Precisely 385 different model series, seven more than last year, competed in eleven categories in the 42nd edition of BEST CARS. Although the number of candidates has remained fairly stable in most segments, the group of Compact SUVs and All-Terrain Vehicles has grown substantially – by no less than ten additional models. And the Large SUVs and All-Terrain Vehicles have also gained three models. So there is definitely no slowdown here, unlike in the Vans segment where dwindling demand also means eight fewer candidates to choose from. The Compact Class, one of the largest voting categories with 42 candidates, reveals whether the Golf has been able to regain its popularity after the extensive model upgrade last spring, and knock its upscale brother, the Audi A3, off last year’s top spot. After the clear victory in the Upper Midsize category last year by the then fresh E-Class, Mercedes is now being challenged by two upstart BMW rivals: the 5 Series and its hatchback derivative, the 6 Series GT. Besides the Jaguar XF, now also available as a station wagon, the Kia Stinger and VW Arteon are not about to leave the field to the top dogs without a challenge.