2013 Buick Verano Turbo

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Buick Verano sedan is a very good small Buick, based on the Chevrolet Cruze/Chevrolet Volt platform taking the well-executed Cruze to a new level of refinement. The Verano fits right into the new Buick mold of smaller, firmer cars with European design and flare, and with more interior refinement than Buicks of the preceding two or three decades.

And it is doing very nicely, thank you, with nearly 30,000 sales for the Buick brand through the first nine months of 2012.

It gives buyers who rate economical driving high in their consideration equation, but who also desire a measure of luxury including an upscale interior and creature comforts not found on many high-mileage small cars. The Verano is a viable entry-level luxury alternative to the Acura ILX, Audi A3, Infiniti G25 sedan and perhaps even the Lexus IS 250.

The Verano is outfitted with GM's efficient and relatively energetic direct-injection 2.4-liter 4-cylinder Ecotec engine making 180 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It can move from 0-to-60 in about 9 seconds, which isn't going to set anyone's socks on fire, but apparently suits most Buick customers quite nicely.

But Buick officials say the Verano has attracted younger buyers, and to further entice those would-be customers the 2013 edition gets a 250-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged Ecotec 4 edition that turns the small car into a rather delightful driving machine. The turbocharging leaves all the quiet and comfort qualities intact while adding the kind of performance that will get noticed.

Officials say it can finish off a 0-to-60 run in 6.2 seconds with either the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic while getting almost the same mileage numbers as the standard engine — 21/30 automatic, 20/31 for the manual.

About 100 miles behind the wheel on some seriously twisting rural Kentucky county roads and a few stretches of interstate highway left us marveling at the small sedans composure. The engine runs smoothly and is well muted, no loud exhaust notes to disrupt the luxury Buick atmosphere.

The ride is composed yet the slightly stiffened suspension allows for some spirited driving. We won't place the Verano turbo in true sports sedan territory, but it comes close enough to please all those who didn't also consider a BMW in their purchase decision.

The rather steep base purchase price is $29,990, but for that outlay the owner gets 18-inch wheels, dural exhaust outlets, a rear spoiler, dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera, a 7-inch touchscreen multimedia display, rear-seat side airbags and front knee airbags, and Buick's new IntelliLink infotainment system, which offers voice control for smartphones and portable music devices, real-time traffic and weather, and streaming music services.

Leather upholstery and navigation are optional.

The near-30-grand pricetag runs about $2,300 over the price of a similarly equipped turbo-free model. Even so, we consider the Verano turbo worth the price of admission.

It is currently in Buick showrooms.

— Jim Meachen