America's Motor Trend magazine has just awarded the Chevrolet Volt as its 2011 Car of the Year. It's the first time the publication has awarded a car with range-entending technology in the award's 61-year history.
Other close contenders in this year's test were the new Hyundai Sonata (the i45 in Australia), Volvo S60, Volkswagen Jetta and the Jaguar XJ. All of the cars underwent two days of rigorous testing which took part on Hyundai's proving ground, in California, which narrowed the finalists down to 10.
The proving ground testing included analysing the cars under high speed conditions, how the cars coped around a handling circuit and how they behaved on loose surfaces. The top ten was then driven out on the public roads around a 50km mapped route. This included highways, back roads and dense city streets.
In the end, it was the Chevrolet Volt that impressed most. Using an electric motor and lithium-ion batteries, the car drives on electricity alone but uses a very small petrol engine to recharge the batteries along the way. The car can also be recharged via a powerpoint. Chris Theodore, one of the Motor Trend judges, said about the Volt:
"This is a fully developed vehicle with seamlessly integrated systems and software, a real car that provides a unique driving experience. And commuters may never need to buy gas!"