Over the past year we’ve seen the 2011 Nissan Leaf win plenty of awards, including the accolade of European Car of The Year and even GreenCarReports’ Best Car to Buy 2011.

But while its main competitor, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, may have more awards to its name than Nissan’s first attempt at an all-electric mass-produced family hatchback, the Leaf has nabbed the title of the 2011 World Car of The Year. 

No Volt 

The eagle-eyed reader will note that the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, despite beating the Leaf in sales figures every month since its launch, wasn’t even on the list of finalists for the prestigious title

The reason? The Volt wasn’t eligible. 

According to the rules set out in the WCoTY competition, a car must be available for sale in at least five countries spanning two continents between the period of January 1, 2010 and May 30, 2011. 

As the 2011 Volt has only been available for sale in North America so far, it was disqualified from winning the prize.  

Hot competition

But don’t think the competition was easy though. In order to win, the Leaf had to convince the judges that it had what it takes to be a winner, beating 38 other cars to the title. 

The list wasn’t a boring one either, reading like a who’s who of top cars of 2011, from Honda’s 2011 CR-Z hybrid to Volkswagen’s 2011 Touareg SUV, and from the 2011 Aston Martin Rapide through to the 2011 Porsche Cayenne. 

“Just like a normal car”

The Leaf impressed judges with its conventional driving experience. Commenting that the car felt like a normal car, only quieter, the judges concluded that: “The Leaf is the gateway to a brave new electric world from Nissan. This five-seater, five-door hatchback is the world’s first, purpose-built, mass-produced electric car”

Next year?

While the 2011 Nissan Leaf is the first all-electric mass-produced car to win the title we’re confident it won’t be the last. 

And if the judges were inspired to award the Leaf the award based on its brave new approach to motoring, we’re pretty convinced that next-year’s title will be even more hotly contested as more and more plug-in vehicles hit the market. 

We’re sure the 2012 Nissan Leaf will be back to defend its title - but with the Chevrolet Volt due to launch in Europe by 2012 and Ford’s hotly anticipated 2012 Ford Focus joining in the fight we think future WCoTY will become a whole lot more interesting. 

The 2011 World Performance Car of the Year title went to the Ferrari 458 Italia, a car just about as red-blooded and gasoline fueled as we can think of. Will it be pipped to the post in future years by Mercedes’s SLS AMG E-Cell in 2013? We hope so.