Top five compact executive saloons

Once upon a time executive saloons were the reserve of their namesake – the executive. However, thanks to ever-more affordable finance deals, compact exec saloons are now a viable option for many people who just want a little bit more luxury in their motoring lives.

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Offering a desirable badge and that extra sparkle more mainstream saloons just cannot muster, it’s no wonder the UK has an insatiable appetite for cars in this sector. With their popularity showing no signs of waning, it seemed only right to have a look at the current market and pick out our favourite five….

5. Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo Giulia

It’s been a while since Alfa Romeo were on top form, and the new Giulia saloon finally gives the company a four-door saloon that can take on the Germans at its own game. It’s certainly nicer to look at than most run-in-the-mill executive compacts, but how does it compare to rivals from behind the wheel?

Very well is the answer. Aside from the fire-breathing Ferrari-developed Quadrofoglio version, the best engine to go for is the fast and frugal 2.2-litre diesel engine that gets either 148 or 178bhp.

With rear-wheel-drive and a driver-focused, comfortable cabin, the Giulia is certainly capable of giving the 3 Series a run for its money.

4. Jaguar XE

Jaguar XE

If you’re not taken by the Germans, how about something a little more home grown? The XE is the company’s “entry-level” car, but that doesn’t take anything away from it.

Behind the wheel it’s more than a match for a 3 Series thanks to pokey engines and a lightweight construction, with some suspension components coming straight from the supercar-rivalling F-Type.

An 8in “InControl” infotainment system comes as standard which is easy to use and intuitive. In fact, all models come kitted out with a fine interior that is made up of only the finest leather, soft-touch plastics and, depending on specification, Jaguar’s trademark wooden trim.

3. Audi A4

Audi A4

Until recently, the Audi A4 was lagging behind the competition somewhat, but a recent update now means if anything, it’s a cut above. Often praised for its impeccably well-screwed together feel and swish interior, the latest A4 continues where the old model left off.

It might not be as fun to drive as a 3 Series, but the A4’s handling is sharp, while it’s impossible to pick a bad engine – the 2.0-litre petrol engine is worth a look in as, while it’s not quite as economical as the diesels, the 250bhp makes it a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

2. BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series

And now for something completely different: the BMW 3 Series. From a driving perspective, it’s a different kettle of fish compared to the Audi above. Where the A4’s top priority is comfort and quality, the 3 Series’ is most definitely performance.

So, if you like a little more of an involved drive than the Audi manages, this is the car for you. However, sporting pretensions don’t hinder its efficiency, with the 320d EfficientDynamics variant capable of almost 70mpg despite its fleeting 0-62mph run of only 7.9 seconds.

A recent facelift ensures it looks as fresh as ever too, while the very latest BMW iDrive infotainment system with ConnectedDrive mean, technologically at least, it’s one of the most advanced cars currently on the road.

1. Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Mercedes C Class

And in the top spot we find the Mercedes C-Class. It’s the most enquired about car on ContractHireAndLeasing.com, and this year it’s actually one of the UK’s top ten most popular cars too – proof enough that cars in this segment aren’t necessarily out of people’s budgets.

So what’s all the fuss about? Well, it’s certainly the most comfortable car in its class if that’s your top priority. Where the BMW 3 Series is designed to make the driver feel involved in the drive, the C-Class does the opposite – it really is effortless.

It’s not just a nice place to sit however. There’s a range of powerful engines on offer, the most popular being the fantastically frugal diesels. The 2.1-litre C220d engine may have a larger capacity than its predecessor, but it’s more frugal with official figures reporting fuel consumption of up to 72mpg.

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