DETROIT – The sporty Dodge Challenger definitely has a fan base, even though its sales lag behind two main competitors.

The Challenger is the winner of the Cars.com Shoppers’ Choice awards, with results announced at an event held here in conjunction with the North American International Auto Show.

The muscle car competes in the middle-specialty segment where the top seller in 2011 was the Chevrolet Camaro with 88,249 deliveries, followed by the Ford Mustang with 70,438,534, according to WardsAuto data. The No.3 challenger sold 39,534 units last year.

But the Challenger grabs the most votes from Cars.com Facebook fans in the final round of the competition for which car they like best.        

Finalists for the award were selected based on shoppers’ actions on the site that indicated interest in new vehicles, including searching for vehicles, sending inquiries to dealers on availability and, most importantly, filling out a positive review of their vehicle.

“The Dodge Challenger’s win proves, once again, that our Cars.com shoppers know what makes a great vehicle,” says Patrick Olsen, editor-in-chief of Cars.com, an online automotive marketplace.

“The Challenger’s classic muscle-car styling, refined handling and spacious interior make this an excellent choice for anyone in the market for a fun and surprisingly practical car.”

Runner-up finalists for the Cars.com Shoppers’ Choice award are the Audi Q5, GMC Terrain, Honda Accord, Honda Pilot, Kia Soul, Ram 1500, Subaru Outback, Toyota Highlander and Toyota Sienna.

The competition was close, Olsen says.  “Our research shows that shoppers want to hear from each other about what to buy almost as much as they want to hear from experts.”

At its vehicle-awards show at the historic Fillmore Detroit theater, Cars.Com announces the new Volkswagen Passat midsize sedan as the “Best of 2012.”

“The completely redesigned Passat shook up the extremely competitive family- sedan category,” Olsen says.

Other nominees for that award are the Audi A7, Hyundai Accent, Hyundai Veloster, Land Rover Evoque and Subaru Impreza.

Also taking honors are the 2012 Honda Pilot for “Family Car of the Year,” Ford Mustang Boss 302 for “Play Car of the Year,” Ford F-150 for “Work Truck of the Year” and Passat TDI for “Eco-Friendly Car of the Year.” 

sfinlay@wardsauto.com