The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze compact car promises to redefine fuel efficiency for the small-car segment, and its 1.4-liter four-cylinder range of engines could herald a new era of fun-to-drive cars for Americans, even if the SS version of the Cruze never materializes.

Europeans are, of course, neck-deep in such cars, but American buyers have only recently come to appreciate the virtues of such vehicles--and U.S. fuel economy regulations have only recently come to incentivize their production and sales.

But beyond the efficiency of the car, Chevrolet hopes to make the Cruze something of an enthsuiast car, seeking "excellent fuel efficiency and durability--while also being fun to drive." That bodes well for the Cruze-based Buick sedan also expected to be coming soon. That car will take its place below the recently revealed Regal in the new Buick lineup.

Leveraging Chevrolet’s design and engineering talent in Asia, Europe and North America, the Cruze brings to market a globally engineered and designed car with strong levels of quietness, quality and attention to detail.

There will be three different time levels, LS, LT and LTZ trims. The engine lineup includes both naturally aspirated and turbocharged engines, including a 1.4-liter turbo and a 1.8-liter naturally aspirated mill. Six-speed automatic and manual transmissions are available.

The turbo is standard on LT and LTZ models, with power ratings estimated at 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. The 1.8-liter naturally aspirated mill, meanwhile, will be rated at 136 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque.

North American versions of the Cruze will be built at GM’s plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

[General Motors]