It has been an exciting year for new cars, which makes our job of pickinga car of the year a little bit more difficult. You know, last year it was pretty much a unanimous decision with the Honda Civic. But, this year our editors were debating for a really long time over which one ofthese cars would get our top honors. And why shouldn’t it take copious amounts of deliberation?They’re all such incredibly strong products. Parked behind us are six of the most important new modelscoming out for 2017. But only one of them can be our Car of the Year winner. So starting at the bottom and working up, we begin with the Chevy Cruze. Some of us were fighting over this car because it had Wi-Fiand standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto,and we wanted to stream our Spice Girls throwbackswithout eating up our data plans. Was that just me?Maybe, but besides having 4G LTE connectivitythe Cruze also has a great infotainment system,and great value in a base model,but as soon as you add in any optionsthe price becomes quite inflated and it diminishes the car’s value. A fact that isn’t helped by this cheap interior. Following in the Cruze’s tire tracksis Kia’s all-new Optima, which won us over by looking and feelingfar more upscale than many of its competitors. It’s an excellent all-around car with a lovely interior and comfortable ride,it doesn’t drive particularly well,and its 2. 0L turbocharged engine is rather noisy. The Hyundai Elantra is trying to win people over byoffering a huge amount of luxury car features in a compact car. As a package, it’s fantastic, and it offers a lot of value. But perhaps it doesn’t push the boundaries enough to set a new standard,which is something we’re always looking for. Next up, the BMW M2 a car that everybody lovedbecause it’s absolutely fantastic to drive. Besides sounding great and looking mature, yet still aggressive,the M2 struck a great balance between performance and everyday drivability. However, we do wish the steering was a bit more communicativeand that the infotainment system were better,but our editors were absolutely smitten with this balanced,focused coupe, and ended up fighting over the keys quite a lot. The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack was also a top contender for the award this year,and we found it its driving dynamics a lot better than both the Cruze and the Optima. After we took it on a trail, we came away even more impressedby its abilities off-road. The price is also very decent and besidesa smooth and powerful engine, and classy interior,the Alltrack just feels like a regular Golf which is pretty remarkable. And that brings us to the Focus RS. During testing we fell in love with this car because it’s an old dogthat has learned some amazing new tricks. You know, Ford has taken a pretty average compact vehicle at this point, and transformed it into an absolutely remarkable machine. One that drivers would be proud to own. And not only is it fun and engaging to drivebut it’s also easy to drive, whether you’re blasting down canyon roadsor just commuting to work, it just feels so natural. And one of the other things that really impressed us was its base priceof around $36,000, which makes it a bargain by performance standards. Add that in with the fact that it’s just so well-rounded,And it really became an easy pick for AutoGuide. com’s Car of the Year. Songs are much more fun when you meow them. ♪Meow, meow, meow, meow. . . ♪Meow, meow, meow, meow. . . [strange noises that raise concerns over these journalists’ upbringing][seriously?]Quiet, Craig![porcine snort]So we got three takes?OK. [rustling of Craig’s ill-fitting clothes]I don’t know the– I can’t–More. . . you gotta do more. . . [indiscernable sounds of disgust]I told you I can’t dance.