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Best cars

Top 10 best executive cars 2024

Efficient, classy and comfortable, these executive cars do it all with a premium touch

Best executive cars

As classy as they are comfortable, executive cars are just the ticket for those who need a medium-sized, premium set of wheels. They’re larger than a typical hatchback but smaller than a full-fat luxury car, offering drivers an excellent middle ground that still boasts plenty of tech, equipment and an excellent driving experience.

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We’ve examined today’s executive car market and chosen our 10 favourite models meeting the criteria above. They’re all practical and economical enough to use as daily drivers, but they’re also great looking, well equipped and good to drive. We’ve picked models with a range of powertrains, from economical hybrids to powerful petrol engines and even a few electric options. Most importantly, every car on our list is special enough to make you look twice.

The best executive cars on sale today

Read on to find out what we think are the 10 best executive cars on sale in the UK today. Meanwhile, business users may be interested in our guides to the best company cars and best small company cars. Looking for more opulence? Read our list of the best luxury cars on sale.

Mercedes C-Class saloon review

Mercedes C-Class saloon driving
Carbuyer rating

4.3 out of 5

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  • Priced from £45,165

The executive car segment has long been dominated by German saloon cars, and the Mercedes C-Class proves why. It’s everything you’d expect a Mercedes to be – plush, tech-laden and great to drive, but wrapped up in a conveniently-sized saloon package. It has more of an elegant look than a sporty one, while its use of chrome is well-judged and contributes greatly to its upmarket image. We’d go as far as to say that it looks like a shrunken S-Class saloon.

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The family resemblance continues on the inside. You couldn’t ask for a more luxurious atmosphere at this price point, with excellent materials everywhere you touch, combined with cutting-edge infotainment and driver displays.

Mercedes offers the C-Class with a wide range of engines, but the plug-in hybrid is a real highlight, with a class-leading electric range of over 60 miles. No matter which engine you pick, this is a car that delivers genuine driving pleasure while also being packed with technology and achieving excellent fuel economy. A classy choice.

Tesla Model Y SUV review

Best Company Car: Tesla Model Y
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

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  • Priced from £44,990

The Tesla Model Y is the firm’s follow-up to the popular Model 3 saloon, offering a near-identical driving experience but with far more interior space. Being an electric car, you get rapid performance, a smooth and quiet ride as well as low running costs. The latter is even more apparent for business car drivers, who will benefit from the significant tax incentives for EVs. In fact, the Tesla Model Y makes such a good company car that we awarded it first place in the category in this year’s Carbuyer Car of the Year Awards.

Its range is just as impressive as its performance, with even the cheapest model capable of 283 miles on a single charge, extending to 331 miles for the Long Range version. Inside, the cabin of the Model Y is a minimalist affair with a large central touchscreen controlling nearly all of the car’s main functions and only a few physical buttons dotted around the cabin. It’s practical, with a spacious cabin and a handy storage space under the bonnet alongside the regular rear boot space. As a showcase of how far Tesla has advanced in a decade, the Model Y is an excellent example.

BMW i4 hatchback review - electric cars can be fun

Carbuyer best company car BMW i4
Carbuyer rating

4.4 out of 5

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  • Priced from £50,755
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While Tesla has led the charge in the EV market, established manufacturers like BMW are quickly catching up, sometimes outperforming the American car maker in key areas. The BMW i4 certainly gives Elon something to think about, providing drivers with a compelling electric driving experience that stays true to BMW's heritage of performance and luxury.

With four doors and a hatchback, the i4 manages to look sleek and sporty, although the giant blanked-off front grille won’t be to everyone’s taste. Step inside and we doubt the interior will split opinion; it’s classy, sturdy and has all the tech you could need. The front seats strike a great balance between comfort and support, while all but the tallest of rear-seat passengers will have plenty of room.

Where the i4 really stands apart from its electric competitors is from behind the wheel. It handles beautifully, with precise, accurate steering and superb body control that defies its two-tonne weight. There’s an M50 model with over 500bhp, but most buyers will be more than satisfied with the entry-level model. Spend more and you can upgrade to the even more luxurious BMW i5, but we think most executive buyers will be happy with the smaller model.

Lexus NX SUV review

Best Large Plug-in Hybrid: Lexus NX
Carbuyer rating

4.3 out of 5

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  • Priced from £44,430
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While we think the Tesla Model Y is the best company car out there, not everyone is ready to get behind the wheel of an EV yet. If it's a petrol-powered executive SUV you’re after, then the Lexus NX is an excellent candidate. With its unique yet classy looks and a solidly built cabin, the NX feels like a premium machine through and through. The efficient plug-in hybrid option completes the package.

