Last updated December 28, 2022
Despite the rise of SUVs and crossovers in recent years, the saloon still meets the needs of many keen drivers and are a core offering for many manufacturers. If you're choosing a car that offers great practicality, whilst still being engaging to drive, then a saloon may be a better option than a more bulky SUV.
Saloons often have a generously sized boot, space in the rear to comfortably fit two adults and strong performance figures. The top cars in the category are perfect for those looking for well-built interiors, strong performance figures and good practicality. Read on to find out our picks for the best saloons in 2023.
This is among the first of the compact executive saloons and has been available for much longer than many of its rivals. The latest version represents years of evolution and fine-tuning on BMW’s part, the result of which is an incredibly talented all-rounder.
The 3 Series’ famous rear-wheel drive layout endures, giving buyers the driving pleasure for which the car has become renowned. This handling comes with luxury and the tech that we’ve come to expect from a modern BMW vehicle.
There are nine different engine options across both petrol and diesel. The entry-level diesel (148bhp 318d) has pull from low revs. The 187bhp 320d is considerably better, though – the extra muscle means you don’t have to work it so hard, and its ultimate pace brings a swift 0-62mph sprint of 6.8 seconds.
The petrol options available start with the 318i, but the 181bhp 320i is a lot stronger. If you are looking for the extra speed there’s the more powerful 254bhp 330i.However, if you are more eco-conscious, the plug-in hybrid has a similarly brisk performance to the 330i but adds a real-world electric-only range of 25-30 miles.
The range toppers, however, all have six-cylinder engines: the M340i petrol, with 369bhp that chops the 0-62mph sprint down to a blistering 4.4 seconds, or the roaring M340d diesel, which is only just behind at 4.6 seconds.
The BMW 3 Series is available in six different trim levels: SE Pro, M Sport, M Sport Pro Edition, Sport Pro, M340d and M340i.
Prices start at £30,470 for the entry level SE Pro model and top off with the M340i at £49,110. Even the entry-level SE Pro is well equipped with ambient lighting, automatic headlights, 3-zone automatic air conditioning, automatic headlight activation, keyless go and dynamic stability control.
The M Sport starts at £35,395 and brings a more aggressive look, for the additional cost of the M Sport you get the added style of 18” alloys, digital instruments and a bigger 10.3” infotainment screen being the main upgrades.
Topping the range is the M340i, with 19” alloys, matte grey exterior trim highlights, M Sport braking system, red brake callipers, an M rear spoiler, a leather steering wheel and an upgraded sound system.
Find out more about the BMW 3 Series here.
This saloon is about comfort and outright performance, delivering refinement for passengers with luxurious, elegant style. The C Class is modelled after the flagship S-Class using the same mild-hybrid technology and large touchscreen infotainment system as its pricier sibling. This helps the C-Class stand out from rivals. The C-Class’s updated interior is plush, especially in the higher spec models, and includes a modernised dashboard.
The C Class is available in four different engine types.
The entry-level 201bhp C200 petrol can get to 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds. For a bit more low-end urgency, the C220d diesel may be better; its 197bhp is slightly down on the C200, but because of its extra pull at low revs it gets from 0-62mph in the same time.
Company car drivers may be more interested in the plug-in hybrid C300e, with its electric motor more than capable of keeping up with traffic up to motorway speeds – its full potential is 308bhp.The C-Class is also capable of returning between 50.4-57.6mpg.
There are four different trim options to choose from depending on your needs as the driver: Sport, AMG Line, AMG Line Premium, AMG Line Premium Plus.
The Sport starts at £38,785 and brings both a 12.3” digital driver display and an 11.9” portrait-oriented central touchscreen with the latest MBUX infotainment system. The infotainment system includes wireless smartphone integration and a reversing camera. There is also LED headlights, blind spot monitoring, leather trim and heated front seats.
The AMG Line jumps in price to £40,165. The AMG comes with all the features of the sports trim with additional features, such as a sportier exterior and some interior touches.
Upgrade to the AMG Line Premium for £43,250 to get a 360º camera system, keyless entry and go, augmented reality navigation and electrically adjustable front seats with three position memory.
