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Used Car of the Year Awards contenders: executive cars
You’ll have to wait until 30 September for the winners of the 2021 What Car? Used Car of the Year Awards to be announced, but you can get a preview of the top contenders here...
Less than £14,000
Audi A3 Saloon
The booted version of the Audi A3 impressed many when it arrived back in 2013, because it had a classier interior than the contemporary 2008-2015 A4, was better to drive and wasn't an awful lot smaller inside. Today, you can buy a decent one for less the price of a small car.
The current A4 has just been facelifted, which has helped make pre-facelifted versions like the A4 we've chosen even more affordable. Interior quality is even better than that of the impressive 3 Series and a similarly great range of engines powered by either petrol or diesel make the A4 a great used buy.
BMW 3 Series
You can't talk about executive cars that drive well without mentioning the 3 Series. It has the A4 beaten in that regard because it has excellent handling and a brilliant range of engines; even the regular 2.0-litre diesel found in the 320d provides plenty of performance without costing too much to run.
Less than £18,000
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Much of what can be said of how the 3 Series drives can also be said of the Alfa Romeo Giulia, except this Italian saloon has far sharper steering that has a more immediate response to your inputs. Equipment levels are generous on most models, and it's the one to go for if you prefer petrol power, because even the entry-level 197bhp 2.0-litre is stronger than most rivals.
You can't knock the Superb for interior space; few cars this side of a long-wheelbase Mercedes S-Class have as much rear leg room. Also, the boot is vast and has a bigger hatchback opening through which to load items, while most of the Superb's saloon rivals have to make do with much smaller openings that are far less versatile.
You can find a Passat of a similar age for the same money as a Superb, and while it misses some practicality points due to the fact that it lacks a hatchback boot, the Passat claws back some marks by having slightly nicer materials dressing its interior, and the ride is far more composed and less bouncy than the Superb's over undulating country roads.
Less than £25,000
BMW 3 Series
Our highest price point means that we can find plenty of the current-generation 3 Series, most coming with a diesel engine in 318d or 320d forms. It's far more enjoyable to drive than a contemporary Mercedes C-Class, plus the BMW has an intuitive infotainment system.
Facelifted examples of the Jaguar XE are within our budget, so you can take advantage of this model's much-improved interior, which can compete with that of rivals such as the Mercedes C-Class. You'll also get plenty of standard equipment with the XE. Plus, it has even more sophisticated suspension than you'll find on the 3 Series, helping it to feel even more agile than its BMW counterpart.
The C-Class may not be as engaging to drive as the BMW 3 Series, but on the whole it grips well and can be a great motorway cruiser if you stick with a Sport model on smaller wheels. Find one with a Premium Plus Pack and you can have some very fancy gadgets such as LED Matrix headlights, a bigger infotainment screen and upgraded Burmester sound system.
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Best executive cars 2022
A good executive car need to be comfortable, classy and well equipped, yet also cheap to run. So, which models hit all their targets, and which should be avoided?
BMW 3 Series long-term test review
Our Executive Car of the Year, the BMW 3 Series, faces its toughest assignment yet: everyday life. Will it prove to be a corporate titan or quickly lose its shine? We have six months to find out