​What Are The Best Small Luxury Cars?

In the 1990s, Audi kick-started the premium hatchback market by making small cars to the same standard as its luxury saloons. We look at Audi and the two main rivals in the small luxury car market – these slightly older models are all available for great prices on the used car market.

The Top 3 Small Luxury Cars

There is a great range of luxurious cabins, engines and kit out there but here are the top 3 small luxury cars:

  • Audi A3 (2012-)
  • BMW 1 Series (2011-15)
  • Mercedes A Class (2005-12)


Audi A3 (2012-)

This Audi 2012 model replaced the 2003 version, and continued to carry the mantle of being Audi’s best-selling model in the UK.

If you’re in the market for a small luxury car, the quality of the cabin is likely to be a priority. In this case, the A3 does not disappoint, and the luxury you’d expect from the Audi badge is delivered successfully on a small scale. Indeed, it was one of the aims of the A3 to create a scaled-down interior to that of the A8.

The cabin’s well-refined, spacious, uses materials you’d expect from a larger premium vehicle and is generally very comfortable, whether driving or a passenger. Impressive technology such as the slim infotainment screen that rises up out of the dashboard add to the sense of luxury. Rear space can be improved if you opt for a five door A3. From the standard three door car, you’ll get a decent-sized 365 litre-boot.

Despite being slightly larger than the 2003 car, this A3 weighs 80kg less, thanks to the use of lightweight materials such as aluminium. Its improvements like these that help to make the A3 a superbly economical car – the 1.6-litre TDI will return up to 70mpg. Other engines available include two TFSI engines, in 1.0 and 1.4-litre guises, as well as a further 1.6-litre TDI; stop start is standard on all A3s.

BMW 1 Series (2011-15)

This is the second generation 1 Series, a small luxury car that’s a longstanding rival to the A3 which offers a similarly upmarket feel in a small package.

The BMW 1 Series certainly got unique styling, which isn’t to everyone’s taste. But if you can get past the undeniably odd exterior styling, the fantastic interior shows great levels of attention to detail, meaning you really get the sense that you’re in a larger premium vehicle.

Like the Audi, it’s slightly larger than the previous generation but weighs less – 30kg in this case. You can just about squeeze two adults in the back, but it does have a 360-litre boot and lots of storage space throughout the cabin.

This cabin’s great quality too – well-refined, comfortable and luxurious. High-quality glossy plastics and touches like silver ventilation vents represent the kind of quality you’re not used to seeing in smaller cars.

There’s a good range of engine sizes across both petrol and diesel available, with the entry level petrol engine delivering 136bhp and 49.8mpg. Some versions of the 1 Series are available as an eight-speed automatic, but as standard you’ll get a six-speed manual transmission.

Mercedes A Class (2005-12)

This second generation A Class had a facelift in 2008, which led to several improvements across design, fuel economy, safety and the interior, so it’s worth looking for a more recent model. Unlike the Mk1, this A Class was offered in three-door form in an attempt to appeal to younger drivers.

There’s a wide range of engines available. Entry level is the 1.5-litre petrol, with 95bhp and 62.8mpg. Although it’s economical, it completes 0-62mph in a sluggish 12.6 seconds, so it’s likely you’ll want one with a bit more power. The 1.7-litre petrol returns 116bhp, whilst the three 2.0-litre diesels are available with 82, 109 or 140bhp.

The cabin’s very well refined and comfortable, more so in the back if you choose a five door version. The interior’s well-built and solid, with a functional and attractive dashboard layout. Overall, the interior’s a massive improvement on the previous generation, and it now definitely feels as if you’re in a Mercedes.

In terms of practicality, the A Class is pretty hard to fault thanks to its huge 435-litre boot, which is bigger than you’ll get in many larger family cars. The rear seats fold down very easily, giving an even larger loading area.

These small luxury cars deliver the quality you’d expect from the larger executive models offered by these prestigious German brands in a much smaller vehicle. If you just don’t need the size (or fuel costs) of a premium executive car but want the build quality and the badge, they represent the perfect choice.

As slightly older vehicles, there’s plenty of these models available on the used car market at very affordable prices.

What we haven’t included

Now we know what you are thinking, where the hell are the VW Golfs, or the Volvo V40 or even the Mini Clubman? Ok these (and others) are all great cars, well worthy of mention – but we are looking here at luxury across three age groups and price points and although we know the “older” Mercedes A Class isn’t the most stunning car to look at, for its time it really was a head turner and people still love a Luxurious Mercedes bargain.

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