Topping the Mercedes C-Class range is the AMG Line Premium Plus. The Premium Plus adds three-zone climate control, a panoramic glass sunroof and an excellent Burmester surround sound system, this is priced at £46,700.
Find out more about the Mercedes C-Class here.
The Audi A4’s interior is among some of the best compact executive saloons, due to its minimalist look and impressive quality. The engine range offers something for everyone, from economy to power and various mixtures of the two. The latest A4 is the most spacious inside, and whilst it may lag behind the 3 Series in terms of handling, it’s the best model yet in terms of driver engagement.
The engine selection is comprehensive, with seven different options to choose from.
The entry level diesel is the 134bhp 30 TDI and gets 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds. The 161bhp 35 TDI has plenty of low-down punch so you can nip around town effortlessly, with 0-62mph taking 8.2 seconds. There’s the 201bhp 40 TDI, rounding up the diesel options.
The 148bhp 35 TFSI is the entry level petrol, and the 201bhp 40 TFSI provides a considerable performance achieving 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds. There’s also the 261bhp 45 TFSI, which is much brisker and takes 5.5 seconds to go from 0-62mph.
The A4 has a selection of eight trims to choose from, across a range of prices. The entry-level Technik starts at £29,905, with the more expensive Vorsprung topping out at £56,005.
The entry-level Technik is not to be sneered at with interior and exterior features of higher spec models such as 17” alloys, a rear-view camera and interior features such as front and rear climate control, a 12.3” digital instrument screen and a 10.1 infotainment touchscreen.
Upgrade to the TFSI Black Edition for £35,745, for 18” wheels, leather seat trim, sports front seats and a more aggressive look.
The Quattro S Line starts at £44,160 and has lowered suspension and 19” wheels, so it has a firmer drive than some might like. It also adds leather and Alcantara seats, privacy glass, high beam assist and even more overtly sporty styling inside and out.
The Vorsprung comes kitted out with every feature available, but this does come at a price of £46,470.
Find out more about the Audi A4 here.
This is a great car to drive, delivering good performance and precise handling without sacrificing much in the way of ride comfort.
It’s capable of impressive economy levels too, particularly with one of the diesel engines under the bonnet. Owners have consistently reported good reliability and a satisfying ownership experience.
The sleek looks of the Mazda do impinge on practicality somewhat, with headroom for rear-seat passengers limited and boot space down on rivals. However, the car is still an excellent choice for families and professionals.
There are three different engine sizes to choose from.
Mazda doesn’t use turbochargers so the 2.0 litre and 2.5 litre four-cylinder petrol engines will be worked hard. The range-topping 192bhp 2.5 litre petrol takes 8.1 seconds to 62mph.
All engine sizes have G-Vectoring Control, which is designed to make cornering easier and more stable by easing the engine off very slightly when you turn into a bend.
There are four trims to choose from SE-L, Sport, Kuro Edition and GT Sport.
The entry-level SE-L starts at £26,740 and comes with an extensive equipment list, including a multifunction steering wheel, navigation system, front and rear parking sensors, LED lights and smartphone connectivity capabilities.
The Sport adds a reversing camera and driver seat with power slide, recline, height and lumbar adjustment with memory, for a price of £27,940.
Upgrade to the Kuro Edition for £29,400 to add keyless start and lane keep assist system features.
The range-topping GT Sport starts at £32,520, and you’ll get adaptive cruise control, a front view camera, electric power steering, blind spot monitoring and more as standard.
Find out more about the Mazda 6 here.
This is one of the most complete saloon cars currently on sale, offering space, comfort, practicality, technology, and an entertaining drive. It’s larger than the 3-Series and only slightly more expensive. It has become the default choice for those looking for a smaller luxury car.
BMW has consistently kept the 5 Series up to date, which encourages the vehicle’s popularity.
Buyers have three petrol and three diesel engines to choose from, with the entry-level 187bhp 2.0 litre diesel (known as the 520d) as the most popular choice.
This isn’t a surprise when you consider that the 520d claims around 55mpg but can also manage 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds.
There are just two main trim levels with the standard SE including LED headlights, leather seats, sat-nav, alloy wheels and parking sensors. The SE starts at £36,525.