It’s not hard to see why the Lexus NX picked up our 2024 award for Best Large Company Car. It stands out in the sea of German rivals with its sharp styling and offers an interior that feels far more up-to-date than those in previous models. Its optional plug-in hybrid powertrain is a first from Lexus, delivering punchy and smooth performance while achieving an impressive 40 miles of electric range.

Reliability is a Lexus strong suit, too, the brand routinely performing well in our annual Driver Power satisfaction surveys, so there’ll be no fear of breaking down en route to your next business meeting.

BMW 3 Series review – an impressive, but expensive executive saloon

BMW 3 Series saloon
Carbuyer rating

4.4 out of 5

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  • Priced from £40,205

The BMW 3 Series is commonly regarded as the car that defines the compact executive class – and for good reasons. It was actually the first car of its type, on sale long before the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class, and over the years BMW has honed it almost continuously – the new model is one of the most broadly talented cars you can buy.

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Its greatest asset is that it gives owners exactly what they want. Sporty drivers relish its rear-wheel-drive handling and will find the powerful BMW M340i petrol and 330d diesel models right up their street, while those in search of comfort will feel right at home in the quiet BMW 320i petrol. The 320d is an excellent all-rounder, mixing performance with strong fuel economy, while the plug-in hybrid BMW 330e offers low running costs and an impressive electric-only range. It’s as capable on an endless motorway as it is on your favourite back road. The 3 Series is a pricey car, but a very hard act to follow.

Hyundai Ioniq 6 saloon review

Hyundai Ioniq 6
Carbuyer rating

4.3 out of 5

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  • Priced from £47,040

Cast your mind back only a few years and Hyundai was not a brand you’d remotely associate with executive cars. However, the push towards EVs has allowed the South Korean brand to expand into more premium markets, the Ioniq 6 its first attempt to take on the saloons from Germany.

The first thing you notice about the Ioniq 6 is the styling. A blend of streamlined curves and futuristic details, it’s suitably unique without going overboard. The cabin does well to live up to the exterior styling, carrying over the dashboard and tech from the Ioniq 5 hatchback. You get a pair of digital screens up front, ambient lighting throughout and even a pair of optional digital door mirrors – although the latter is really a gimmick and best avoided.

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Space is good up front although the rear is slightly cramped for taller passengers. The BMW i4 is more fun along a twisty road, but the Ioniq 6 is plenty quick enough and handles well. A range of up to 338 miles will be more than enough for most business drivers, while Hyundai’s comprehensive suite of driving assistance features makes motorway driving a stress-free affair.

Mercedes E-Class review – a smooth and refined executive saloon

Mercedes E-Class UK drive dynamic
Carbuyer rating

4.4 out of 5

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  • Priced from £55,290

Another staple of the genre, the latest Mercedes E-Class is so comfortable and well-equipped it’s verging on luxury car territory. It’s more expensive than many of the cars on this list but feels like it from behind the wheel, setting the bar for refinement and interior comfort. The only drawback is the existence of its Mercedes C-Class sibling, which feels much the same from behind the wheel, but costs less.

However, if it's a full-size executive saloon that you’re after, the E-Class is tough to beat. You get a choice of petrol and diesel mild hybrids, along with a plug-in hybrid model that can cover around 70 miles on electric power – a class-leading range. The latter makes the best choice for business drivers as it sits in one of the lowest Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) bands, while the diesel satisfies long-distance motorway drivers.

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You’ll be looking for an excuse to take a long drive in the E-Class, thanks to its standout cabin – the design, material quality and technology will leave you wondering why anyone would bother upgrading to the S-Class. There’s plenty of room for four adults, while the seats are comfy and the ride leans towards smoothness over sportiness, a decision that many executive car drivers will appreciate.

Volkswagen ID.7 review - long range, but expensive

Volkswagen ID.7 UK drive
Carbuyer rating

3.9 out of 5

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  • Priced from £51,550

Like Hyundai, Volkswagen has been slowly creeping towards the premium end of the market in recent years, and the ID.7 displays this perfectly. With an upmarket look and sturdy cabin, the ID.7 makes for a well-rounded alternative to other electric offerings on this list, although it comes at a price. If you’re a business car driver, that shouldn’t be a huge issue, as its EV powertrain slots it into the lowest BiK bracket.

