In late November, Buick unveiled its new Verano Hatchback at the Guangzhou Motor Show in China. The new hatchback is set to debut next year exclusively for the Chinese market, and 740 dealerships across the country are already taking preorders. And, as usual, it looks like once again a potential hot-seller won’t be making the trip Stateside. Instead of giving Ford some much-needed domestic competition in the hot hatch segment, it looks like we’re stuck with just another basic sedan.
That may be a little harsh, as the Verano is a fine choice if you’re looking for affordable luxury in a compact package. But I can’t help but feel it has more potential, and the Guangzhou Motor Show clearly demonstrates why.
Based on the Opel Astra, the new Verano Hatchback will be available in both base and GS trim. If missing out on a utilitarian hatchback isn’t bad enough, teasing us with a sporty GS variant is even harder to swallow.
The base model will be powered by a naturally aspirated 1.5 liter four-cylinder with 117 horsepower and 108 pound-feet of torque. The powertrain will be paired to a new six-speed dual clutch transmission. As expected, the Verano GS packs a little more punch with a more aggressively tuned version of the same engine rated at 166 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The transmission gets an extra gear too, and the seven-speed DSG smoothly shifts the through the gears to 62 miles per hour in 8.8 seconds.
In addition to the extra power, the GS also gets a sportier appearance and interior featuring aerodynamic exterior accessories, 17-inch gunmetal five-spoke alloys, and bright red brake calipers. Segment-exclusive Matrix full-LED headlamps are also offered on the GS that automatically switch between six lighting modes for optimum visibility. The interior is highlighted by carbon fiber trim, flame red ambient lighting, and Alcantara racing seats.
While even the Verano GS delivers far from expected hot hatch performance, you must remember that the engine displacement in both models is limited by China’s new incentive plan that reduces the tax penalty by 50% for cars with engines smaller than 1.6 liters. In all honesty, power output is impressive given what Buick engineers had to work with.
If the Verano GS eventually transitions to the U.S. market, I’d like to think it would share the same 2.0-liter LTG four-cylinder engine as the Buick Regal. With 259 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, it would certainly be more worthy of wearing the GS badge. Its performance would be right in line with the Ford Focus ST, but in a sophisticated package void of the boy-racer styling. If a younger target audience can get past Buick’s past elderly image, it would likely steal away more than its fair share of buyers, too.
But moving back to reality, the Verano Hatchback and GS will feature the latest in automotive technology and safety equipment. As the demand for better smartphone integration continues to reach new heights, the Verano Hatchback and GS will be the first two Buick models in China equipped with Apple CarPlay. This technology allows users to access their iPhone’s built-in apps through Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system on the Verano’s 8-inch touchscreen display. The GS will also come standard with Buick’s new intelligent safety system that includes adaptive cruise control, automatic park assist, and collision mitigation.
With sporty styling, respectable performance, and innovative technology the Verano Hatchback and GS looks like it will have no trouble selling in the Chinese market. For a brand to attract younger buyers, a turbocharged hot hatch would certainly be welcomed stateside as well. But it remains to be seen if it will ever get the chance.