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Behind that Buick badge is a stealth speedster

2013 Buick Verano Turbo

General Motors

Overall Rating
This is a thoroughly pleasant small car, and the turbo engine lends more than a bit of oomph to its character. You’ll like this vehicle if: you don’t like having road sand kicked in your face.
Looks Rating
The styling reflects its Buick branding conservatism, but it’s a good-looking car.
Interior Rating
Enough room inside (and a 396-litre trunk), visually pleasing, functional and quiet.
Ride Rating
Firm enough for control, pliant enough for comfort, even on the low-profile tires.
Safety Rating
Quick, reasonably agile, and top ratings from the safety agencies.
Green Rating
A bit paler shade of green than the standard-engined car.

Cruising an Ontario secondary highway in Buick's new turbo-equipped Verano luxury compact isn't noticeably different than in the non-boosted version – it's quiet, the ride composed, the surroundings pleasant, the seats comfortable, and the audio system fine – until you step on the gas pedal.

Plant it on the floor mat, and what follows is a momentary pause, while the turbo gathers itself, and the electronic management brain trust holds an executive meeting to decide what gear it deems appropriate. And then this baby Buick casts aside its well-mannered adult behaviour and throws a 250-hp turbo-tantrum, blasting you through the legal speed barrier before you can say – wow, this thing is quick.

In fact, if you voiced that phrase in measured cadence after having initiated the above sequence at 80 km/h, you'd be doing 120 km/h when you finished 4.8 seconds later.

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And for the record, equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission, it gets to 100 km/h from a standing start in 7 seconds (according to Automobile Journalists Association of Canada testing). That's just a tick slower than manual gearbox versions of Ford's feisty Focus ST and Hyundai's gonzo Genesis Coupe, both of which also pack turbocharged 2.0-litre motors. Buick claims 0-96 km/h in 6.2 seconds.

Unlike those two sporting machines, however – whose high-performance capability is made obvious the moment you slide into the driver's seat, fire their engines and snick them into gear – the Verona keeps this side of its personality well hidden under more characteristically Buick civility.

In fact, Buick seems a little nonplussed at being able to offer this level of rampant acceleration in a car designed to be a small new-age luxury sedan, not really a sports sedan.

There seems to be confusion as to just what its role actually should be, as it can be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission, which would normally clearly state sporting intent, as do dual exhausts, sport pedals and a spoiler. But, its boosted engine aside, this mini-hot-rod-Buick's mechanical specs are virtually identical to the standard model.

This absence of serious handling and braking upgrades to go with its additional power shouldn't be a problem though, given the probable driving style of most who will acquire this compact Buick. These will be buyers who, one supposes, will be of a certain level of mental maturity, and looking for a car with the attributes traditionally associated with the brand, just in a smaller and more fuel efficient package.

In other words, sudden fits of boy-racer madness – which might see examples of the two other cars just mentioned turn up to shred tires at a weekend track-day – are highly unlikely to be experienced by Verano owners.

However, since the Edwardian Era of automotive development, performance has always been part and parcel of a luxury car's overall makeup. Nobody who buys one, even an entry-level model like the Verano, wants to be blown-off at the lights by some plebe in an econo-car. This is more likely to happen these days than ever before, but not to a Verano driver who chooses to pick up the gauntlet.

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The extra power delivered by the Verano's 2.0-litre turbocharged engine – 250 hp/260 lb-ft of torque versus the 180 hp/171 lb-ft delivered by the normally aspirated 2.4-litre – isn't really about silly stuff like that though.

What it does is turn the adequately powered Verano into a car that responds effortlessly to any performance demand, whether it's in around-town traffic, or merging or passing on the highway. And while undeniably quick, its power delivery is smooth and well-controlled thanks in part to its electronic traction and stability aids.

Fuel economy is always a penalty applied to improved performance and the Verano turbo is no exception, although it's not an onerous one. Its fuel economy ratings are 10.1 litres/100 km city and 6.6 highway, compared to 9.9 city/6.2 highway for the 2.4-engined one. During the test week, I recorded an average of 10.2 litres/100 km, and a not-very-good average of 8.6 at highway cruising speed.

The other thing you'll have to dip your hand in your pocket a bit deeper for is the purchase price.

The standard Verona lists at $22,895, but our test car bumped this to $28,695 with an option group comprising leather, heated seats and steering wheel, keyless access with push-button start and Bose audio system. And then to an all-in price of $35,115, with the addition of the turbo-motor for $2,205, an $1,100 sunroof, $795 nav system, $525 optional wheels and a $195 carbon black metallic paint job.

The Verano, which is based on Chevrolet's compact Cruze, was introduced in 2011 and offers, as you'd expect, a significantly higher level of overall sophistication from improved ride to interior quietness, and equipment – which in all but the base model, and depending on how much you want to up the price, includes: Bluetooth, voice-activated IntelliLink, auto dual-zone climate control, rear-vision camera, rear cross-traffic alert, blind zone alert, rear park-assist and remote start.

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The 2.4-litre engine is all you really need to motivate this pleasant to look at, drive and live in entry-level luxury compact, but there's no denying having 250 hp under your right foot adds to its appeal.

Tech specs

2013 Buick Verano Turbo

Type: Compact sedan

Base Price: $22,895; as tested, $35,115

Engine: 2.0-litre, DOHC, turbocharged inline-four

Horsepower/torque: 250 hp/260 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.1 city/6.6 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Acura ILX, Audi A3, BMW 1-Series, Volkswagen Golf GTI, Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, MazdaSpeed3

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