Best Compact Saloons

7 minutes Published: 12/03/2020
Alasdair Cherry

Time to treat yourself? Kids moved out? Mid-life crisis?

After all your hard work and dedication over the years, do you feel it’s time to dip your toes into the luxurious world of compact saloons?

From the definitive low, sporty design, to the sophisticated interior, through to the premium technology, saloons really do offer an excellent drive embedded in pure comfort and luxury.

To save you wading through review upon review of compact saloons, we have compiled a list of some of the best compact saloons on the market!

Are you after a car for work? You might be interested in our best company cars, or maybe our round-up of the best executive cars!

1. BMW 3 Series Saloon

RRP: £24,920 - £48,920
  • Doors: 2 - 4
  • Engine: 3.0
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 243g/km

Pros

  • Infotainment is excellent.

  • Driving is a blast.

Cons

  • Higher trims are expensive.

  • No Android Auto.

The BMW 3 Series is, unsurprisingly, amazing to drive. It’s more on the sporty side than luxury, but it’s still an incredible car to sit in. Engines are powerful, efficient, and the handling is as good as you’d expect from a BMW. There’s plenty of tech, and BMW’s infotainment system is one of (if not) the best.

BMW 3 Series available in two diesel and three petrol engines, as well as a plug-in hybrid - which makes for cheap BiK rates if you’re after a compact saloon for business.

The 3 Series is among the sportiest saloons on the market. When you combine this with the state-of-the-art infotainment system, all-round parking sensors and trendy spacious cabin, you get a trendsetting extraordinaire that leads by example.

2. Jaguar XE

RRP: £26,580 - £154,245
  • Doors: 4
  • Engine: 5.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: A, M
  • CO2: 111 - 254g/km

Pros

  • Classy, subtle interior.

  • Luxurious drive.

Cons

  • Some rivals offer more economical engines.

  • Nothing special tech wise.

The Jaguar XE is Britain’s audacious attempt to challenge the German heavyweights in the executive saloon market. Thankfully, Jaguar XE has more than enough fire in its belly to back itself against the big boys.

The XE offers a strong range of engines that contribute to a supple drive with excellent steering precision and acute handling.

Interior isn’t as flashy as you’d expect by looking at the exterior, but it’s by no means tacky or lacklustre - sometimes less is more. The soft plastic trims on the dashboard, the silky centre console and the standard leather seats all add a touch of class to an already graceful saloon.

3. BMW 5 Series Saloon (2017)

  • Doors:
  • Engine:
  • Fuel:
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive:
  • CO2:

Pros

  • Even more refinement than the 3 Series.

  • Engines are efficient.

Cons

  • Some of the best tech costs a fortune in optional extras.

  • Exterior styling will be divisive - arguably a bit boring.

Yep, another BMW! Verging on the bigger side of the compact saloon scale, the 5 Series has it all - luxurious comfort, slick performance, and excellent technology

You’re spoilt for choice in terms of engines - you’ve got the option of three petrol and three diesel engines to choose from. The petrols offer a punchy performance, but the diesels are more fuel efficient. Overall though, every engine returns a decent fuel economy, so it’s not a particularly expensive car to run.

The BMW 5 Series exterior is elegant, but it won’t be to everyone’s taste - it’s not particularly exciting. Inside is a different story, as the cabin looks glossy and everything you touch feels well-polished giving the BMW 5 Series a real upmarket status.

4. Audi A4 Saloon

RRP: £25,845 - £56,690 | From £279.51 per month to lease
  • Doors: 4
  • Engine: 4.2
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 322g/km

Pros

  • Tech is plentiful and tactfully integrated. Dashboard is lovely.

  • Adaptive air suspension makes for a really comfortable drive.

Cons

  • Not a sporty driving experience.

  • Optional extras, like the adaptive air suspension, are really pricey (but worth it).

Another goliath enters the arena. The A4’s all-round ability ensures it doesn’t shy away when put to the test against its fierce rivals.Whichever engine you opt for, the A4 performs well.The standard steering is precise and suspension is firm and robust.

Getting comfortable won’t be an issue with four-way lumbar support on offer from the entry-level up. All models also come with plenty of tech, like parking sensors front and rear, a reversing camera, and wireless charging. Audi’s MMI infotainment system is excellent, and the Virtual Cockpit option is brilliant. This replaces conventional dials with a digital display, and makes sat-nav a breeze to use.

The A4’s interior is a magnificent collection of detailed craftsmanship. As expected from Audi, the A4 consists of a plush, soft-touch finish and eloquent leather seats perfect for nestling into.

5. Alfa Romeo Giulia

RRP: £28,995 - £81,250
  • Doors: 4
  • Engine: 2.9
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: A
  • CO2: 206g/km

Pros

  • Distinctive looks, inside and out.

  • A rear-wheel drive Alfa... finally!

Cons

  • Not as luxurious as German competitors.

  • Not as high-tech as German competitors.

