The 11 best compact luxury sedans to buy right now

mercedes c class compact sedan

Compact luxury sedans may be an endangered species of late, but there are still a few great options for those wanting to buck the SUV trend

There was a time in automotive history when compact luxury sedans rained from the heavens and things were good. Drivers were out terrorising highways in BMW E30s and Mercedes 190e 2.3-16s while many of us looked on in admiration. Those days are gone and now the compact crossover has largely replaced luxury compact sedans, but there are some few compact sedans still soldiering on, for the betterment of the motoring public. Let’s look at the best of them.

Our Best Compact Luxury Sedan Picks

—Best Overall: Mercedes C-Class
—Best for Bad Weather: Audi A4
—Best Looking: Alfa Romeo Giulia
—Best for on a Budget: Cadillac CT4
—Best for Comfort: Genesis G70
—Best Value: Lexus IS
—Best Entry-Level Luxury: Acura Integra
—Best Sound: Acura TLX
—Best for Sporty Driving: BMW 3 Series
—Best Hybrid: Volvo S60

mercedes c class compact sedans
Photo by Mercedes-Benz

Best Overall: Mercedes C-Class

The C-Class has long been the yin to the 3 Series’ yang. It has always felt a little more luxurious, a little less sporty, and, in its high-performance trims, less like a scalpel and more like a battle axe. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s slightly worse but it’s always different. The current C-Class is phenomenal, with Mercedes’ typically subdued exterior styling and interior tech and styling that swings for the fences, though the entry price reflects that.

The base C300 is powered by a mild hybrid 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes a reasonable 255 hp. That is paired with rear- or available all-wheel drive. There is also an AMG-lite version in the C43 which offers a rowdier four-cylinder engine making 402 hp and 501 nm of torque. Regrettably, the hellacious V8-powered C63 models of days past are gone, but at some point, you should be able to buy a plug-in hybrid four-cylinder C63 with a staggering 671 hp, but no V8 noise.


acura integra compact sedans
2024 Acura Integra. Photo by Chris Tedesco

Best Entry-Level Luxury: 2024 Acura Integra

The reborn Acura Integra is no longer the doorstop-shaped VTEC ripper people know and love from the 1990s, but what it’s become is a wildly competent, fun-to-drive luxury compact that both is available with a manual transmission in its more sensible standard form and in its rip-roaring 320 hp Type S trim with drivetrain from the Civic Type R.
Now, you might be saying that Acura is “entry-level” luxury and that’s not wrong but we’d bet that the epic ELS stereo and excellent build quality will win many people over. Also notable are the Integra’s sharp styling and even sharper front-wheel drive handling. Nobody does front wheel drive like Honda and that’s apparent here.

Alfa Romeo Giulia
Photo by Alfa Romeo

Best Looking: Alfa Romeo Giulia

Not to be overly cliche, but wow, the Giulia is a looker. It’s also flawed, but so is Michelangelo’s David, so who are we to criticise? Seriously though, if you can deal with the justifiably questionable reliability, what you get when you get a Giulia is style. Also if you get the Quadrifoglio, you get a simply epic Ferrari-derived twin-turbo V6 engine.

Other pluses for the Giulia include a good infotainment system courtesy of its corporate parents at Stellantis and some killer lease deals — even Alfa’s online configurator defaults to lease prices, so they know.

Still, if you want to throw good sense to the wind and buy one, the base Giulia Sprint comes with a 280-horsepower four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive. Stepping up to the apex predator variant, the Quadrifoglio will cost you significantly more, but net you 505 hp and one of the great V6 engine notes.


audi compact sedans
The Audi A3 Sportback. Photo by Audi

Best Trim Options: Audi A3

The basic A3 is just that, kind of basic. Basic doesn’t mean bad though. Being an Audi, it’s got a great and incredibly usable interior, and all-wheel drive is a nice-to-have for many and a must-have for some. The nice thing about the A3 is that Audi will kindly sell you a not-so-basic version called the RS 3 and that is a different beast altogether.

The base A3 comes with a front-wheel drive layout, powered by a 2.0-litre engine making 201 hp, and is paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. A step up from there gives you Quattro all-wheel drive. Next up the ladder is the Audi S3 which comes standard with all-wheel drive and a 306 hp variant of the 2.0-litre turbo motor. The true Audi nerd with money to burn will be interested in the RS 3, though. This little terror comes with a true-to-brand inline-five-cylinder engine producing a very robust 401 hp and all-wheel drive. It also features reverse staggered wheels, meaning the front wheels (which do most of the work in this case) are wider than the rears. It weirds out people in traffic, but it looks awesome.

Audi compact sedans
Photo by Audi

Best for Bad Weather: Audi A4

The venerable Audi A4 is a sensible German luxury sedan for sensible people. It’s got subdued, but handsome styling and Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive. You can get it with a tame 201 hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a slightly spicier 261 hp version of that engine. If you step up to the S4 that’s slightly more aggressive, you get a 349 hp turbocharged six-cylinder engine. Sadly, the days of the hot version RS 4 are long gone so 349 hp is as good as you’re going to get.

