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 |  Jan 09 2012, 7:33 AM

In a contest where any of the three finalists could seemingly have won, the Hyundai Elantra has officially been crowned the 2012 North American Car of the Year. The Elantra beat-out the Ford Focus and the Volkswagen Passat for the honor, which was announced today in Detroit at the start of the North American International Auto Show.

The Elantra has been praised for its impressive design, high-grade interior and, perhaps most importantly, the fact that it gets 40-mpg standard – regardless of the transmission choice and without having to purchase an expensive high fuel-efficiency model.

The North American Car of the Year selection process is decided by a panel comprising 50 accredited automotive journalists from the US and Canada.

Last year’s North American Car of the Year was the Chevrolet Volt.

GALLERY: 2012 Hyundai Elantra

Elantra_15Elantra_09Elantra_20

See AutoGuide’s complete 2012 Detroit Auto Show Coverage here