Best executive cars 2023
A good executive car needs to be comfortable, classy and well equipped, yet also cheap to run. Here we name the best 10 executive cars on sale in the UK – plus one we recommend avoiding...
To do well in this run-down of the best executive cars, models need to combine two opposing qualities: luxury and affordability.
The best have plush interiors and enough soundproofing to keep them super-quiet during motorway driving, yet also have efficient engines – or are electric cars or plug-in hybrids – to make them cheap to run as company cars.
Driver enjoyment and comfort are also important. Plus, they should have a user-friendly dashboard layout and come equipped with the latest infotainment and safety technology.
Here, we reveal our top 10 executive car buys, and name the model it's best to avoid.
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Of course, if you don't fancy reading the full story and are simply looking for the best executive car, then look no further: the Tesla Model 3 is the best executive car you can buy.
For starters, it’s great to drive and gets a smart interior packed full of technology. The boot is a good size too, and it offers more space than you’ll find in the likes of the Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series.
If range is important, the Model 3 is also very competitive. The entry-level rear-wheel-drive model, for example, can officially cover 305 miles between charges.
Factor in strong performance, competitive pricing and tiny tax bills, and it’s not only a great electric car, but the best executive car you can buy.
- Savage acceleration – particularly in the Performance version
- Long range between charges
- Surprisingly practical
- Fast charging via Tesla's prolific Supercharger network
- Rivals are quieter on the move
- Handling not as entertaining as the best petrol-powered rivals
- Some may find the ride a touch firm
Many rivals outshine the Mercedes C-Class in terms of interior quality, but the C300e plug-in hybrid version offers a huge official electric-only range of 68 miles. That means it makes for a very cheap company car, offering almost double the official 37 miles the BMW 3 Series 330e can travel.
In the corners, the C-Class is also very composed – especially in C300e form with its standard rear air suspension. In fact, it strikes a wonderful balance between ride comfort and cornering composure, and does a brilliant job of managing the extra weight of the battery.
- Plug-in hybrid has an impressive ride
- Fuel economy and emissions compare well with rivals
- C300e has a very low company car tax rate
- Disappointing interior quality
- Not as much fun to drive as a BMW 3 Series
- Some road noise
For many, the BMW 3 Series remains the de facto executive car, and it's easy to see why. The latest version is the best-steering BMW of recent times and matches that with stellar body control and plenty of grip, yet still manages to serve up good ride comfort and relaxing refinement.
Our preferred version of the 3 Series is the 330e plug-in hybrid (PHEV). It offers strong performance and a decent official electric-only range of up to 37 miles, while promising lower running costs than non-hybrid versions.
The interior of the 3 Series also feels solid and well made (although it’s not quite a match for the Audi A4), and it gets one of the best infotainment systems in the business.
- Brilliant fun to drive
- Class-leading infotainment system
- Great range of engines
- Ride is rather firm – particularly in M Sport versions
- Not as well finished inside as an Audi A4
- Voice command or fiddly touchscreen only way to adjust climate control
Calling a car the Superb gives it a lot to live up to, but Skoda's executive car is fully deserving of its moniker.
It's comfortable, well made, generously equipped and great value for money. It’s also very spacious in the back seats (few cars this side of the Mercedes S-Class can match it), and the boot is massive.
It also gets a good range of engines, including petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid variants, although we think the 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol (badged as the 1.5 TSI 150) is the best option. No matter which version you go for, though, the Superb is definitely worth a place on your shortlist.
- Vast interior and boot space
- Exceptional value for money
- Classy, high-quality interior
- Some rivals are more fun to drive
- Sluggish dual-clutch automatic gearbox
- Not as quiet on motorways as the Audi A4
BMW's i4 electric car is fast, comfortable and extremely hushed at high speeds. Our preferred version is the eDrive40 model, which offers an impressive official range of 367 miles.
No matter which version you go for, though, the i4 is great to drive and smart inside, making it a compelling alternative to a Tesla Model 3. It’s also a good choice if you prioritise practicality, with its hatchback boot opening and 40/20/40 split folding rear seats.
