What was the deciding factor? Mario Andretti, Carl Pope of the Sierra Club, and the other judges valued newness above all things, giving extra points to cars in their earliest phases of development. Apparently being an American car was also helpful, as the judges said, "This proves that a determined Detroit can win the race."
This car is definitely not your typical SUV. Well, it is in the sense that it combines ultra-style with ultra-ruggedness--the car can tow 1000 pounds and boasts 155 horsepower--but it achieves a super ultra low emissions vehicle (SULEV) rating and shaves 11 miles per gallon off of the in-the-city gas mileage of the non-hybrid version. Unfortunately, though, I still can't see around it.