ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I may not exactly know what Buick the brand is, or what it has in store for the future (besides lots and lots of Encores, apparently), but I can tell you one thing about its cars: They’re quiet. Or at least the Verano is. I wasn’t expecting that sort of serenity in a $32,770 compact luxury sedan.

I also wasn’t expecting to enjoy the motor so much. All luxury/non-luxury distinction and debates aside, the big reason you’d buy this instead of a Chevrolet Cruze is the aluminum-block 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four. It gets over 100 hp more than the highest-output Cruze motor, and offers torque comparable to the Cruze diesel’s.

What’s more, that uplevel motor makes the Verano more powerful than the Audi A3, and it doesn’t suffer from any annoying low-speed dual-clutchiness like the German offering. Although technically, I suppose it is a German offering being based on an Opel.

Stylistically, there’s not much to latch on to but also not much to hate. It’s clean and, from some angles, maybe a little sporty looking. Yeah, it shares bones (and proportions) with the Cruze. So what?

You see a lot of Veranos in the Detroit area, often with younger professional-types behind the wheels. But we’re talking about Detroit here. Nationwide, Buick seems to move just north of 3,000 per month; that’s not terrible for the luxury segment.

And thinking about it, I can see why: There aren’t any real dogs in this segment, but there aren’t any knockouts that spring to mind, either. The A3 isn’t the taut, haute GTI we’d hoped it would be; the CLA 45 is somewhat harsh with a sub-Benz interior. The ILX isn’t bad, but…I can’t really think of anything to say about it, which isn’t a good sign.

Which brings us to the Verano, which is a capable, well-balanced transporter when it’s equipped with the 2.0-liter. Also, if you want navigation, it’s a $495 option -- not the $1,900 that a certain VW-owned brand expects you to fork over. 

ROAD TEST EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Hmmm, the Verano is a hard pass for me, Graham, though the motor is the one saving grace; that and the seats, which are also nice.

Yeah 250 hp is more than enough for this car, which I would say is a spiritual successor to the Saturn brand … sorry Buick. I loved Saturn, by the way. This Verano is really quick off the line, and pulls strong nearly to redline. There’s isn’t much turbo lag to speak of. I drove it earlier this week, slowly, and really disliked it. But on one recent night and the following morning, I went a little faster, and it was much more fun. The throttle’s a little jumpy though, too sensitive, but the brake force and effectiveness are just right. I actually thought the engine was a little buzzy, especially at high rpms.

I like the steering wheel, both the materials and size feel right in my hand. Steering sensation was a little numb, but not slow. Body roll is mostly well controlled, except for on hard takeoffs, when the Verano seems to jump out of the gate. You will feel the bigger potholes that you don’t dodge, but it cruised over sewer covers without a problem. And don’t look for lightning-quick changes of direction, either.

The interior is about what we expect from a near-luxury make. The seats are comfortable and supremely adjustable with movements for the front and back of the bottom piece. A found a good driving position without much work. I don’t like the loads of plastic buttons the center console, and I think that most of them are redundant on the touchscreen. Maybe customers asked for that? I think it looks a little cheap though. Also, the gearshift feels a little chintzy. It makes a weird plasticky sound when shifted. Doesn’t feel like I think a Buick should. But I suppose none of it does now, ‘cept for maybe the LeSabre or Lucerne. Is Buick still making those? (Ed note: It’s not, just theLaCrosse.)

Not a fan of the styling. It looks the front end was designed for a different car than the back end. It also looks like the whole body goes up in the rear. Looking at a white one now, it doesn’t look as bad as our black one, but still not great.

I’d probably pick the also-boring ILX over this; it’s about $2,000 less. On the other hand, the base Verano has 180 hp, and goes for about $24,000, so that’s not a bad deal, either. I’d probably take a similarly equipped Jetta over both.

Turbo-specific dual exhaust, sport pedals, rear spoiler and standard leather trim – including heated front seats and steering wheel are highlights of the Verano.PHOTO BY BUICK

Options: Moonroof ($900); 18-inch alloy wheels with manoogian silver finish ($600); carbon black metallic ($495); audio system with navigation, single CD/DVD/MP3 player ($495); floor mats, all weather front and rear ($140)

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