However, M Sport cars have a body kit, 20” alloys and sports seats to make the car look and feel more dynamic. Above this, standalone M550i xDrive is the performance flagship of the regular line-up. It gets a 523bhp V8 petrol engine and sprints from 0-62mph in just 3.8 seconds – and will cost you close to £70,000.
Find out more about the BMW 5 Series here.
Volvo’s latest design direction has gone down well with the public, and the S90 is a good example of why it has proven popular. It’s a luxury saloon that shares its underpinnings and much of its interior with the V90 and XC90.The S90’s interior is beautifully designed and finished, with a striking 9” portrait orientated touchscreen for the infotainment system taking centre stage.
If you’re interested in cutting your emissions or reducing the amount you pay in company car tax – or both – this might be the car for you.
Volvo has dropped diesel and petrol-only engines from the S90 range and is now exclusively available with a 2.0 litre petrol-electric plug-in hybrid system.
The engine is branded ‘Recharge’ and comes with a battery pack powering an 86bhp electric motor that drives the rear wheels and a 299bhp 2.0 litre petrol engine powering the front one. Combined, that means near instant response the minute you put your foot down with 0-62mph achieved in just 5.1 seconds.
There are only two trims available, with the standard R Design starting at £36,650 and the top-end Inscription costing £57,750.
The entry-level R Design is fully equipped, with a keyless start, a powered boot lid, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, privacy glass, 19” alloy wheels and sport styled exterior and interior. You also get front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, adaptive LED headlights and a well-equipped infotainment system with smartphone mirroring.
It’s worth upgrading to the Inscription, including all the above as well as ventilated front seats and soft Nappa leather seat trim.
Find out more about the Volvo S90 here.
This is arguably the most stylish version of this car, but it’s inside where the big updates have been made as Audi has loaded the vehicle with cutting edge tech.
The car is generally a smooth, soothing, and stylish place to complete long motorway journeys.
Range topping saloons get Audi’s Virtual Cockpit display, plus a big infotainment touchscreen with a smaller one below for climate control and other functions.
There is a variety of safety and driver assistance technology that has trickled down from the flagship A8, so you can have active cruise control with steering assistance, whilst the innovative City Assist watches out for vehicles emerging from side streets that may not have seen you.
There are eight engines to choose from across all fuel types.
The 2.0 litre diesel (40 TDI) comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and has a 0-60mph of 8.1 seconds. If you want more speed, there’s the 3.0 litre V6 50 TDI diesel or the 55 TFSI petrol. They manage 0-62mph in around 5 seconds each, with the 50 TDI offering some more low-down urgency.
The 50 TFSIe plug-in hybrid responds the most enthusiastically when you want a burst of acceleration and can run in fully electric mode for up to 34 miles, with a 0-62mph time of 6.2 seconds it’s fast enough.
There are seven trims to choose from, with the entry-level Sport coming in at £38,015, whilst the high-end Vorsrpung tops off at £72,645.
The Sport has more than enough equipment, with electric front seats, four-way lumbar adjustment, LED headlights, 18” alloys, leather seat trim, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, ambient LED interior lighting and keyless start. The standard infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat-nav, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and a 10 speaker stereo.
The S Tronic starts at £45,700 and includes a stiffer suspension set-up, along with bigger 19” wheels, a sporty body kit and Matrix LED adaptive headlights.
The Vorsprung gets 21” alloys, adaptive suspension, four-wheel steering (not including the 40 TDI), a panoramic glass roof, 4-zone climate control, a head-up display, heated rear seats and a few other luxuries, but this does come at a price of £64,510.
Find out more about the Audi A6 here.
This is an elegant and comfortable saloon car and another impressive all-rounder.
The interior is a pleasure to be in thanks to the classy design and quality materials, whilst the wealth of technology on offer includes the vast MBUX powered dual screen setup, which only emphasises the modern, luxurious feel.
The regular petrol and diesel engines are all economical and powerful, with strong levels of refinement and excellent fuel economy. A pair of plug-in hybrids are also available with both offering a benefit-in-kind for company car drivers and around 30 miles of pure electric running.
