Nissan Leaf is 2011 World Car of the Year

Edges BMW 5-Series and Audi A8
by Vernon B. Sarne | Apr 23, 2011

We know that the Chevrolet Cruze has just been named Philippine Car of the Year. We also know that this car-of-the-year thing is similarly done in other parts of the globe like North America (Chevrolet Volt), Europe (Nissan Leaf) and Japan (Honda CR-Z). Well, there is such a thing as the mother of all car-of-the-year awards: the World Car of the Year, given by "a non-profit association, under the guidance of a steering committee of distinguished automotive journalists from Asia, Europe and North America," according to the award-giving body's official website (www.wcoty.com). The World Car Awards is headquartered in Toronto, Canada.

For 2011, it has been announced that the Nissan Leaf is the World Car of the Year, beating fellow finalists BMW 5-Series and Audi A8. Other cars that made it to the short list were the Audi A1, the BMW X3, the Jaguar XJ, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Mercedes-Benz SLS, the Porsche Cayenne and the Volvo S60/V60. This is the first time an electric vehicle won the award, which was first conferred in 2005, when the Audi A6 won top honors. Past World Car of the Year awardees include the BMW 3-Series (2006), the Lexus LS460 (2007), the Mazda Demio (2008), the Volkswagen Golf (2009) and the Volkswagen Polo (2010).

This also marks the second straight year that the World Car of the Year is the same one as the European Car of the Year. The Polo was likewise the top car awardee in Europe last year.

During its second year, in 2006, the World Car Awards introduced three other special awards to complement the top prize: World Performance Car of the Year, World Green Car of the Year and World Car Design of the Year.

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For 2011, the World Performance Car of the Year is the Ferrari 458 Italia, edging out finalists Mercedes-Benz SLS and Porsche 911 Turbo. Past winners of this award include the Porsche Cayman S (2006), the Audi RS4 (2007), the Audi R8 (2008), the Nissan GT-R (2009) and the Audi R8 V10 (2010).

Meanwhile, the 2011 World Green Car of the Year is the Chevrolet Volt, besting finalists BMW 320d and Nissan Leaf. Past winners of this award include the Honda Civic Hybrid (2006), the Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec (2007), the BMW 118d (2008), the Honda FCX Clarity (2009) and the Volkswagen Golf/Passat/Polo BlueMotion (2010).

Lastly, the 2011 World Car Design of the Year is the Aston Martin Rapide. Past winners of this award include the Citroen C4 (2006), the Audi TT (2007), the Audi R8 (2008), the Fiat 500 (2009) and the Chevrolet Camaro (2010).

To qualify for the World Car of the Year award, a car must have been on sale on "at least two continents" within the period of eligibility, which, in this case, was from January 1, 2010, to May 30, 2011. The body of volunteer jurors is made up of 60 respected automotive journalists from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the United States. (Yes, Southeast Asia isn't represented.)

While the credibility and the competence of the judges always seem to be an issue in various car-of-the-year awards--whether bestowed by media organizations or handed out by specific publications--the World Car of the Year doesn't appear to have that problem. Its panel of judges for this year, for instance, boasts such motoring-industry luminaries as Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi, Car And Driver editor in chief Eddie Alterman, Top Gear Russia editor in chief Nikolay Kachurin and longtime motoring journalist Peter Nunn.

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