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Motoring: The smooth, virtually silent Buick Verano

Credit: General Motors

The Buick Verano is a nice entry-level car that doesn’t disappoint for the dollars spent.

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | September 16th, 2013

Remember the last generation Buick Skylark? If you do, General Motors would like for you to forget all about that as you approach the Buick Verano.

This entry-level Buick model is based on the very popular Chevrolet Cruze, but is it just a Cruze wearing some new clothes or is there some new engineering under the skin?

According to Buick, the only things shared between the Verano and the Cruze is the floorpan and the suspension set-up, that's it. The wheelbase between the Verona and the Cruze is exactly the same, and so is the MacPherson strut front suspension, even if the damper rates and springs themselves are different to provide a more cushy, comfortable ride that Buick customers typically like.

Where the two cars really set themselves apart is what Buick calls QuietTuning. Its engineers were given the challenge to make the quietest Buick of all time (yes, of all time). To achieve that goal, Buick engineers started looking at more efficient sound-suppressing materials, which led them to develop a fibre-polymer based material for the wheel well lining. This material feels like hard carpet, and it is fully water resistant. The main advantage is that it absorbs sound created by suspension components and also tire roar.

To further improve noise levels in the cabin, Buick engineers came up with a new material for the job. However, the material they used is not new at all; it is just being used in a new application.What they are using is recycled denim (the stuff jeans are made off), which is washed, cut and placed in areas like under the rear seats to suppress road noise. It's a clever solution to a common problem.

The Verano is a smart-looking car with a clean exterior design. It carries new Buick styling themes like the waterfall grille and blue bezels around the projector beam headlamps. It is not the kind of car that will draw a crowd based on its looks, but that might be the point of having such a car. It's a clean design with a few design touches thrown in to make it look more upclass.

What I don't like are some of the things I found when I opened the door and jumped inside. For starters, even in the top-of-the-line model, the power driver's seat is not fully power adjustable. The seat cushion slides forward and back and tilts electrically, but the backrest does not. In fact, in order to adjust the back rest angle, you have to fiddle around with a very ill-placed lever. This would become an issue if the car is shared by at least two drivers in the household who happen to be of different sizes. Come on, Buick, give your customers a fully power adjustable seat with memory function, please!

Also, while at it, why not also give the car a reversing camera? It's not available, not even as an option. Considering Buick customers are normally a bit older and looking out the back of this car is a bit challenging due to a small rear window and very thick C-pillars, a reversing camera is a necessity.

Thankfully, the steering wheel tilts and telescopes, even if the lever for this feature almost never wanted to lock back in place smoothly.

What my top-spec model did have was a smart key — touch the door handle to unlock the car, then get in, press the brake pedal and hit the “Engine Start” button to fire it up. Simple, yes, but locating the start button proved to be a bit challenging. It wasn't where you'd normally expect to find it, and it doesn't stand out, either. It looks like any other button and it's placed on the dashboard above the stereo!

Okay, now finally I can hit the road and see what this car is like to drive. My very first impressions within two minutes of my drive were that it really is very quiet. General Motors seems to have succeeded with their goal to produce the quietest Buick ever. Even with the stereo off, you hardly hear any unpleasant noises on the city streets or out on the highway. Many car companies have been trying to make their new cars more comfortable by reducing interior noise levels, but I have not come across anything that does it quite as well as the Verano. Buick needs to pat themselves on the back for achieving this feat.

They also deserve some credit for its powertrain. Currently the only engine available with the Verano is a 2.4-litre, ECOTEC, double overhead cam, four-cylinder engine that produces 180hp and 171lb/ft of torque. It is mated to a smooth shifting six-speed automatic gearbox, which transfers power to only the front wheels. Unlike Buicks of the past, it does not have a big engine, yet it is still smooth and revs up to speed quite nicely. Trust me, most people would not complain about a lack of grunt. A more powerful 2.0-litre turbo-charged motor is also offered.

The base powertrain offers decent pace with impressive fuel economy. The Verano is rated at 9.9 litres/100km in the city and 6.2 litres/100km on the highway.

The Verano is perfect for a long, highway cruise, but what about city driving? The ride on uneven and broken city streets is very good, however parking it can be a challenge because it does have a rather large turning radius (36 feet). What I thought would be a single manoeuver between cars took extra corrections.

Keeping up on the topic of its handling, the Verano is easily one of the best handling Buicks I have come across. It may not inspire you to take the long, twisty route home, but if you encounter any bends, the car feels competent and the communication through the steering has a positive feel to it. Overall, from a driving point of view, it is not bad at all.

It should be safe, too, as you get front, side and knee airbags to protect you.

As for space, even though Buick lists this as a five-passenger vehicle, carrying more than four would be unwise. As for luggage space, you get 14 cubic feet, which is decent — I just wish Buick had not fitted old-style C-hinges to open and close the trunk.

All in all, I would say it is quite a decent family car, and it comes in at a price you won't find any other luxury car. Base price for the Verano is $22,895.
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