However, if you cover a lot of motorway miles, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Model 3 has the BMW pipped, because it grants you access to a significantly better charging network.
- Brilliant performance
- Impressive official range
- Class-leading infotainment
- Relatively expensive to buy outright
- M50 not as sharp as Tesla Model 3 Performance
- BMW lacks Tesla’s world-beating charging infrastructure
Despite being launched in 2015, the Audi A4 is hard to fault in almost any area, so it’s still among the best executive cars around.
As you'd expect, the interior is luxurious and beautifully finished, with practical rear seats and a spacious boot. It's more comfortable than the BMW 3 Series too, although that car offers greater thrills behind the wheel.
Go for our recommended 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine (badged 35 TDI) and you’ll get gutsy performance combined with good fuel economy. If you’re looking for a tax-efficient plug-in hybrid, though, the A4 will leave you disappointed.
- Class-leading interior quality
- Smooth engines
- Entry-level engines are a touch weedy
- A BMW 3 Series is more fun to drive
- You can’t add many options
This newer addition to the list of executive models available is an electric car so it delivers really good economy as a company car (i.e. you'll pay very little benefit-in-kind tax to run one).
Better still, the Hyundai Ioniq 6 has a smart interior, is good to drive and quiet on the move, and charges at up to 220kW, so if you can find a fast enough public charger you won't be waiting around ages before you can hit the road again. Once charged up, the rear-wheel-drive RWD version we recommend is officially good for a range of up to 338 miles.
Performance in RWD form is quick enough (0-62mph in 7.4sec) but no match for the fastest electric models. There's also a four-wheel-drive version that manages 0-62mph in 5.1sec if rapid acceleration is your thing.
- Very quiet on the move
- Super-fast charging speeds
- Premium-feeling interior
- Headroom is tight for those over 6ft tall
- Not as sharp to drive as its looks suggest
- The Tesla Model 3 is more efficient
Like the Audi A3 family hatchback the A3 Saloon is tidy in the bends and very comfortable to drive. It also comes very well equipped, and gets many features that you would normally expect to find in much more expensive rivals.
There’s also a good range of engines, including petrols, diesels and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The 148bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged unit (35 TFSI) is our pick for its gutsy yet fuel-efficient nature.
If your budget can stretch to it, however, we’d recommend going for the bigger Audi A4. It’s a lot quieter and has a classier and more practical interior.
- Good ride and handling balance
- Punchy 35 TFSI petrol engine
- All versions are well equipped
- Distracting infotainment system
- Road noise at speed
- Small boot by class standards
Alfa Romeo's latest attempt at an executive car is also a strong effort. The Giulia – like the Jaguar XE –is an appealing choice if driving enjoyment is a top priority, but falls behind in similar areas such as quality and reliability.
However, where it steps ahead of the XE is with practicality, because it gets a much bigger boot and more spacious rear seats.
Behind the wheel, it’s quiet and composed on the motorway, yet it’s engaging to drive when the going gets twisty. It’s also available with a couple of petrol engines that are smooth, responsive and powerful – although those factors come at the cost of fuel economy.
- Engaging handling
- Strong performance
- All models are relatively well equipped
- No hybrid or plug-in hybrid (PHEV) options
- Rivals have a bigger boot
- Interior quality still can’t match German rivals
It’s competitively priced, well equipped and rewarding to drive, with excellent steering and sharp handling. On top of that, the suspension – even in standard form – is well controlled and supple enough to take the sting out of potholes.
If you value interior space, though, there are much better options. Plus, Jaguar doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability: it finished in 26th place out of 32 brands in our most recent Reliability Survey.
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- Agile, enjoyable handling
- Well priced and well equipped
- Comfortable ride
- Tight for rear-seat and boot space
- Interior could be classier
- So-so reliability record
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A good executive car needs to be comfortable, classy and well equipped, yet also cheap to run. Here we name the best 10 executive car models on sale in the UK right now – plus one we recommend avoiding
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