We took the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco sedan out for a spin in Los Angeles today, just a few blocks from the convention center where the show will open its doors tomorrow. Along with the brief stint behind the wheel, we snagged a few images. Here's the quick take.

It's a real car. If you're worried about a little four-cylinder's ability to pull the big gears in the manual transmission that enable it to achieve its 42 mpg highway rating, fret not: this little car maxes out torque at 1,850 rpm and has plenty to run third up from 1,100 rpm. Well-tuned pure-electric power steering and a very light clutch pair well with the smooth-but-not-slick motions of the gear lever for an all-around solid driving experience. It's no sports car, but then it's not meant to be.

Beyond the easy-driving characteristics, the simple yet sophisticated attention to aerodynamic detail is what really pays off for the Eco. Borrowing the trunk lid spoiler from the Cruze RS appearance package, adjusting the fore and aft tire spats, blocking off a bit more of the larger upper grille area and adding active vanes in the lower grille allowed the Cruze Eco to slip through the air with greater ease--about 0.004 less drag, in coefficient terms.

Pack all of that together, toss in some weight savings through lightweight alloy Alcoa wheels, low-rolling resistance tires (the same as you'll find on the 2011 Chevy Volt), and the mid-level Cruze trim package and you have yourself, at the end of the day, a real sedan that actual humans would be pleased to spend time in, which also happens to get some pretty astounding fuel efficiency figures.

Who needs a hybrid?

We're still working on prying out some numbers on the Eco's abilities, primarily on the lateral grip and braking distance fronts, but we'll update you as soon as we get the official info. Oh, and yes, you can get the Cruze Eco in a color other than tax-auditor blue-green.