By on January 2, 2020

Reflecting on the numerous sedans which passed away at the end of the 2019 model year, we recently asked you to pick the best all-round offerings in sizes small, medium, and large. In each size grouping, we excluded premium and luxury offerings, and each time someone complained that the list lacked premium offerings.

It’s 2020 now, and as always at TTAC we aim to please: Today we select the best sedans from premium and luxury marques. Small cars are up first.

The list below is comprised of premium-marque sedans that range in size from subcompact to the larger side of compact, per U.S. News. Only real sedans with four doors and a trunk are included.

Acura ILX
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Audi A3
Audi A4
BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe
BMW 3 Series
Cadillac CT4
Genesis G70
Infiniti Q50
Jaguar XE
Lexus IS
Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Mercedes-Benz CLA
Volvo S60

Slightly less than the 19 cars from non-premium brands, there are still 15 small sedan offerings for the luxury customer in 2020. Most of the names here are familiar, apart from the brand new 2 Series Gran Coupe. Unlike other silly Gran Coupe offerings, the 2 has a traditional trunk opening and not a liftback.

For the best all-round vehicle here, I’m going with the lone Korean option. The Genesis G70 is by all motoring press accounts a great car to drive. It’s available in rear- and all-wheel drive variants, with four and six cylinders, and with manual and automatic transmissions. One simply does not find that sort of choice in the modern automotive world.

Genesis G70

The styling, inside and out, is more cohesive than the slice-and-dice Lexus IS, and I’ve got more faith in Hyundai build quality, materials, and power plants than I do in the Volvo S60. I think the G70’s where it’s at in this segment; customers must just be okay with the (for now) second-rate badge.

Let’s hear your selections for the best all-round small premium sedan.

[Images: BMW, Genesis]

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78 Comments on “QOTD: Best All-round Small Luxury Sedans in 2020?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I guess poor Cadillac doesn’t currently have an offering in this category being between the ATS and the CT4

    Oh, well, we can’t even vote them the worst small premium luxury sedan

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Yes, why isn’t the Cadillac CT4 or CT5 included?

    They would not be my top picks, but certainly not my BOTTOM picks either.

  • avatar
    Lockstops

    With the spread of models and attempts from car companies to loophole their way into false perceptions, there needs to be far better categorisation than ‘luxury sedan’, probably needs a split into at least two as well.

    I don’t see what ‘luxury’ there is in a Eastern-European manufactured basic FWD crap, even if it has a very nice looking interior and brand logo slapped on. When the platform is even shared with a basic FWD grocery getter, complete with super basic engines thereof, then we’re talking about something so different to the 3-series’ and Giluias that it’s ridiculous.

    These ‘premium’ sedans are in a completely different category than the others:
    Alfa Romeo Giulia
    BMW 3 Series
    Genesis G70
    Infiniti Q50
    Jaguar XE
    Lexus IS
    Mercedes-Benz C-Class

  • avatar
    jack4x

    The G70 is the only one to offer 3 pedals (not to mention a lot for your money) and therefore is the winner.

    Cost no object though, I’d be driving a C63 all day.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    They knocked it out of the park with the Genesis G70. It’s a great car to drive and look at!

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      Except I’ve never seen a Genesis of any kind on the street. Maybe I don’t live in the right neighborhood. http://carsalesbase.com/us-car-sales-data/genesis/

      • 0 avatar
        conundrum

        I drove a G70 a year ago last September. It was hardly a goading sport sedan, pretty inert really. The 2.0t was weak, the tires whirred loudly, it tramlined in truck ruts, and the auto transmission needs work. If you lift when under hard acceleration, the conniptions that follow are a feeling to behold. The back seat is a complete joke.

        So obviously, it’s the internet’s favorite paper spec entry level luxury premium whatever car and has been for 18 months. Baffles me, why don’t people go out and drive one? It’s but a phone call around here and they come to home or work and you can have an hour or more, if you want. Twenty minutes was enough for me, but tanks for the opportunity!

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          I did, and I agree with you. The Alfa Romeo Giulia is still the top of my list in this class.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Gun to my head (because I loath both sedans and automatics) it would be the Giulia or the 3-series.

            Tough choice for me – the Giulia is beautiful and definitely a bit more fun, but you can do European Delivery on the BMW, and I LOVE my local dealership. I’ve bought a Fiat from the Fiat/Alfa store too, but it isn’t even remotely the same experience.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      But you have to buy it at a Hyundai dealer – no thanks.

      I will admit I have not driven it, but I have driven it’s cousin the KIA Stinger and was NOT impressed.

