While the styling of Buick’s new compact sedan has been known for some time now (a version of the car was unveiled last year in China as the Excelle GT), we finally get a look at the North American model, which will be making its official debut next week at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.

Set to go on sale in the fourth quarter of the year as the 2012 Buick Verano, the new compact sedan is Buick’s smallest model in decades and its first in the emerging compact luxury segment. Despite its entry-level positioning in the Buick lineup, however, the Verano will come very well equipped.

No fewer than 10 airbags, an available heated steering wheel and a next-generation radio system with OnStar-powered connectivity will be offered, as will the choice of 17 or 18 inch wheels, projector headlamps, plenty of chrome accents and leather trim.

Under the hood will be an Ecotec 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which will be matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. Advanced features of the engine include dual-overhead cams, variable valve timing, E85 capability and direct injection technology, the latter helping to reduce hydrocarbon emissions by 25 percent when compared with a multi-point fuel injection engine.

Peak output is a reasonable 177 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, which promises 0-60 mph acceleration of around 8 seconds and an estimated 22/31 mpg city/highway fuel economy. Also aiding fuel economy is an electronic power steering system. Further down the track, a 2.0-liter turbo engine will be offered.

We must say that, on paper at least, the new 2012 Buick Verano appears to be a neat little package and shows that GM’s former luxo-barge brands are getting serious about fuel economy.

[Buick via MotorAuthority.com]