The compact luxury car has long been a fixture among premium brands as a gateway for upwardly mobile customers. In recent years, however, compact sedans have given way to compact SUVs among new car buyers.
Some brands, such as Buick and Lincoln, have gotten out of the sedan category altogether in favor of all-SUV lineups, while others like Cadillac and Jaguar, have significantly pared down their sedan offerings.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t new and competitive models in this class, far from that. Several big names among compact luxury sedans have new or recently introduced models, including traditional internal combustion engines, plug-in hybrids, and fully electric models.
In alphabetical order, here are 10 of the best compact luxury sedans for 2022.
1. Acura TLX
The Acura TLX was completely redone for 2021 as the brand decided to double-down on its performance heritage while stepping away from middle-of-the-road products like the ILX and old TLX. While still either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, the TLX at least gained far more aggressive styling, a wider stance, and more power from a 272-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and 10-speed automatic transmission.
But that’s not exactly exciting among rivals anymore, so late in the 2021 model year, Acura added the TLX Type S, with a turbocharged, 3.0-liter V6 and 355 horsepower, along with the brand’s SH-AWD, which stands for “super handling all-wheel-drive,” and does its best to remind enthusiasts of Acura, and parent Honda's, racing lineage. In a bid to make the TLX a competitive sports sedan, Acura succeeded with the Type S. But every version of the TLX features a reasonably spacious interior, lots of standard technology features, and a comprehensive list of standard driver assistance features. Starting from $38,745 and rising to $53,845 for the Type S, the 2022 TLX is as aggressively priced as it is styled.
2. Alfa Romeo Giulia
Perhaps the most off-the-wall choice in this field, the Alfa Romeo Giulia is expressive in the way it looks, sounds, and drives. The $44,945 Giulia doesn’t try to appeal to the masses and instead goes after feeling more special than the major players in this class. Instead, it doubles down on driving enthusiasm, distinctive styling, and its Italian heritage. The Giulia is one of the few players in this class with standard rear-wheel drive, which also helps its performance credibility and driving dynamics. All-wheel-drive is an option, which helps make up for the tight interior packaging and unremarkable material quality and infotainment system, but then that’s not what the Alfa Romeo is about.
The standard 280-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is energetic enough, and mated to an eight-speed automatic, with optional all-wheel drive. But for one of the closest things to a four-door Ferrari, there’s the $80,755 Giulia Quadrifoglio with a 505-horsepower, twin-turbo 2.9-liter V6 and one of the most ferocious exhaust notes out there, making it more of a rival to a Porsche than anything else here. Powerful engines aside, the Giulia is an acquired taste. But for the right driver, and perhaps one looking for a more practical sports car, it could be the best choice in this category.
3. Audi A4
For nearly three decades, the Audi A4 has been the thinking person’s compact luxury sedan. It didn’t have the performance of a BMW, the badge appeal of a Mercedes-Benz, and it would be easy to call it stoic, at the very least. But after five generations and consistent refinements, the A4 no longer requires much thought about why it’s such a complete package. Starting from $41,590, every A4 gets Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system for wet-weather security, as well as respectable handling. Two turbocharged four-cylinder engines are now offered: a 201-horsepower 2.0-liter on the 40 TFSI, and a 261-horsepower version on the 45 TFSI. Neither is slow, but the 45 TFSI is plenty powerful for all situations and doesn't hurt the MPG figures too badly, either.
Still, the higher-performance S4 offers even more power. The $53,000 sedan uses a 349-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 and also incorporates more aggressive suspension and steering settings, as well as revised styling. But all A4 and S4 models use the same, mostly intuitive infotainment system, and offer lots of technology such as Audi’s virtual cockpit display, a Bang & Olufsen audio system, and LED exterior lighting that does the brand’s typical animated dance on locking and unlocking. Those willing to take the hatchback route should look at the related Audi A5 Sportback, but for sedan holdouts, it's hard to go wrong with an A4.