      I give kudos for in theory offering a stick. But do they actually exist in the wild?

  • avatar
    ajla

    The G70 is a fine car but it lacks a mack-daddy version, lacks brand prestige, and the back seat space is closer to ATS/XE.

    So it’s between the C-Class and 3-Series for me. I’ll say C63 vs M3 is too close to call. C43 vs M340i is a slight edge to BMW, C300 vs 330i is a bigger edge to BMW. Then BMW also has the 330e.

    I’ll go with the 3-Series.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      In addition, the G70 is too small and too inefficient to be the best all rounder. It may the car i will buy, but within the confines of this question, I’d say the G70 isn’t even top tier.

      Your conclusion is correct – the clear answer is the 3 series. Or was, despite the much maligned F30. I haven’t kept up with news on the G20, though the engines are known quantities.

      • 0 avatar
        Stonejaw

        I narrowed it down to a M340i or the g70. After long test drives in both the hands down winner based on features,price and handling was the g70. Love how its paddle shifters, heads up display, and the way the seat bolsters hug you in sports mode function.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I think ajla’s on target when it comes to the up-level, six-cylinder 3-series and C-class – they’re wonderful. But the wonderful ones will cost you sixty grand, minimum.

      At a lower price point – say, $50,000 – I take the G70.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      I’ll take the M340i over the C43 any day after driving both back to back. The C43 has the edge in exhaust sound, but otherwise the M340 is significantly more composed and handles rough roads substantially better. The C43 suspension was far too aggressive and rough for my tastes. The M340 is a great goldilocks car – and, with the newly released M performance exhaust, gets more pops and burbles.

  • avatar
    MorrisGray

    I would agree with all that was stated by Corey about the G70. I hope we will continue to get the manual transmission option. I also wish that the 3.8L naturally aspirated engine was available in this car!

    Is the back seat in the G70 any roomier than that of the IS350?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    G70 is what the 3 series should be now that the 3 series has become a bloated shell of its former self – “The Ultimate Leasing Machine.”

    I also applaud Genesis/Hyundai/Kia for building cars were it is still relatively easy to get a little oversteer going. That’s half the fun of driving something RWD or with rear biased AWD.

    If cargo and passenger space had not been a concern during my last purchase the G70 would have been high on my list.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I can think you can actually divide these cars into two classes:
    Category 1: Entry-leval lux sedans that are typically based on FWD platforms, with a $35-40,000 pricetag.
    Category 2: Larger sedans based on RWD platforms that go for around $45-50,000.

    Based on this, I’d go as follows:
    Category 1: A3. Yes, I own one, so I’m biased. But I bought it for a reason: option it up right, learn how to drive it right (you have to turn off all the nanny systems for it to perform as it should), and wow, is it fun to drive. It lives to go fast, all the time, just like a GTI. The A-class makes zero sense to me – Mercedes will charge you $40,000 for something that was made in a Nissan plant in Mexico that performs almost exactly as well as a Mazda3. I’ll pass. The 2-series Gran Coupe is ugly, and I have no idea who Acura thinks it’s fooling with the ILX. This is the last year for the current-gen A3, so Audi’s dealing, and these are EPIC bargains used – you can pick one up off lease with under 30,000 miles, all the toys, and a warranty for about $21,000.

    Category B: G70, by a wide margin. I haven’t driven one, but I have driven a Kia Stinger with the twin-turbo six, and it’s entertaining as hell. The only thing that I didn’t like about the Stinger was that it wasn’t “me” – there’s too much Boy Racer going on. A smaller, more “lux” version of the Stinger pushes my “buy” button. The styling’s suave, the interior’s posh, and the price is right. Second choice would be a Q50, which I think is an almost criminally underrated car – it’s no back road runner, but looks great, it’s effortlessly quick, and you can get a great deal on one.

    • 0 avatar
      saturnotaku

      I have driven the G70, and I feel the same way about it that I do the Stinger – underwhelmed. The V6 goes like stink for sure, but the ride is terrible, and the back seat and trunk are pretty much useless. While I own an ILX, I’m under no illusion that it’s in the same ballpark as the other entries.

      Call me a hipster or whatever, but I actually quite enjoy the S60.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        You can get a G70 nicely equipped in the $40,000s.

        I think the Infiniti is definitely underrated given that it now comes with a standard turbo V6. Yeah there’s a lot of outdated stuff in the interior but I bet it wouldn’t be hard to find an Infiniti dealer willing to deal. Or one just off lease with a CPO warranty and hit hard by the depreciation stick.

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          Dan, Agreed on both counts.