The ID.7 is Volkswagen’s best electric car to date, its 77kWh battery providing up to 382 miles of range. Sure, that’s less than a Tesla Model 3 Long Range, but the ID.7 is more spacious and feels more expensive. Plus, an 86kWh battery option is on the way, extending the range up to 435 miles. The ride is comfortable and composed and, while the Tesla may outsprint it in a straight line, it handles surprisingly well through the corners.

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Sit inside and you won’t be blown away by a ground-breaking interior – it actually feels rather dull compared to similarly-priced rivals. Importantly though, the materials are high-quality and everything feels sturdily put together, but the fiddly touch-sensitive controls take some getting used to.

Audi A4 saloon review

Audi A4 saloon
Carbuyer rating

4.3 out of 5

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  • Priced from £38,985

The Audi A4 was formulated specifically to beat the BMW 3 Series at its own game. A premium product with a wide range of engines, the A4 has plenty of appeal, but lacks the BMW’s rear-wheel-drive balance, so has never been quite as much fun to drive. However, the quattro four-wheel-drive models have a vice-like grip on the road, while powerful petrol and diesel engines make going quickly easy and confidence-inspiring.

And when you don’t need to press on, you can relax in comfort thanks to one of the finest interiors you’ll find at any price, crafted from the best materials and endowed with the latest technology. Our favourite 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine eats motorways while sipping fuel, and every model is smartly dressed with Audi’s cool, understated styling, which is simple and never seems to look dated.

Genesis G80 saloon review

Genesis G80 Saloon
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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  • Priced from £43,045

Never heard of Genesis? Don’t worry, Hyundai’s luxury spin-off brand is not a big seller here in the UK, but that just adds to the exclusivity of the G80. Designed to rival the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class, the G80 can’t quite match those models for tech and refinement, but it comes very close for a much more palatable starting price.

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There’s a lot more going for the G80 than just rarity. It’s an impressive machine in all areas, from the premium interior to the smooth and refined 2.0-litre petrol engine. An equivalent BMW has the edge in terms of performance and handling, but this isn’t a car for setting lap records. Instead, settle into a long motorway cruise and the G80 responds with smooth gear changes, minimal wind noise and a generally relaxed demeanour. 

Genesis offers an all-electric version of the G80, too, with a range of up to 323 miles. Unlike most EVs, it’s lighter than the petrol version, meaning it feels just as good to drive – if not better – from behind the wheel.

What to look for when buying an executive car

The executive-car class used to be defined by top-end versions of mainstream models. Four-door saloons from big-selling manufacturers such as Ford, Vauxhall and Rover – with leather seats and much more equipment than cheaper versions – were the establishment for decades.

Things are different today, mainly because manufacturers that previously built cars too big and expensive for the compact executive class have introduced newer, smaller models at lower price points. Manufacturers such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes have come to be defined by their executive cars, with models such as the A4, 3 Series and C-Class being some of the most popular in the segment.

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Although they come at a cost, the strong residual values that premium-brand cars command has also made them more attainable. Because they’re worth more secondhand, manufacturers can offer lower PCP finance rates, which has lured even more buyers from typical family cars.

We’ve also seen new executive car entries from the other end of the market. Some manufacturers that were once known for budget-friendly family cars have since shifted upmarket, with brands such as Hyundai and Kia rivalling their German counterparts for tech and comfort.

Up until recently, an executive would have exclusively meant a saloon car, but that’s not strictly true today. While some of our favourite executive cars are saloons, there are plenty of SUVs on the market today that make for an excellent alternative if you need a bit more space. They will often come with a price premium over their saloon counterparts, however, so it’s worth considering how valuable that extra space and ride height is to you.

Regardless of the badge on the bonnet, an executive car needs to have the edge over a conventional saloon. They still need to be as practical and as reliable as an everyday equivalent, but typically, sharper-than-average styling, a plush cabin and plenty of equipment are musts for any car to compete in the executive class. A wide range of engines is also useful, as buyers will want the choice of economy and power – or preferably a sweet spot somewhere between the two.

For company-car drivers, it makes most financial sense to opt for an executive car that has some form of electrification, be it a hybrid system or a fully electric powertrain. This is due to the significant tax incentives currently in place for zero-emission vehicles. Thankfully, there are more EVs on sale today than ever before, with premium car makers offering some of the best in the business.

Got lots of big journeys ahead of you? Read our list of the 10 best motorway cars…

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