The 2012 Buick Verano will be available by the end of the year.

Buick has started to transform its lineup from one that was viewed as stodgy and frumpy to one that some auto journalists consider jazzy and fun to drive. One of Buick’s latest steps in that transformation is the 2012 Buick Verano, which will start at $23,470, including destination charges. According to GM, three models will be available, and the top-of-the-line Verano will start at $26,850.

With a price that’s more than $20,000 and a small frame, the Buick Verano will compete against upscale small cars like the Acura TSX. Although GM hasn’t released specific specs yet, the automaker says that the Verano has more passenger and cargo space than the Acura TSX, and even the larger Lexus IS 250. The Verano will be less expensive than both of these models, but we’ll have to wait for test drives to emerge before we can compare them in terms of interior quality and performance.

Inside, the Verano will come standard with faux-leather seats, a 7-inch touch screen display and IntelliLink, which is Buick’s new infotainment system that allows you to hook up your smartphone to the Verano via a standard USB port or Bluetooth. That connection can stream audio through Internet radio stations like Pandora and Sticher SmartRadio. Automatic climate control, remote start, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and 10 airbags are also standard on the base model. The base Verano is very well-equipped, but shoppers seeking more luxury can add heated leathers eats, push-button start and a heated steering wheel.

Underneath its hood, the Verano houses a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine whose 180 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque are good for the class, but the Acura TSX makes 201 horsepower, though test drivers say the TSX isn’t as powerful as that number suggests. The Verano’s engine is paired with an automatic transmission. No engine upgrades or manual transmissions will be available.

Motor Trend has high expectations for the Verano, saying “Even though it’s a smaller and cheaper Buick, the Verano won’t skimp on style or comfort. The taut exterior looks like a scaled-down Buick Regal, while the interior has attractive, soft-touch trims and extensive sound-deadening materials designed to make the Verano’s cabin as quiet as possible.”

You can purchase the Verano before the end of 2011.

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