          The problem with nearly all of these as that once they’re optioned up the way a lux sedan should be, the pricing is so ridiculous that it makes no sense. Small lux sedans should be somewhat attainable and these are priced like they’re AMG models…

          …Except for the new G70 and the aging Q50. As much of a risk Nissan vehicles are in general, the Q50 seems to be the ‘value purchase’ especially if CPOd.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @jkross22

            “Small lux sedans should be somewhat attainable and these are priced like they’re AMG models…”

            Have you seen AMG prices lately? Oy vey!

            I think with my own money for the out the door price (not lease) it would be Genesis G70. But I’m the guy who would take a RWD Manual trans 4-cyl turbo with the standard LSD and hoon the heck out of it.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I drove the T6 of the S60, and I liked it, but it was a bit underwhelming. I love the styling, and the interior looks terrific, but I think a car with that kind of power should feel quicker, and I noticed some creaky noises from the structure that aren’t seemly in a $55,000 car. Besides, that touchscreen would drive me nuts in about two hours.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          A good friend of mine who is a Volvo salesman tells me what I already knew. The SPA-based Volvos don’t hold up to the competition, in handling, NVH or build quality.

          At best, the XC90 (for example) is a half-step between something like a QX60 and the German stuff that’s on prestige platforms. It’s probably on par, in terms of driving dynamics, with an MDX SH-AWD or Enclave/XT6 with the twin-clutch AWD system.

          As far as these small sedans go, I would probably get the M340i and pony up $57K or so, or get the G70 3.3T for $10K less. I’ve driven both, and they put a smile on my face. I do not like the new C-Class sedan and the A4 and CT4 leave me cold. I’m wary of the S60 and Giulia, the IS is a bit much for me in terms of styling, and the Q60 has an awful interior. I have not driven an XE, but I like the facelift and updated tech stack. I’d probably consider it, too, if they put a 6-cylinder back in it.

          • 0 avatar

            The XC90 makes no sense to me with it’s so-so everything but the interior, and full-on German pricing. It’s at best a lease-only proposition, and at that point just go LR.

            The Q50 and Q60 have unacceptable interiors as new vehicles in 2020. Even in RS400 guise.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The XC90 (and really all of the SPA cars) are selling on exterior and interior design, full stop. The XC90 in particular looks like money on the outside, especially in lighter colors. IMO they are above the Germans in design.

            They are not competitive with the Germans in handling, but NO ONE in the US cares about handling. Really. They ride beautifully with the air suspension, less so without it; always get air with your Volvo. The reliability record is mediocre but that’s true of the Germans too. Lexus doesn’t have a car in the XC90’s class, and there really isn’t an option with good reliability.

            I negotiated terms on a custom-order XC60 T8 before deciding to go another direction, and the price I would have paid was well below MSRP and competitive with a similarly loaded non-hybrid German.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Agreed on the Volvo, Kyree – it just doesn’t feel like “premium” goods.

          • 0 avatar

            Fair point RE: no Lexus in XC90 class. What a huge gap. Perhaps that’ll happen when the GX dies, which has gotta be soon, right?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Lexus’s SUV/CUV strategy is one of the great mysteries of the universe.

            They need TWO 3-row CUV entries above the RX and they have none. Meanwhile, they have two off-road trucks, one positioned at a flagship price point, where the sales are barely there to sustain one.

            If I had been dictator of Lexus around ten years ago, I would have done:

            1) a proper extended-wheelbase CUV based on the RX but with boxier styling, complete with an SH-AWD-like AWD system and turbo V6 and steroid-enhanced NA V6 hybrid powertrain options, and

            2) a CUV version of the new LS, jacked a couple of inches but otherwise nearly the same.

            Then I’d kill the GX, and probably create a new base trim of the LX to sell for just a bit more than a Land Cruiser.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Lexus is working on a larger 3-row CUV to replace the band-aid they did on the cheap (RX-L).

            No word on the layout, but chances are, they’ll stick to FWD/transverse.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      I still say my 2007 A3 was the best car I’ve ever owned. I wanted the new car, but no hatch, no manual and over my budget.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    My standard for a sedan, luxury or not, is: can you see out the back window? Can you see a car creeping up on you on your right by simply turning your head? If the answer to any of those questions is ‘no’, then you’re driving an armored vehicle without the armor.

    TTAC is mis-using the term sedan – they don’t make them anymore, just “4-door coupes”. In a sedan, your back seat passengers after an hour’s drive are not called “crick-neck”, and can gracefully exit the vehicle without staggering to unfold.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      I think you missed the part in the title where it said ‘small’.

