Chevy Volt named Motor Trend car of the year

Motor Trend magazine today named the Chevy Volt electric vehicle its car of the year for 2011, .

“We expected a science experiment, but this is a moon shot,” Motor Trend editors wrote:

The Volt delivers on the promise of the vehicle concept as originally outlined by GM, combining the smooth, silent, efficient, low-emissions capability of an electric motor with the range and flexibility of an internal combustion engine. It is a fully functional, no-compromise compact automobile that offers consumers real benefits in terms of lower running costs.

When FuelFix’s Tom Fowler test-drove the Volt last month, he also was impressed with its finishes and handling, though not as jazzed by the $41,000 price. Others have panned the Volt’s characterization as an all-electric car, since its gasoline engine sometimes turns the wheels. Even if it were a pure EV, some of our readers point out, it still wouldn’t exactly be “green.”

Those criticisms aside, Motor Trend sees a bright future for the car:

In the 61-year history of the Car of the Year award, there have been few contenders as hyped — or as controversial — as the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt started life an Old GM project, then arrived fully formed as a symbol of New GM, carrying all the emotional and political baggage of that profound and painful transition. As a result, a lot of the sound and fury that has surrounded the Volt’s launch has tended to obscure a simple truth: This automobile is a game-changer.

The Ford Fusion took home the honor last year. This year’s finalists included the Ford Fiesta, Jaguar XJ, BMW 5 Series and the Audi A.