Our first drive report of the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze was originally published over the weekend when GM's embargo lifted at 12:01AM EST on Saturday morning. We didn't want you to miss it, so check out the opening below and click through to read the rest.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze – Click above for full first drive report

Until now, General Motors hasn't exactly taken the small-car market seriously. While Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia have built their empires on the hoods of pint-sized, fuel-efficient transportation, history has shown the captains of Detroit tend to offer up parts-bin afterthoughts. Cars like the Chevrolet Cavalier and Cobalt have left a sour taste in the mouths of buyers thanks to noisy and de-contented cabins, rough engines and build quality that would make a Yugo blush. As a result, Americans have developed a sort of Pavolovian retch when we hear the term "compact car."

But a new dawn may be approaching – one heralded by a rash of new straw-weight fighters that aim to bring a global small car philosophy to the U.S. GM intends to be part of that party with the introduction of the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, a sedan that, for all intents and purposes, is more of a landmark model for the company than the endlessly-hyped Chevrolet Volt. To get our meaning, you'll need to throw all of your heinous memories about American-built small cars out the window beginning... now.

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Related Gallery2011 Chevrolet Cruze: First Drive

Photos by Zach Bowman / Copyright ©2010 AOL