      Rear seat passenger comfort isn’t really a thing until you get to mid-size sedans. If you’re 6’0 or taller.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Since this is small LUXURY, not Sports Sedan, it’s hard to get excited over any of these.

    I want to like the Alfa, as it is a sports sedan and good-looking, and can be had with a manual trans, but it is probably a lemon.

    GM has finally fixed the ATS most glaring deficiency–the the instrument panel. But they’ve given it an even dumber name, and took away the manual transmission. And they lowered the price to, compared to the ORIGINAL ATS back in 2013. If they had launched this with the original powertrains, they would have succeeded with the ATS.

    The Hyundai Genesis gets mixed reviews.

    Audis have CVTs, just like Hyundais.

    BMW 3 has no manual trans.

    These ‘wired’, ‘smart’, luxury cars, with their infotainment and nice interiors, but given the incredible level of technology available, the field is very depressing, but entirely predictable, as it reflects what most people are willing to pay for.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Corrections:
      1) The Giulia cannot be had with a manual.
      2) Audis do not have CVTs – most have DCTs.

      • 0 avatar
        Lockstops

        In some markets Giulia diesels and QV are available with a manual gearbox.

      • 0 avatar
        tomLU86

        My bad, pardon me.

        I once aspired to a 3-series, but as I feel they have gotten less special (regardless of their objective improvements), and as the pool of manual trans rear drive alternatives has largely evaporated, as the harassment factor of police, radar cameras, red light factors has increased, I don’t pay as much attention as I did.

        So I am under informed, or ill informed.

        I’m. glad I had an E30 (1991) for 2 years when I was younger. Some great drives, good memories that I don’t see being repeated as the pincers of political correctness (electric/autonomous, safety nazis, greedy government) and public preference for taller, shorter station wagons, aka CUVs and trucks squeeze the fun out of cars….

        • 0 avatar
          Lockstops

          I feel very much the same. I also enjoyed an E30 (1984) for some time after I got my license (an old family car that was used very little so though it was old at that point it was still mint).

          I was just today looking at a powerful turbocharged six-pot machine that accelerates to 60 in under 4 seconds. I though I’d be thrilled to be able to afford one, but I’m kind of thinking “what’s the point?”. Part of me thinks I might as well just keep saving money (for what?) and driving my 4-cylinder hybrid…

          At least I have been able to track a load of exotics and sports cars again this year, but road car ownership just gets me depressed. I don’t feel like there’s any way to win in that game.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            These days I mostly drive a GTI Sport and a Fiata, both sticks, and see nothing on the market that I would find more enjoyable in the real world. I just don’t get the point of faster than this cars anymore. It’s just bragging rights, and I am secure enough in my penis size to not need that. I also have a unicorn RWD 6spd stick BMW 328i wagon that is a simply wonderful car that I keep at my summer place. It’s about the same performance as the GTI, but delivers it in a rather different way with the n/a six. Also fun without being silly. The Fiata is slower than either, but it feels faster – a rorty aftermarket exhaust helped a lot.

            I came very, very close to ordering a new Porsche Cayman for European Delivery last year, which would have been amazing, but $77K for a very lightly optioned car by the time the taxman was paid was too hard to swallow when the Fiata is really JUST as much fun on US roads for 1/3rd the price on the road. I fear that the Cayman would have the same issue as the M235i that the GTI replaced had – it becomes boring to have all that potential performance and never, ever use it. That M235i was a lot of fun in Germany and Italy though.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      The Alfa is neither available with a manual trans, nor all that likely to be a lemon if you stick to the Giulia Ti and don’t get the Q4. The Q4 is essentially a hand grenade with the pin falling out with a car wrapped around it.

    • 0 avatar

      Audi does not have a CVT, so check those facts.

    • 0 avatar
      Stonejaw

      The M340 and g70 3.3t are very much classical sports sedans. BTW, no such thing as Hyundai Genesis, especially one the Suv’s start rolling this year.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      There hasn’t been a Hyundai Genesis for about 4 years.

      And the 3.3TT G70 won every major automotive award and made numerous Best lists in 2019, so no, the reviews weren’t “mixed.”

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    My own dollars went to the Giulia two years ago. I love the car, but it has some tradeoffs and I don’t know if I’d make the same choice if I were choosing today. I didn’t love the C-Class or A4 when I drove them, hated the XE and (last-gen) 3-series, and wouldn’t bother with the Cadillacs or Infiniti.

    The G70 seems like a good all-rounder at a $10k discount to the competition, but I haven’t driven it. I think the A5 needs to be included, despite the rules, as it’s a head-to-head competitor to many on the list. Ditto the Tesla Model3. Those cars, plus the Giulia, would be the ones I’d look at if it were my money on the line again.