Translated from Italian to read ‘Four-leaf clover’, the Alfa Romeo Quadrioglio is by far the most impressive car to come out of the Alfa Romeo garage in recent years. Must be the luck of the... Italian?

The sporty Guilia has plenty of power, and is a blast to drive.The suspension may feel a tad unsettled around town, but you won’t get more of an adrenaline rush anywhere else - definitely one for the thrill-seekers.

Inside, Gulia is pleasantly minimalist. You won’t get any glitz and glamour, but the dashboard design is subtle and very high-fashion. Alfa Romeo are a stylish manufacturer, so we’d expect nothing less. There’s plenty of tech available, but it’s not overwhelming.

6. Mercedes C Class Saloon

RRP: £26,800 - £78,112 | From £283.14 per month to lease
  • Doors: 2 - 4
  • Engine: 6.2
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 312g/km

Pros

  • Tech is really easy to use, and not overwhelming.

  •  Comfortable to drive

Cons

  • Somewhat boring to drive.

  • Exterior lacks aggression, and won’t be everyone's cup of tea.

The Mercedes C-Class is a powerhouse in the compact saloon car class.Available in a wide range of engines including petrol, diesel and hybrid outputs, the C-Class is surprisingly fuel efficient and cheap to run.

 A Mercedes-Benz has historically always been great to drive, and the C-Class sticks with that trend. All engines offer plenty of power, but the handling and suspension are definitely more focused on comfort than being sporty. The dapper interior of the C-Class easily competes with rivals, and it’s hard to say a bad word about it. It’s upmarket, classy, and every material feels solid. 

Mercedes infotainment system is excellent, and is controlled with slick rotary dial between the front seats. The system is reasonably user-friendly with sharp graphics, and fits in seamlessly with the well-designed dashboard.

7. Volkswagen Passat Saloon

RRP: £21,395 - £41,530
  • Doors: 4
  • Engine: 4.0
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 317g/km

Pros

  • Refinement on a budget.

  • Economical engines.

Cons

  • Boring exterior design.

  • Smooth to drive, but lacking a good dose of excitement.

The Volkswagen Passat may not be the flashiest saloon on the market, but it’s definitely a bargain. The Passat is a slick all-rounder and still feels rather upmarket thanks to it’s classily refined interior. You’ve also got the affordable price tag and highly economical engines. VW engines offer really low CO2 emissions, and offer a great MPG, making it a great car for business trips.

The polished soft-touch materials are very easy on the eye and you’ll struggle to find any scratchy plastics in plain sight. The savvy infotainment system is identical to that in the Golf or Polo - a crystal clear 8.0 inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities coming as standard on all Passat trims.

For those that want a compact saloon that offers class but won’t break the bank, consider a Volkswagen Passat lease deal.

8. Volvo S60

RRP: £37,350 - £56,050
  • Doors: 4
  • Engine: 3.0
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 246g/km

Pros

  • Lots of great tech onboard, like Volvo Homelink (opens your garage door with the touch of a button!).

  • Interior offers luxury without being ostentatious.

Cons

  • Only one trim level, so not much room for customisation.

  • Comfortable, but not particularly fun.

Volvo has came a long way from the days of selling bang-average estate cars. The last decade or so has seen a resurgence from the Swedish manufacturer that allows them to rub shoulders with the very best in the business.

The S60 has completely done away with diesel engines as they look to move towards a more sustainable future. With economical hybrids available, the S60 is a pleasantly cheap car to run. Low CO2 emissions makes it a great choice for a company car too, letting you take advantage of low BiK rates.

The S60’s driving position is pleasant and makes for a relaxing drive thanks to the electrically adjustable supportive seats. The interior cabin oozes class and style with lots of soft-touch plastics and glossy materials dotted around.

9. Kia Stinger Gran Turismo

RRP: £31,140 - £39,240
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 3.3
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: A
  • CO2: 154 - 221g/km

Pros

  • Sleek exterior.

  • Cheap to run. 

Cons

  • Quite expensive.

  • Interior is just okay.

The Stinger might not be the first Kia model that pops into your head, but it sure is the most thrilling and exciting to drive. The Stinger has been blessed with precise steering and sharp handling, so any misconceptions about Kia’s lacking performance can be put to bed.

First impressions of the Stinger’s interior are excellent. The minimalist, soft dashboard is covered with a silky faux-leather layer. Unfortunately, when you start to prod around you’ll find harder, scratchier plastics around the cabin that cause the Stinger to drop down the pecking order in comparison to more upmarket rivals.

That being said, the Kia Stinger offers a great alternative to those who don’t fancy the typical German offerings, and the 7-year manufacturer warranty is a nice bonus, too!

Summary

A compact saloon is a great car to own. It’s great to drive and often luxurious, making it a great choice for a CEO in the making.

Competition is fierce in the saloon car market, but hopefully our round up of the best compact saloons has helped you find your next lease car!

Need a car to show you mean business? Check out our best executive cars. Perhaps a sensible car for work? You need to look at our best company cars. If you're still hungry for more, check out our full range of saloon lease deals.