1. Genesis G70
One of the challengers to the usual compact luxury sedan lineup is the Genesis G70, which is a new car offered through the Korean luxury brand Genesis. In terms of style, it's riffing off the BMW 3-Series and thus aimed at that car's fanbase. The G70 includes all-wheel drive (AWD) as an option with rear-wheel-drive standard, plus a twin-turbo, 365-horsepower V6, as one of the engine choices.
All models of the G70 are equipped with automatic transmissions standard, and as of 2021, the G70 is the only compact luxury sedan in its class to offer a manual six-speed transmission that is paired with the G70's four-cylinder engine choice. The G70 not only offers luxury styling, but the $35,895 base price is a steal compared to what it generally competes with.
2. Audi A5 Sportback
The A5 Sportback combines aspects from the A5 two-door coupe and the A4 four-door sedan and creates something completely new and stylish. The Sportback's larger size versus the A5 has a more elegant profile while the rear hatchback provides even more cargo room versus the A5 or the A4. The Sportback thus delivers a more practical and visually appealing car. It also offers precise handling, a smooth ride, and plenty of power with a turbocharged four-cylinder under the hood.
With a base price range of $40,145-$50,845, the Audi A5 is competitive in pricing for the compact luxury sedan segment. Available engines for the A5 include a 2.0L turbo I-4 (188 horsepower, 236 lb-ft); and a 2.0L turbo I-4 (248 horsepower, 273 lb-ft) option. Depending on engine choice, the A5 has adequate fuel economy at 24-27/32-35/27-30 mpg respectively.
3. Alfa Romeo Giulia
With distinctive Italian styling and luxury, the Alfa Romeo Giulia is quick and powerful. The Giulia sports sedan offers two choices of engines in the 280 horsepower turbo four-cylinder and the 505-horsepower twin-turbo V6. A sharp-shifting eight-speed automatic is paired with both engines to provide excellent performance. Even though the Giulia has had some reliability problems in the past, it's hard to top its satisfying driving experience and an attractive base price at just under $40,000.
With entry-level pricing and Italian luxury, the Giulia is a driver's car that delivers in performance and space. The back seat of the Giulia is well designed and spacious for up to three passengers. The Giulia is equipped with a user-friendly infotainment display and the trunk has 13 cubic feet of space. The 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia is offered in both RWD and AWD, with the AWD option applying all 505 horsepower to all four wheels, making the Giulia the sportiest car in the segment.
4. Audi A4
The A4 may not be the most exciting compact luxury sedan, but it has a surprising amount of standard features. Inside, you'll find a cabin with ergonomic and quality features and materials, plus plenty of advanced technology. Outside, the A4 offers a simple, but handsome styling, as well as optional Quattro AWD, paired with a 261-hp turbo four-cylinder. Other engine choices include a 349-hp turbo V6 and a 188-hp turbo-four that is only paired with front-wheel-drive models.
With a base MSRP of $39,100, the A4 is comparable to its smaller Audi A3 relative in price and powertrain options. The A4, however, has more legroom, and more standard safety features than the Audi A3. The driving dynamics differ between the two-sport sedans with the A4 having a more sporty and driver-focused feel.
5. Mercedes-Benz C-class
As a luxury stalwart, the Mercedes-Benz C-class offers nearly every option for luxury car buyers. Sedan, coupe and convertible body styles are available on the C-Class. The entry-level C 300 still serves luxury with a smooth ride and elegant interior, but you can get even more performance with the AMG C-43 model. Three engine options are available as well, including a turbo 255-hp four-cylinder, a twin-turbo 385-hp V6, and a twin-turbo 503-hp V8 for the AMG C-63 S.
With the AMG badging removed, the C-class is still all Benz with standard luxury features to include good ride-handling balance, an abundance of tech, and high-quality interior as we have all come to expect from the Mercedes-Benz name.
6. Infiniti Q50
The Q50 offers a compact luxury car package that is competitive within the compact luxury sedan segment. The edgy design of the Q50 is undoubtedly one of the best visuals in the luxury car segment with an aggressive front end and slanted headlights. The power doesn't fail to impress either with a 400-horsepower V6 being available on the Red Sport trim.
The Q50 has an inspiring build quality that shows both internally and externally. The Q50 starts with a base price range of $37,625-$58,872 dependent on trim level. The ride quality in the Q50 is a bit stiff and lacks many of the industry-standard driver assistant technology.
7. Kia Stinger
The Stinger is another Korean model adding a refreshing style to the compact luxury sedan class. Featuring a rear-wheel-drive hatchback chassis, with all-wheel drive optional, the Stinger somewhat resembles the Audi A5 Sportback. Also, like the Sportback, the Stinger has an expansive cargo area beyond the rear liftgate. It doesn't lack horsepower either, as it boasts a 365-hp twin-turbo V6 in the GT trim. The four-cylinder Stinger model is no slouch, either, with a 255-hp four-cylinder. The base price starts just below $34,000.
The Stinger GT is essentially a sports car with four doors and room for five. The interior of the Stinger is where luxury starts to fade, however, as the interior is subpar in comparison to its direct rivals in the compact luxury sedan market.
8. BMW 3 Series
It is hard to think about compact luxury cars without considering the BMW 3 Series. It has been a top pick year after year and, though it may feel a bit dated compared to some competitors, it's still a solid choice. The 3 Series is well-rounded with two engine choices, a sporty profile, and plenty of interior tech features. The 330i with a four-cylinder turbocharged engine making 255 horsepower is the base choice, while the M340i with a turbocharged inline-six making 382 horsepower is the upgraded choice.