4. BMW 3 Series
The standard-bearer in this class, the BMW 3 Series continues as one of the leading compact luxury sedans available. Part of that is because BMW effectively established the compact premium sedan more than 50 years ago with 2002 and the 3 Series helped popularize the automaker in the US. And today, the 3 Series offers a broad lineup for different budgets, tastes, and propulsion requirements. But once behind the wheel of any 3 Series, drivers can see and feel how user-friendly it is, from the easy-to-use controls and high-quality and high-tech equipment. Even the back seat is relatively roomy, never a given in a BMW.
The mainstream $42,445 330i comes with a 255-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, also available with all-wheel drive, that’s more than adequate in most situations. It’s also fuel-efficient, but not as much as the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) 330e, which adds an electric motor and boosts power to 288 horsepower and an electric-only range of 23 miles. For more power, however, there’s the M340i and its 385 horsepower from a 3.0-liter turbo six-cylinder. Finally, there are the performance-oriented M3 and M3 Competition and their 473 and 503 horsepower, respectively, from twin-turbo six-cylinder. Starting from about $72,000, those M3s will cost substantially more than many rivals and BMW options still don’t come cheap. As the BMW 2 Series coupe likely remains too subcompact for most people and the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe is a more expensive hatchback variant, the 3 Series lineup might be the Goldilocks choice for most buyers.
5. Cadillac CT5
Even those who are good at predicting the future likely didn’t expect the relatively compact CT5 would be the largest sedan offering from Cadillac in 2022. But while it’s quickly becoming another SUV company, Cadillac’s sporty sedan aspirations haven’t ended based on the range of engines and performance models in the CT5 lineup. Turbocharged four and six-cylinder engines power more mainstream versions, while the CT5-V Blackwing gets a supercharged V8 and a dizzying 668 horsepower, the most of any entry here and a formula for an entertaining driving experience.
But every CT5 has the specs sheet of a quality sports sedan, with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and even a manual transmission on the top Blackwing as an alternative to the 10-speed automatic offered elsewhere in the lineup. The Cadillac’s relatively tidy dimensions don’t do rear-seat passengers any favors, but it does help make the handling as sharp as an Alfa Romeo or BMW. While the interior quality and infotainment systems aren’t anywhere near those of the Audi or Mercedes’ and the whole design looks outdated next to the Tesla and Volvo, Cadillac’s excellent Super Cruise hands-free driver assistance system that monitors the driver’s eye movements in highway driving is perhaps the best tech of its kind available. And considering that prices start from a reasonable $38,190 to $48,990 for a V6-powered CT5-V and $85,565 for the high-performance Blackwing, the CT5 shows Cadillac isn’t giving up the sedan market without a fight.
6. Genesis G70
Hyundai’s luxury arm, Genesis, has already been rattling the established upscale brands with its high-dollar styling matched with aggressive prices. While it’s finally getting the SUVs to compete on volume, the four-year-old G70 sedan has always had the right recipe to be a leading compact luxury sedan. With standard rear-wheel drive and optional all-wheel drive, four and six-cylinder turbocharged engines, and a tightly tuned chassis shared with the Kia Stinger premium hatchback, it all looks ripped out of the standard sports sedan playbook.
For 2022, the G70’s styling got a sharp revision to bring it in line with newer Genesis models, but also to spark renewed interest in the car. But with either the 252-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-four or the ferocious 365-horsepower twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6, the Genesis feels a notch above some of the more relaxed and comfort-oriented cars here. And with prices going from $38,870 to $43,445, it’s easy to waste time finding out where costs were cut. Good luck. The G70 is snugger in the rear seat than rivals and neighbors and people walking by will constantly ask what a Genesis is, but considering how extremely competent it is, picking the G70 over formidable competitors is worth consideration.
7. Lexus IS
On paper, the Lexus IS is another car that flies in the face of the move to electrification. Unusual for a Lexus product, there isn’t a hybrid version available. It’s available with a turbo four-cylinder, two V6s without turbos, and — new for 2022 — a 472-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 with rear-wheel drive or, on a V6, all-wheel-drive. As long as easing into an electric future isn’t on the checklist, there’s now an IS for many buyers.