  • avatar
    MeJ

    I would have said Giulia without hesitation if not for the quality concerns.
    I’ll play safe and take the Lexus IS.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    As much as a dislike BMW these days, the 2-series is still supposed to have some of the ol’ driver’s car feel of yore. So that would be my choice.

    Alternative: I have yet to drive a Q50, but I am interested in the 400 Red Line Sport version. I will have to see how much I hate the steering before I would give it a buy though. I know it’s on the olde FM platform but my wife’s 2008 M35x is a joy to drive so no complaints there.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. Monte

      Find an RS400 with the hydraulic rack instead of the DBW the steering feel isn’t bad at all with the hydraulic rack, and get rid of the stiff Dunlop run flats and it makes the over all feel of the car very good IMO. A buddy of mine has one in that configuration and it’s quite fun to drive.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    However good the G70 apparently is, I’m not sure I could justify it over the cheaper and more usable Stinger (especially if the 6-speed is mediocre, as per Car & Driver).

    I was going to say the Lexus as a fundamentally good car that’s a safe long-term choice, but that also applies to the roomier Q50.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      In top trim, the pricing of the 2 is very similar and when comparing kit and amenities, one can say that the G70 is the better value (the Stinger missing some tech, at least for the 2019MY, that the G70 offers, not to mention service amenities like included maintenance, valet service, loaner vehicles, etc.).

      Personally, the styling of the Stinger is more appealing (as well as being more functional – larger/hatch), but the G70 is getting a fairly major overhaul for its refresh.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Buying? Lexus IS in a heartbeat.
    Renting? Lexus IS. I don’t miss my time spent at BMW and Audi service departments.

  • avatar
    Giskard

    Of the cars on that list I would likely choose the 2 series, assuming you can still get one with a manual. However, my top pick for “best all around luxury sedan” would actually be the Tesla Model 3. I’m surprised it isn’t in this list. It looks like US News lumps all BEVs and Hybrids into their own category for some reason.

    • 0 avatar
      z9

      I was just coming here to say the same thing. The AWD and Performance versions of the Model 3 are really fun to drive — it’s not just the drag strip acceleration, the handling is just as impressive. It’s a bargain Audi or BMW that reminds me of the 1970s when anyone who knew about BMW assumed it was a motorcycle and had no idea how entertaining it could be to drive a boxy little car. The issue today is a little different; Tesla has built a compelling product for enthusiasts despite a brand reputation that is some combination of cult, douchebag, and superiority complex. There are people who would love this car but wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near one. That’s cool, it’s undoubtedly a better world if we don’t all drive the same thing (although it’s seeming as if every fourth car in Northern California is a Model 3 these days, which is a little creepy).

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    So at this point do the performance oriented Teslas belong on this list? I wouldn’t have it at the top of my list but many surely would and the nameplate is certainly more premium than Acura, Infiniti, Jag, etc. Furthermore it is time to judge the EV offerings as cars and stack their attributes and warts up against similarly priced models.

  • avatar
    emineid

    My top choice: BMW 440i Gran Coupe. Rented it via Turo last summer, drove on the Taconic Parkway in New York on the way to Lake George. This is my idea of a nicely driving modern sedan with impeccable handling. Too bad it does not come in a stick.

    My top choice with a stick shift: G70. I bought it in September. Took it on the Tail of the Dragon. Unflappable handling. The feel of the manual shifter reminds me of the 2007 Porsche 911 Carrera. It is a precise shifter but it feels too “bone-on-bone” without the cartilage.

    None of the newer cars duplicate the steering feel of the 2002 BMW 325i with stick shift that I have. The heavier steering with the “feedback” is something that none of newer cars duplicate. The steering feels like a fine old-school hydraulic machine. Doesn’t feel like a video game controller.

    By the way, none of the above-mentioned cars are as nice to shift as my 2008 Honda Accord. For around-the-town stop and go traffic, the Honda Accord shifter and clutch are extremely forgiving (least likely to get “blocked” going into a gear, least likely to stall).

  • avatar
    HuskyHawk

    I missed this the other day. Bought a BMW 340i (F30 from 2017) in November. That B58 engine is spectacular. Sold the car. Interior is typical dull BMW but everything is overbuilt and very high quality. Handling is great, steering is not as good as my Mazda CX-5. Sad that.

    But they cheaped out and offset the pedals and even tilted the seat towards the A-pillar. So I must now sell as the stupid car gives me sciatica. Mind boggling that they built it this way. So I really wish I’d gotten a G70 instead.

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