The term “luxury car” may conjure up feelings of exclusivity, but compact luxury sedans are some of the most common cars on the road. There is good reason for their near-ubiquity: they offer an ideal combination of driving performance, upscale features, passenger comfort, cargo space, and, in many cases, reasonable lease payments.
So which one is right for you? We’ve distilled and summarized eight of the most popular options, based on month-over-month sales figures in 2017 — plus the buzzy Alfa Romeo Giulia for good measure. Read on to learn about the pros and cons that characterize each of the contenders in the compact luxury sedan market.
2018 Acura ILX
Starting price: $27,990
Pros: Thirty-five miles per gallon on the highway is one of the best fuel economies in this segment. The Acura ILX benefits from having one of the lowest base prices on this list, too.
Cons: The car’s performance is underwhelming, the ride is rough, and interior materials are not a huge jump over cars from Honda, Acura’s parent company. It also has Acura’s maddening infotainment system.
2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia
Starting price: $37,995
Pros: Performance is the name of the game with the Giulia. It has brisk acceleration — as much as 505 horsepower with the forthcoming Quadrifoglio — and incredibly direct steering. This is the alternative for the enthusiast driver.
Cons: Despite its price, the Giulia comes with fewer standard features than its rivals, and the second row is a bit cramped.
2018 Audi A4
Starting price: $36,000
Pros: The Audi A4 is a tech-savvy option. Its clean, futuristic cabin is packed with features like Audi’s impressive infotainment system. Heated seats are standard, and the “Virtual Cockpit” features a fully digital instrument panel on which you can project the navigation system.
Cons: The base engine is somewhat underwhelming, and the steering feels numb, despite its responsive suspension.
2018 BMW 3 Series
Starting price: $33,450
Pros: The BMW 3 Series comes in a range of engines and models, including the potent 340i as well as efficient hybrid and diesel variants. The cabin is spacious for its size, and the handling is terrific. The iDrive infotainment system is easy to use and is a partial touchscreen for 2018. Wireless charging, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are also available now.
Cons: For all BMW’s “ultimate driving machine” talk, the base 320i is pretty underwhelming. You have to shell out to get most options, including the advanced safety features.
2018 Cadillac ATS
Starting price: $34,595
Pros: The Cadillac ATS shares a platform with Camaro, which is evident in the vehicle’s terrific cornering ability. Even the base engine provides plenty of power as well.
Cons: Although it’s a nice standard feature, the CUE infotainment system could use some work. Also, the trunk and rear seat don’t feel very spacious, and the fuel economy isn’t exactly stellar compared with the competition.
2018 Infiniti Q50
Starting price: $34,200
Pros: The base engine provides enough power, but the engine to get is the V6, which makes as much as 400 horsepower. Trunk space is pretty impressive for the class. The Predictive Forward Collision Warning can anticipate a potential incident two cars ahead.
Cons: It has poor fuel economy numbers, and the dual-screen infotainment system is pretty confusing.
2018 Jaguar XE
Starting price: $35,725
Pros: The freshest face in this segment features a downsized version of Jaguar’s head-turning looks. All engines are strong, including the V6, which gets a power boost from 340 to 380 horsepower for 2018.
Cons: Despite Jaguar’s reputation for luxury, some of it is lost in the XE’s cabin. The layout is great, but the materials are not up to the rest of Jag’s lineup.
2018 Lexus IS
Starting price: $37,825
Pros: This vehicle offers a smooth ride. Lexus now offers some serious safety tech as standard equipment, including lane-departure warning, automatic high-beams, and a collision avoidance system with pedestrian detection.
Cons: The performance doesn’t back up its aggressive looks, and the RemoteTouch controller has a serious learning curve.
2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Starting price: $40,250
Pros: Mercedes-Benz brings all the style and fit-and-finish of its larger cars to the C-Class. Every engine in the lineup provides brisk acceleration, too.
Cons: It’s the most expensive base price on this list. Rear seat space is somewhat tight. The COMAND infotainment system is quite complicated and requires some time to learn.