The 3 Series comes up short in the 2021 model year, making the list of best cars in the compact luxury sedan segment, but being slightly behind the competition in interior quality and driving dynamics. The BMW 3 series was once a benchmark for other luxury sedan manufacturers to chase and has since become the average car in the series. The 3 series has a base MSRP range of $42,245-$56,695, which is average for the class.
9. Volvo S60
The Volvo S60 has finally been redesigned to feature a more modern profile reminiscent of other recent Volvos. Like some of the other models listed, the Volvo entry challenges the standard luxury mainstream. The S60 offers solid engine choices with a base T5 front-wheel-drive with a 250-horsepower turbo-four, a 316-hp turbo and supercharged four called the T6 all-wheel-drive, plus that same engine combined with an 87-hp electric motor on T8 Plug-In Hybrid models. Inside, you'll find a simple but stylish interior with a sizable touchscreen.
The Volvo S60 is a great alternative to the main compact luxury sedan brands and has the interior quality and standard safety features to back up their redesigned S60. The S60 lacks, however, in sporty performance that other vehicles in the compact luxury segment offer.
10. Lexus IS
The Lexus IS offers three engine choices in a RWD drivetrain, a 2.0L turbo I-4 (241 hp, 258 lb-ft); a 3.5L V-6 (260 hp, 236 lb-ft); and a 3.5L V-6 (311 hp, 280 lb-ft). The interior of the IS has been updated for the 2021-2022 model year and offers new styling and an infotainment system compatible with both Apple Car Play and Android Auto.
The rear seat is just as comfortable a place to sit as the front of the IS, unlike the Lexus RC, which is a coupe variant of the Lexus IS. Acceleration is somewhat disappointing in comparison to the other vehicles in the class, and the base price range is $39,000-$42,900.
11. Volkswagen Arteon
The Volkswagen Arteon has a hatchback body style and is an extremely practical compact sedan. The four-door luxury sedan is new to the luxury segment and does not disappoint when it comes to interior design and quality. Equipped with a turbocharged 268-horsepower four-cylinder engine, the Arteon provides an exciting driving experience. There is plenty of cabin space for seating five, and the cargo space is abundant at 27 cubic feet.
Volkswagen gives the 2021 Arteon fresh exterior details and various interior updates. New for 2021 the Arteon has better interior materials and redesigned elements. Examples of this redesign are a thicker and more distinctive steering wheel, more intricate air vents, touch-sensitive climate controls, and adjustable ambient interior lighting. The Arteon is compatible with both Apple Car Play and Android Auto. The Volkswagen Arteon has a starting MSRP of $36,840.
12. Tesla Model 3
The four-door Model 3 is a fairly new car offered by Tesla and it offers exciting acceleration combined with a minimalist, tech-heavy interior and, of course, it's completely electric. The Model 3 is Tesla's entry-level option and has an entry-level price of $38,490 for the base Model 3.
For those unaware, Tesla supports a network of charging stations that run nationwide, so you can drive nearly anywhere with the Model 3's long driving range plus abundant stations to recharge. The more expensive models of the Tesla Model 3 offer longer range and more power.
13. Acura TLX
The Acura TLX has a strong list of standard and available active safety features and is equipped with an infotainment system. The base model TLX is a front-wheel drive, four-cylinder vehicle. The V-6 model can be paired with Acura's signature torque-vectoring Super-Handling AWD. The TLX is a new-from-the-ground-up design that takes inspiration from the Acura Type-S concept.
The inspiration delivers a more sporty chassis and handling in the TLX, making the sedan feel like a sports car. The infotainment system in the TLX is not as user-friendly as other infotainment systems offered in other vehicles and can be frustrating for some users. The TLX starts with a base price range of $38,525—$47,325.
14. Mercedes-Benz CLA250
The Mercedes-Benz CLA is an entry-level compact luxury sedan offered by Mercedes-Benz at a starting MSRP of $38,900. The CLA utilizes the Mercedes-Benz A-Class platform, but the CLA offers a more coupe-like sports car design and driving feel. The CLA250 is equipped with a 221-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and has a newly upgraded interior offering a 7.0- or 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The CLA performs well with nimble handling and is sports car-focused.
The rear seat is a bit cramped for passengers, but the CLA does seat five. Cargo space is more than enough for most usages. Overall, the CLA250 represents the modern Mercedes-Benz experience in a smaller package. The CLA250 is offered in FWD standard, but a CLA250 4Matic option is available, providing AWD for a starting price of $40,900.
15. Cadillac CT4
The Cadillac CT4 is the only American vehicle in the compact luxury sedan segment. With unique styling, the CT4 is an entry-level Cadillac aimed at driving enthusiasts and luxury seekers at the same time. The CT4 offers two turbocharged four-cylinder engines that offer a 237-horsepower 2.0-liter standard, or the optional 310-hp 2.7-liter. New for 2021, Cadillac revealed a CT4-V Blackwing that offers even more performance. Several safety features are included, such as autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot alert, lane-keep assist, reverse automatic braking, and adaptive cruise control.
The CT4 falls short on the interior design, however, and is lesser than the entry-level compact cars in the class such as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
The Cadillac CT4 has an entry-level price of $34,390. Rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available on all models. The CT4 seats five and is equipped with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy with the base model CT4 is 23 MPG city and 32-34 MPG highway.