In typical Audi fashion, the restrained but handsome exterior styling leads to restrained but handsome interior styling. Audi interiors are known for being well laid out and featuring great tech, and the A4 is no exception. It’s got comfy seats and decent visibility, and if you have to drive your boss and a coworker from the accounting firm that employs you to a working lunch, they’ll be impressed but not too impressed.

BMW compact sedans
Photo by Fabian Kirchbauer

Best as a compact car: BMW 2 Series

When BMW’s 2 Series was introduced, it felt like a bit of a balm for what BMW had become. Its cars had become larger, more expensive, more complicated and their styling was more polarising. Unlike the 1 Series that came before it, the 2 Series was offered in both a two-door and a four-door configuration under the “Gran Coupe” moniker which is essentially BMW for “curvy sedan.” It is small (for a modern car) but carries the torch for BMW enthusiasts in a few ways.

First, it doesn’t have the grille of the 3 and 4 Series. That’s a big one. Next, its small size makes it more nimble, lighter, and easier to park. All good things for the sporty urbane Bimmer buyer. The 2 Series Gran Coupe also doesn’t get any of the rowdiness of the M2 but you can’t have everything. For those with such intentions, the M235i xDrive is probably your best bet here.

BMW compact sedans
Photo by Fabian Kirchbauer

Best for Sporty Driving: BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series is the original compact luxury sedan and while it’s changed significantly since its inception in the 1980s, it’s still one hell of a choice for someone wanting to blur the lines between sporty and luxurious. True, this generation has a face that only a German engineer could love, but the rest of the styling inside and out is great. The cabin is comfy and well laid out if typically BMW spartan.

Powertrain options go from mild to wild fairly quickly. If you just want something chic and reasonably economical to motor around in, then the 255 hp 330i is the car for you. It’s a rear-wheel drive, as all the best Bimmers are and what you give up in raw power, you get back in kilometres per litre, with BMW claiming 14.5 km/l highway.

If you’re a mid-tier executive with a penchant for canyon carving, then the M3 Competition is available and friends, it is one hell of a ride. It’s got a 503 hp turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine and a sub-four-second 0-100 time. You can get it with a good automatic transmission or a manual (for now). It’s also available in a down-tuned 473 hp version for people concerned about the number of points on their license.

Photo by Cadillac

Best on a Budget: 2024 Cadillac CT4-V

Cadillac’s compact CT4 sedan often gets overlooked in favour of its bigger, meaner sibling, the CT5 – particularly in the snarling, fire-breathing V8-powered V Blackwing trim. Comparatively, even the most potent version of the CT4 has to make do with a twin-turbo V6, albeit one that makes 476 hp but the CT4 has more to offer than just its four- and six-cylinder drivetrains. It’s actually a handsome little sedan with typically sharp Caddy exterior styling and a slightly dated, if comfortable interior.

Photo by Kelly Serfoss

Best for Comfort: Genesis G70

The Genesis G70 started out as the fancy cousin to the super wonderful Kia Stinger. Since then, though, it’s become its own thing and today it’s a handsome, quick car that offers a ton of luxury features for a reasonable price compared to its European competition.

The base model comes with a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 300 hp, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 3.3-litre V6 model has a surprisingly potent-feeling 365 hp and is paired with the same transmission. It’s available in all or rear-wheel drive.

lexus compact sedans
Photo by Lexus

Best Value: Lexus IS

The Lexus IS is what you buy when you want the least problematic luxury ownership experience possible. Everything from the dealership purchase experience to service is designed to be as easy and painless as possible, but, be warned, this is a gateway drug to repeat Lexus purchases. Sure, you’re young and cool and buy a rowdy little IS 500 in Grecian Water to start, but before long you’re contemplating RXs and even RZs and your hair is grey and you spend upwards of 12 hours a week worrying about your pension.

Seriously though, Lexus has its reputation for a reason. They’re among the best-built luxury cars you can buy and if you can get over the IS’s dated interior, you could do a lot worse in the compact luxury sedan segment. The base IS 300 RWD gets a 241 hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a really nice interior clad in Lexus’ not-leather Nuluxe.

If you want slightly more excitement, the top-tier IS 500 gives you a similar experience but with the much-loved naturally aspirated 5-litre 472 hp V8 and more aggressive styling and suspension tuning. Not exactly super aggressive, just more aggressive. The engine is the real showpiece here and V8s like this are becoming rarer, so get while the getting is good.

Photo by Volvo

Best Hybrid: Volvo S60

Volvo, like basically every other brand, isn’t putting a great deal of effort into its non-SUV and non-electric platforms. This is true of the S60 as well as the S90, but the S60 still has a lot going for it. First, it’s almost achingly pretty, just like the rest of the Volvo lineup. Next, it’s only available in the 455 hp T8 Recharge plug-in hybrid trim, which is pretty dang good if not as thrilling as that power figure would lead you to believe. Lastly, it’s not crazy expensive compared to the rest of the class.

Sure the interior is feeling a little old, and the infotainment system isn’t the best in the business, but the seats are uber-comfortable and the cabin is a relaxing place to be. Plus you’re not going to look like some kind of nouveau-middle-management try-hard when you pull up to the valet stand at El Coyote. That’s worth something. You might look like a dentist, but at least you’ll look like a cool dentist.