pricing information hasn’t been released quite yet, but the Verano is expected to start at $20,900 and $21,500, when it arrives at dealers in the fourth quarter of 2011.