Used Car of the Year Awards 2023: Executive cars

With living costs on the rise, getting a good deal on your next car is more important than ever. That's where our Used Car Awards come in. These are our favourite executive cars...

Used Executive Car of the Year

Audi A4

What Car? Used Car of the Year Awards 2023 logo

Price from £12,000 Our pick 2.0 TDI 150 Sport

They say that life is all about the journey, and a used Audi A4 does a lot to make that journey stress-free – and not only when you’re driving. For starters, its is a pretty risk-free investment; the presence of that desirable four-ringed badge on its nose helps it to retain its value healthily, and that’s great news when the time comes to move it on.

But then, its sheer all-round competence means you might well want to hang on to it. The A4 puts you at ease from the moment you slide behind the wheel, surrounding you with top-class materials. Even the cheaper SE and Technik trim levels make life easy with front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, bright xenon headlights and three-zone climate control, with that third zone enabling those in the back to choose their own temperature.

You’re unlikely to feel cramped up front; there’s more than enough leg and head room for a 6ft-tall driver, and elbow room is generous enough to avoid clashing arms with the front seat passenger.

Audi A4 - interior

Those in the back aren’t quite as generously served, though; the A4 is by no means embarrassed by similar-sized rivals, but you’ll find more space in a Volkswagen Passat or, especially, a Skoda Superb. Still, if a golf course is your idea of getting away from it all, you’ll easily fit a couple of sets of clubs in the A4’s boot, which is a usefully square shape.

The A4’s engines, including the economical 2.0-litre diesel that we recommend, are smooth, quiet and not short on power. Meanwhile, stick with SE, Technic or Sport trim and you get ‘comfort dynamic’ suspension, which provides the kind of pliant ride that makes long distances disappear – one of the A4’s standout talents. The cost of this is that its cornering reflexes, while still impressive, aren’t quite as sharp as those of its main rival, the BMW 3 Series, which is more entertaining on a country road.

Still, the A4 is much better value used than the 3 Series, and while it won’t have you raring to take the twisty route at the end of a day in the office, it will make you feel at home before you’ve even left your work car park.

Also consider...

Best for practicality

Skoda Superb (2015-present) 

2019 Skoda Superb front

Price from £6500 Our pick 1.5 TSI 150 SE Technology

What’s the best bit about being upgraded to business class on a long-haul flight? We’d argue it’s the extra space. Being able to stretch out is key to long-distance comfort, and the Skoda Superb punches way beyond its premium economy price tag in this regard; you’ll have to pay more than twice as much for a long-wheelbase Mercedes S-Class to beat it.

The Superb’s economical engines are good news for your wallet, too, and the efficient plugin hybrid iV model enables you to tackle urban traffic without using any petrol at all.

It may not have the prestige of its Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series rivals, but you get a much newer car for your cash. Our favourite 1.5 TSI SE Technology model costs around £14,000 for a 2018 car – at least £2000 less than those rivals at the same age and mileage. The Superb can’t match the polish or cornering poise of those two, though.

Read our full used Skoda Superb review >>

Find a used Skoda Superb for sale >>

Best for driving pleasure

BMW 3 Series (2019-present)

BMW 3 Series 320d front

Price from £20,000 Our pick 330e M Sport

Life’s too short to be boring, right? Well, the BMW 3 Series has what it takes to make even the most mundane trip worth waiting for; no rival can match its sharp steering and well-balanced handling.

And yet the 3 Series is as much about common sense as it is about excitement. It’s well equipped and nicely built inside (although the Audi A4 has the edge here), and it’s spacious enough that five can travel together without war breaking out. Its infotainment system is top notch, too.

It’s even pretty frugal, especially the diesels and plugin hybrid 330e models. Such is the 3 Series’ popularity that it holds its value well, too, so you can expect to get more of your money back when it’s time to sell it on. It might cost you a little more to buy than some rivals of the same age and mileage (our chosen 330e starts at £25,000), but if you enjoy driving, that’s a price worth paying.

Read our full used BMW 3 Series review >>

Find a used BMW 3 Series for sale >>

Best high-end choice

Audi A8 (2017-present)

Audi A8 2019 front right tracking shot

Price from £25,000 Our pick A8 50 TDI

This luxury leviathan is bigger and pricier than our other contenders, but it’s a lot cheaper than a private plane, with which it compares rather well.

Indeed, the A8 is as relaxing to travel in as a Gulfstream jet, and its engines are a good deal quieter; even our preferred diesel engine is turbine-smooth when you accelerate, fading to a distant murmur once you’re on the motorway. There’s acres of interior space, especially in the long-wheelbase L versions, and with a smoother ride than its BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class rivals, the A8 will expose you to only the mildest of turbulence at cruising speeds.

With four-wheel drive standard, the A8 is surefooted even in adverse weather, although its rivals are a little more agile when you instruct the chauffeur to not spare the horses. Such exploits are at odds with the A8’s easy-going nature, though; better to simply sit back and let the miles slip by.

Read our full used Audi A8 review >>

Find a used Audi A8 for sale >>

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here