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Nissan Leaf claims another crown

The Nissan Leaf has just claimed the Japanese Car of the Year contest ...

The battery-powered compact, which is set for Australia in 2012, has just claimed the Japanese Car of the Year contest to complete a triple treat in 2011. It is also the winner of the World Car of the Year and European Car of the Year awards.

The Nissan Leaf's victory makes a three-year run for green cars in the Japan COTY judging, as the Honda CR-Z won the top prize in 2010 after the latest Toyota Prius was champion in 2009 - repeating the car's success in 1997.

This year's Import COTY winner in Japan is the Mercedes-Benz C Class, which claimed the crown from Volkswagen after victories - identical to the Carsguide COTY results - for the Polo in 2010 and Golf in 2009.

A special prize went to the Mazda Demio - Mazda2 - for its use of the company's latest Skyactiv engine technology.

This year's Leaf victory was one of the most overwhelming results in the history of the Japan COTY, as the car polled 522 votes from a possible 600. Each of the 60 jurors can award a maximum of 10 votes to any car and 46 jurors did that with the Leaf.

It is the first success for an all-electric plug-in car, and a major breakthrough for the Leaf and - ironically - the award came on the first anniversary of the start of sales in Japan.

It is designed from the ground up as a battery car - not a conversion like the Mitsubishi iMiEV or Mini E - and is well into trials in Australia ahead of full-scale sales in 2012.

It will eventually be joined by the Renault Fluence Z.E. in 2012 although Australians are showing little interest in electric cars with less than 150 iMiEVs in the official sales results for the past two years and only five delivered in October.