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Best used executive cars (and one to avoid)

What's the best used executive car for you? Our handy guide to the 10 best on the UK market will help you decide...


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by
Mark Pearson

Best used executive cars 2019 (and the ones to avoid)

Despite the huge rise in the popularity of SUVs over the last few years, traditional executive cars are still immensely popular with the buying public. After all, with standards in this class incredibly high thanks to years of continuous development by manufacturers such as Audi and BMW, among others, any executive car has to be at the top of its game if it’s to be a worthwhile purchase.

Fortunately, buyers of used executive cars can also benefit from these high standards. At just a few years old, all that fantastic technology, not to mention the smart looks, comfort, driver appeal and everyday usability, start to become available for very reasonable prices.

But which is the best used executive car to buy? Here’s a round-up of our top 10 to help you decide.

10

Audi A5 Sportback

Styish, efficient and classy: the Audi A5 Sportback is ideal for those who hanker after all the looks of a coupé but need some of the additional practicality of an executive car. Rear occupants won't have quite as much room to stretch out in compared with the regular Audi A4, but that's the sacrifice you have to make for the sleeker looks. Watch out for a firm ride on S line models with the sports suspension. 

We found: 2017 Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI quattro Sport, 45,000 miles, £26,990

Pros

  • Class-leading interior quality
  • Powerful and efficient engines
  • Practical for a four-door coupe

Cons

  • Not as involving to drive as some rivals
  • Rivals have more kit as standard
9

Mazda 6

Reliability and quality are the hallmarks of the Mazda 6; it feels beautifully built inside and has a great reputation for long service and dependability. But it isn’t a one-trick pony; it’s also great to drive, with sharp responses and punchy engines, and it’s remarkably fuel efficient. If you want a smart executive car that shouldn’t let you down, the 6 ticks those boxes.

We found: 2019 Mazda 6 2.0 SE-L Nav, 30,000 miles, £19,995

Pros

  • Impressive fuel economy
  • Strong but quiet diesel engine
  • Excellent infotainment system

Cons

  • Firm low-speed ride
  • Not as much fun to drive as some rivals
  • Rear head room for taller passengers
8

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Few executive cars look quite as slinky or drive quite as well as the Alfa Romeo Giulia. It’s actually very comfortable, too, with a supple ride in most versions, and you'll get plenty of equipment. All versions come with a punchy yet efficient range of engines. But it's its quick steering and eager handling that'll please the keen driver here. Few others in our top 10 can match it.  

We found: 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.2 JTDM Super auto, 20,000 miles, £22,000

Pros

  • Good to drive
  • Well equipped
  • Strong performance

Cons

  • Awkward boot opening
  • Disappointing interior quality
  • Rear seat space
7

Jaguar XE

This suave four-door ticks many desirable boxes. It features a traditional rear-wheel-drive layout, plenty of driver appeal, plus all the style and equipment buyers could want. It’s refined on the motorways and the ride is comfortable. True, there are others that are better finished inside and more spacious, but none handle as sweetly - if you’re after a sporty executive saloon look no further. 

We found: 2017 Jaguar XE 2.0d R-Sport, 25,000 miles, £19,995

Pros

  • Agile handling
  • Well equipped
  • Efficient engines

Cons

  • Limited rear space
  • Some interior materials feel low rent
  • Can be expensive to run
6

Audi A3 Saloon

It’s rather small by comparison with its rivals here, and consequently, it’s tight on space in the boot and rear seats, but the Audi A3’s fantastic combination of comfort, efficiency and agility might make it worth the sacrifice. And, of course, you get the same fabulous interior you do in all of these 2013-2020 A3s. What’s more, those diminutive dimensions make it one of the easiest cars on our list to drive and park. If you don't need the extra space it makes for a fantastic executive saloon.

We found: 2016 Audi A3 1.4 TFSI Sport S tronic, 35,000 miles, £18,995

Pros

  • Powerful and efficient engines
  • Excellent blend of comfort and agility
  • Classy interior

Cons

  • Rear-seat space limited
  • Boot not huge
  • Firm low-speed ride on some models
5

Tesla Model 3

The only fully electric car on our list, but the Model 3 is a great proposition if it fits into your lifestyle. It's good to drive and well equipped, and even the Standard Plus model, which will be the cheapest used buy, is WLTP-certified for a claimed range on a full charge of up to 254 miles, or 267 miles for the post-2020 facelifted version. It'll also see off the 0-60mph dash in just 6.1sec, and do it all in a hushed, smooth and suave manner. 

We found: 2019 Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus, 29,000 miles, £39,000

Pros

  • Tremendous performance
  • Long range
  • Surprisingly practical

Cons

  • Build quality could be better
  • Ride and handling not up to top ICE rivals
4

Volkswagen Passat

The Passat is a fantastic all-rounder, blending comfort and efficiency with handling that’s pleasant enough and an interior that's delightfully classy. There’s plenty of room for everyone, too, and a capacious boot; it even looks good, and used prices are really competitive. Reliability is another strong point in this impressive car's favour. 

We found: 2017 Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI 190 GT, 46,000 miles, £18,995

Pros

  • Spacious and comfortable interior
  • Classy and refined
  • Well equipped in higher trims

Cons

  • Low-speed ride can be firm
  • Boot opening not as versatile as a hatchback's
  • Looks expensive next to non-premium rivals
3

BMW 3 Series

This previous-gen BMW 3 Series is great to drive and is available with a wide selection of superb engines that are extremely efficient. What’s more, it’s spacious enough for the average family and most versions are very comfortable. It’s even priced reasonably now. If you've got more money burning a hole, though, check out the latest-generation car, which is pricier but even more competent and classy. 

We found: 2017 BMW 3 Series 320d M Sport, 40,000 miles, £19,995

Pros

  • Great to drive
  • Classy interior
  • Well equipped

Cons

  • Hard ride on M Sport suspension
  • Offset pedals in manual version
  • 2015 onwards have an improved diesel engine
2

Skoda Superb

The clue is in the name, it would seem. The Superb is good to drive, can be found with a wide selection of engines and is extremely efficient. What’s more, it’s spacious enough to moonlight as a limousine and every version is extremely comfortable. For the money, there's almost nothing to touch the all-round capabilities of the Skoda Superb. 

We found: 2018 Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI SE Technology auto, 30,000 miles, £17,000

Pros

  • Vast interior and boot
  • Good value for money used
  • High-quality materials

Cons

  • Some rivals are more fun to drive
  • Diesel engines are occasionally gruff
  • 2.0-litre petrols are quick, but rather thirsty
1

Audi A4

Possibly the classiest car here, the Audi A4 continues to live up to its award-winning reputation and is still one the best executive cars you can buy, new or used. It isn’t as lively to drive as the BMW 3 Series but it is still deeply impressive on the road and good fun, and it's wonderfully refined too. It also has a comfortable ride (as long as you avoid big wheels on S line models), a well-built interior and loads of desirable equipment. It's a fantastic all-rounder. 

We found: 2018 Audi A4 1.4 TFSI Sport, 22,000 miles, £18,995

Pros

  • Class-leading interior
  • Extensive engine choice
  • Very comfortable

Cons

  • Uninspiring handling
  • S line ride quality
  • Ultra version uses uncomfortable S Line sports suspension

Infiniti Q50

Its handsome looks might tempt you, but the Infiniti Q50 is thirsty, noisy and odd to drive, due to its vague steering. And, despite all of that, it doesn’t come cheap. Read our review