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2012 Buick Verano at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show

  • Competes with: Mazda3, Volvo S40, Volkswagen Jetta
  • Looks like: Buick is intent on becoming a full-line brand
  • Drivetrain: 177-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder with six-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: Late 2011

One of four brands to survive GM’s bankruptcy restructuring, Buick has been growing its lineup lately with the introduction of the Regal sport sedan and now the Verano, a new compact sedan with luxury aspirations that’s scheduled to hit dealerships in late 2011.

The Verano features familiar Buick styling cues including a chrome waterfall grille, blue-tinted projector-beam headlights and porthole appliques on the hood. Seventeen-inch forged-alloy wheels are standard, but buyers can opt for a choice of two 18-inch wheel designs.

Inside, upscale appointments include soft-touch trim, ambient lighting and a woven headliner that’s designed to make the cabin quieter. Additional sound-deadening measures include acoustical laminated glass and triple-sealed doors. The list of available premium features include push-button start, automatic air conditioning, leather upholstery and remote start, which will turn on the heated steering wheel and seat heaters when the outside temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The Verano’s trunk is substantial for its class: 15.2 cubic feet when equipped with a tire inflator kit or 14.3 with a spare tire and a jack.

The Verano is available with a next-generation navigation radio that enables enhanced connectivity with mobile devices. The radio includes traditional auxiliary and USB inputs but also lets you stream music from a mobile device using Bluetooth. The system can read aloud text messages and works with mobile music apps such as Pandora. GM’s available OnStar app expands the reach of the emergency communication service by letting you check the Verano’s fuel level and tire pressure, among other things.

Power comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes an estimated 177 horsepower. The engine has direct injection, and it teams with a six-speed automatic transmission. The combination is expected to yield an estimated 22/31 mpg city/highway, according to Buick. The engine takes regular gas but can also run on E85 ethanol, albeit with decreased fuel economy. Eventually, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder will be offered.

Standard safety features include front and rear side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags and knee airbags. All-disc antilock brakes and an electronic stability system are also standard.

Buick is working hard to ditch its stodgy image in the U.S. with new products like the Regal. There’s still brand restoration to be done, but if the Verano drives as well as its sibling, the Chevrolet Cruze, it should further that effort.

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