CHAMP Kia Picanto
The previous model was the best city car last year and the new one steps it up a notch.
CHALLENGER Suzuki Swift
The new Swift brought Suzuki back to its best with two engines, one a punchy 1.0-litre turbo, in a roomy and relaxing little car.
SURPRISE Renault Clio
The French baby always looked good, but 2017 brought sharper pricing from $14,990 and more safety and equipment.
WINNER Kia Picanto
Often sold at $13,990 driveaway, the Picanto has only one failing: a four-star safety rating.
CHAMP Subaru Impreza
Subaru spent more than $1 billon to lay the brand's foundations for the next decade and small-hatch buyers banked the benefits. Flawed CVT transmission hurts it.
CHALLENGER Volkswagen Golf 7.5
The benchmark for quality and refinement in recent years. Update was visually similar, but definitely more refined, although there was not enough change from Golf 7.
SURPRISE Hyundai i30
The new look wasn't revolutionary but there were improvements in every area underneath the sheetmetal. Some cheap plastics in the cabin were the only drawback.
WINNER Hyundai i30
The base model missed out on auto emergency braking but the rest of the package was spot on. The more expensive SR, with its turbo engine, dual-clutch auto and independent rear suspension matches the best for driving fun.
CHAMP Mazda CX-3
A long-term favourite with refinement and car-like driving, although a bit cramped and short of boot space as it's based on the baby Mazda2.
CHALLENGER Subaru XV
The package under the latest Impreza pays off with a car that's roomy, quiet and refined.
SURPRISE Hyundai Kona
The South Korean newbie uses i30 basics for plenty of space and driving enjoyment. The entry level front-driver is not cheap at $24,500 and prices go up to $36,000.
WINNER Subaru XV
Does everything you expect from a Subaru and a car to happily recommend to friends.
CHAMP Volkswagen Tiguan
Brought Golf-style strengths to the class, with a rock-solid feel and performance that won it last year's Car of the Year.
CHALLENGER Mazda CX-5
The new model was quieter and more refined, with an excellent standard safety package, but it wasn't the breakthrough expected from an SUV that was the benchmark for several years.
SURPRISE Skoda Kodiaq
Shares underpinnings with the Tiguan but has more space in a five-plus-two cabin that works well for part-time seven-seater use. Little bonuses include umbrellas and picnic blankets.
WINNER Skoda Kodiaq
A unanimous winner of our Car of the Year crown with a wide range of strengths in a value package from $42,990.
CHAMP Mercedes-Benz GLC
Refined and well priced from $67,600, it's the baby Benz for former station wagon buyers.
CHALLENGER BMW X3
Underwhelming at first, but rock-solid where it counts and a major improvement in 2017.
SURPRISE Volvo XC60
Another hit from the Swedish brand, with clean, classy cabin and clever design.
WINNER Audi Q5
Everything you expect from an Audi, smooth in every area, with innovative driver assistance features, but options can quickly get costly.
CHAMP Ford Focus RS
A year ago the Focus was ferociously fast - and flawed - but we were prepared to overlook its shortcomings because it was so much fun. Not now.
CHALLENGER Kia Stinger
The brilliantly-named Stinger was always going to be a special car, with many people expecting it to pick up from the Holden Commodore as Australia's driving favourite. It's very good, but something better came along in 2017.
SURPRISE Honda Civic Type R
Wow. The born-again Type R manages to do most things for many people. It's feisty and fast but also refined and practical.
WINNER Civic Type R
The love-or-hate styling is the only shortcoming in the Type R package. Order it in black, to minimise the impact of the childish fake aero parts, and it's an unbeatable package to enjoy every time you fire the turbo engine.