Click above for high-res gallery of the Chevy Cruze LT

The Chevrolet Cruze is three kinds of car: small, American and important. And with the state of General Motors, it isn't even the individual words that mean the most: it's whether The General can combine them into a reliable, fuel efficient and cost effective package. True, we don't get to drive these things while they're parked under the lights, but to have a seat in the Cruze is to imagine a GM that begs the question, "Where was all this before the meltdown?" The studio imagery we've seen so far translates nicely into real life, and the center console looks and feels substantial – in fact, it looks like it could be foreign – even if the silver mesh treatment in the show car was a bit much. The car has a compact yet full-bodied stance, and will probably look even better on the road in a color other than scarlet, and not under klieg lights. Spring of '09 will welcome this first Cruze variant to Europe, after which other regions will get it, as well as a probable hatchback and wagon. It will be powered by a 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder that charts up to 140 hp and is said to return 40 mpg. Have a look at the high-res gallery of live shots below to get a better idea of what to expect when the Cruze goes on sale here in a couple years.

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