The 191bhp 2.0 litre E220d diesel has great fuel economy and works well on the motorway. It can sprint from 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds.
For more power, choose the 261bhp E300d 4Matic, or the 326bhp 2.9 litre six-cylinder E400d 4Matic, which can hit 62mp from rest in 5.1 seconds.
The E300e EQ Power hybrid uses a 2.0 litre engine and an electric motor; together they deliver 316bhp and 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds.
There are six trim levels to choose from: Sport, AMG, AMG Line, AMG Line Premium, AMG Line Edition, and AMG Night Edition.
The Sport entry-level trim starts at £39,130. For an entry level trim it is brimming with kit, such as cruise control, power-folding door mirrors, two-zone climate control, 17” alloys, ambient lighting, heated front seats, a 12.3” infotainment screen. There is also a host of safety aids included as standard including traffic sign recognition and blind spot monitoring.
Upgrade to the AMG Line Premium for £52,540 for extra adaptive LED headlights, and a gesture controlled powered boot lid.
The Night Edition is a bit pricey at £99,565, and it includes all E-Class trim and more, including 20” alloys, heated front seats, adaptive cruise control with steering and lane-changing assistance, as well as fully electric front seats with memory settings.
Find out more about the Mercedes E-Class here.
This is more affordable than many saloon cars but still feels sufficiently upmarket. Whilst it doesn’t offer much in the way of flair, it is smart both inside and out of the vehicle.
The Passat is also refined and practical, with a large boot of between 402-650L and more space for passengers than in previous models.
Like many Volkswagen group cars, the Passat benefits from a large engine range – and every option is a good one.
If you’re after a diesel, the entry-level 118bhp 1.6 TDI 120 is adequate. The 148bhp 2.0 TDI EVO 150’s greater willingness to pull from low revs will make life more relaxing, especially if you plan on regularly filling all five seats.
Those who don’t want a diesel can choose between a 1.5 TSI EVO 150 petrol with 148bhp, or a more powerful 2.0 TSI 190 with 187bhp.
There are six trim levels, with the SE entry-level starting at £25,080, with the high spec R Line rounding up the pack at £40,335.
The standard equipment on the SE is great, with sat-nav and an 8” touchscreen as standard. The top spec for the hybrid models is the R Line which adds a 9.2” infotainment system, adaptive suspension, a powered boot, keyless entry, matrix LED headlights and a 10.3” Active Info digital dial.
Find out more about the Volkswagen Passat here.
The XF has been one of the most desirable saloons around since the first generation launched more than a decade ago.
The current model went on sale in 2015, bringing improvements to practicality, efficiency and technology while retaining the swoopy, aggressive profile that buyers find so appealing.
The XF has always been about driving enjoyment and its qualities of a supple ride, agility and responsiveness put it right at the front of the pack in this respect.
Superb refinement and a genuinely luxurious feel to the tech-laden cabin add to the pleasure of driving an XF.
Despite its svelte looks, the XF is a practical choice too, with a big boot and spacious rear seats all part of the package.
A strong range of petrol and diesel engines offer the choice of excellent efficiency or potent performance. The 296bhp 2.0 litre petrol engine can do 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds, returning around 29mpg. The 2.0 litre diesel is far more efficient and capable of over 50mpg and 0-62mph in under 7 seconds.
The cheapest engine in the line-up is still impressive. Badged D200, this 201bhp 2.0 litre diesel feels impressively punchy.
The alternatives are the 247bhp and 296bhp 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol.
There are four trim levels to choose from R-Dynamic, R-Dynamic SE, R-Dynamic Black and R-Dynamic HSE.
The entry-level R-Dynamic starts at £33,975 and includes aggressive looking styling, heated 12-way electrically adjustable leather seats, automatic LED headlights and wipers.
The R-Dynamic SE adds a powered steering column, keyless entry, 16-way electrically adjustable sports seats and an additional safety kit, for an increased price of £37,860.
Topping the range is the HSE option, which includes luxuries like 20” alloys, adaptive cruise control with steering assist and a 400W Meridian Sound System, for £41,225.
Find out more about the Jaguar XF here.