Lexus might not offer the most advanced infotainment system on the IS, and the whole interior is snug and starting to look as anachronistic as a big V8 engine in 2022, but at least driver assistance features such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring are standard across the lineup, unlike most rivals. And then that might not be the point of the IS, considering buyers looking for a more spacious, comfortable, or efficient Lexus sedan always have the ES and ES Hybrid. The IS, especially in V8 IS 500 F Sport Performance guise, has reflexes sharp enough to rival even the Alfa Romeo Giulia, let alone a BMW 3 Series, yet the interior finishes and overall sense of quality could make an Audi or Mercedes owner blush. And with prices starting from just under $40,000 for an IS 300 rear-wheel-drive to $62,500 for an IS 500, there’s a reasonable amount of choice in the IS lineup.
8. Mercedes-Benz C-Class
While the C-Class has been around for nearly 30 years, the 2022 model is almost entirely new — a rarity in this diminishing category. But Mercedes has been a formidable competitor and up there with Audi and BMW, so a new C-Class is still a big deal. While the engine in the mainstream, rear-wheel-drive C 300 is still a 255-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, it gets a 48-volt mild hybrid system for better efficiency and passing power. The 4Matic all-wheel-drive system remains optional. And more efficiency is a good thing, because the new C-Class is slightly larger than the outgoing model, offering more space inside. Higher-performance Mercedes-AMG models are set to follow soon.
But the big news is a greater technological emphasis with two 12-inch displays for vehicle functions and infotainment, closely modeled after the arrangement in the updated S-Class flagship sedan with technology similar to that in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and CLA entry-level sedans. An adaptive cruise control system that uses data from the navigation to slow the car around corners is also available. Prices range from $44,600 to $48,550 before any typically pricey Mercedes options, but those looking for a gasoline-powered compact luxury sedan continue to have valid reasons to put the C-Class high on the shopping list.
9. Tesla Model 3
The most formidable compact luxury sedan of the moment, at least in terms of sales, is the Tesla Model 3. There might be some debate on whether it’s really a rival for the A4 and 3 Series, but with more than 100,000 sales in the US alone last year, it’s one of the best-selling sedans at any price, thanks to its technological halo and powerful all-electric powertrains. And while it might not be the least expensive EV around, at $46,190 for the rear-wheel-drive, single motor version, and up to 272 miles of range, the Model 3 sits firmly in the middle of this class — regardless of propulsion. And the $52,000 long range, all-wheel-drive version can muster up to 358 miles on a full charge.
Downsides? The lack of nearly all physical controls routes many vital vehicle functions through the massive touchscreen in the middle of the dash, which takes acclimation. Neither Android Auto nor Apple CarPlay are offered, either. The so-called Full Self-Driving Capability (spoiler: it isn’t) costs a jaw-dropping $12,000 extra, and all models have expensive extras — colors that aren’t white, an interior that isn’t black, etc. Tesla no longer qualifies for a federal tax credit like the BMW and Volvo PHEVs on this list, either, and its base prices have been known to change with the weather. But as a status symbol and futuristic image, nothing on this list topples the Tesla.
10. Volvo S60
It may live increasingly in the shadows of the brand’s highly popular SUV lineup, but there’s still much to like in the Volvo S60. Starting from just under $41,000, the midsize S60 is a well-equipped and spacious sedan, especially in this class. And its cool, modern Scandinavian styling inside and out still looks good in its fourth year on sale. But the S60 is also backed with many standard driver assistance features and also offers Volvo’s Pilot Assist advanced assistance system for highway driving, proving the brand hasn’t forgotten about its commitment to safety and safety features.
For 2022, the gasoline-only S60 B5 gets a new 48-volt mild-hybrid system connected to the familiar turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 247 horsepower. Connected to standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive, the engine can run on electric-only power longer than before and improves fuel economy by about 10%. However, the S60 Recharge and Polestar Engineered PHEVs combine an electric-only range of 22 miles, respectable fuel economy in hybrid mode, and as much as 455 horsepower. The S60 might not be a pure sports sedan, but its relaxed nature is refreshing for drivers looking for a safe, comfortable place to be.