Motor Trend Car of the Year: VW Passat

November 16, 2011: 3:57 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (CNNMoney) -- The Volkswagen Passat won the prestigious Motor Trend "Car of the Year" award Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Motor Trend admitted in the announcement that the pick would have been considered a surprise back when the new design was unveiled in January. The Passat got hit with tough reviews then which described it as "drab, plain, and cheap-looking."

But in its announcement Motor Trend said "closer inspection reveals exquisite detailing."

"The Passat's styling is clean and simple, but executed with a precision normally seen on expensive luxury cars." the release said.

"Like the Audi [A6], what is remarkable is the restraint shown with the handling of the design. Clean, beautiful surfaces have been refined for an engaging result," said Motor Trend's Tom Gale.

New Ford Escape completely redesigned

The sedan is built at VW's new plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., which started production in April and has about 2,000 employees.

It is larger than the previous version of the car, but it gets as much as 31 miles per gallon in the city and 43 mpg on the highway in its 6-speed manual transmission diesel model.

The 6-cylinder automatic gets a more modest but still respectable 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

The Passat is in the very competitive full-size sedan segment, which includes the Toyota (TM) Camry, the Honda (HMC) Accord, and the Ford (F, Fortune 500) Fusion, which are among the best selling vehicles in America. So far it sells only a fraction of the vehicles of those rivals, with year-to-date U.S. sales of just under 10,000 vehicles, compared to more than 200,000 for each of those more established models. To top of page

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