Title:2018 Buick Verano Hatchback Testing In The U.S
Published:19 May 2018
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When you think of Buick, you might think of the "Early Bird Special" crowd. You might think of old-school American sedans with acres of leather seating, and maybe even a landau roof, holding up traffic and making you late for work. Maybe you remember the gentleman's muscle car brand it once was. Perhaps you think of Buick in its modern form, which is slowly becoming a crossover brand and actually doing a fantastic job appealing to a younger crowd. Whatever you think of Buick, one thing you probably don't think of is a sporty compact car.

As you may know, Buick is hot in China. The Chinese market is the whole reason Buick still exists, and didn't go the way of Pontiac and Saturn in the 2000s. And while we don't often envy Chinese cars here in the United States, China gets a sweet, high-performance variant of the Verano compact which is now in its second generation over there.

For us yanks, the Buick Verano was a forgettable compact sedan that ran from model years 2012 to 2017. It was little more than an upscale Chevy Cruze -- though it was also one of the best-kept secrets in sport compacts from 2013 to 2016, in the form of the Verano Turbo. Buick put the 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder, shared with the Regal GS, in the Verano -- and they mated it to a 6-speed manual transmission. Making 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, this was a semi-serious driver's car cleverly disguised as a humble, entry-level luxury sedan.

We wouldn't blame you for having no opinion at all about the first-gen Verano. When was the last time you thought about the Buick Verano before reading this article? Did you even hear that it was discontinued? But the China-only second generation Verano that has been in production since 2015 demands more attention. It still shares a platform with the Chevy Cruze -- but with the new and improved second-gen Cruze.

The most notable variant of the second-gen Buick Verano is the Verano GS. That's right, Buick busted out the high-performance GS badge on the humble little Verano, but not for its home market in the United States, since the second-gen Verano isn't offered here. This hot hatch is powered by a turbocharged 1.5-liter LFV inline 4-cylinder engine -- also found in the current Chevy Malibu and Buick Envision. While it's not exactly a fire-breathing rocket, it makes a respectable 167 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The Verano GS also gets a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that's exclusive to the model.

On top of the performance upgrade, the Verano GS gets a sporty appearance package as well. Aesthetic upgrades include a body kit, black chrome wheels and red trim inside and out. Other than that, the Verano GT is basically a rebadged Opel Astra OPC.

Okay, so the Buick Verano GS might not be that hot of a performance car, but imagine if Buick tuned this thing to be more competitive with the likes of the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen GTI. I see it as a strong candidate for the 2.0-liter LTG turbo-four found in the Chevy Camaro, various Cadillac models, and Buick's own Regal. In the Cadillac ATS, this engine makes 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. With numbers like that, and with the Verano hatchback's compact size, the LTG would make a perfect engine for a hot hatch.

Why this engine isn't already available in a Chevy Cruze in the form of a Cruze SS is beyond me -- or, why not let Buick have the fun? General Motors is mysteriously absent from the hot hatch game, and a Verano GS would be a fantastic way to bring a new entry to the increasingly competitive segment -- and to simultaneously make young driving enthusiasts excited about Buick for the first time in 30 years. Sure, there's the promising new Regal GS, but it just doesn't have the same charm as a fiery hot hatch.


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