Top 10 best saloon cars 2021
The saloon may be one of the oldest types of car around but it can still be the perfect match for the needs of many buyers. We show you ten of the best saloon cars currently on sale.
The saloon may be one of the oldest types of car around but it can still be the perfect match for the needs of many buyers. We show you ten of the best saloon cars currently on sale
The saloon may seem like a relatively old-fashioned type of car compared to the raft of compact SUVs and crossovers currently flooding the market. However, it can still make sense for a lot of buyers, as the best on the market offer qualities such as style, comfort, luxury and performance all in one package.
Our best saloon cars page looks at those that tick most if not all of those boxes. The top 10 offers a mix of positive driving dynamics, refined ride quality, smart, well built interiors, economy, space and technology. We've picked the best saloons from a range of manufacturers to suit a number of different budgets. The list even includes a Bentley and a Rolls-Royce; while they certainly don't major on affordability or running costs, in some other important respects, they represent the pinnacle of what a saloon car can be.
Here’s our list of the 10 best saloon cars currently on sale:
The BMW 5 Series is the most complete saloon car currently on sale, offering comfort, space, practicality, economy, technology and an entertaining drive. Buyers have three petrol and three diesel engines to choose from, with the entry-level 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel, called the 520d, being the most popular choice.
It’s no surprise when you consider this version of the 5 Series 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. M Sport cars have a bodykit, 20-inch alloy wheels and sports seats to make the car look and feel more dynamic. Above this the 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.
The Mercedes E-Class is an elegant, comfortable saloon car and another impressive all-rounder. Sitting inside it is a pleasure thanks to the classy design and quality materials of the interior, while the wealth of technology on offer includes the vast MBUX powered dualscreen setup, which only emphasises the modern, luxurious feel.
The regular petrol and diesel range 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 low a BiK taxable benefit for company-car drivers and around 30 miles of pure-electric running.
The BMW 3 Series was the first compact executive saloon and has been available for much longer than its current 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. The handling comes with the luxury and tech you’d expect of a modern BMW saloon.
There is a range of variants to suit different customers, including the sporty and powerful 330i petrol and 330d diesel models, as well as the quiet and refined BMW 320i petrol. The 320d mixes impressive performance with economy. It’s as capable on a long motorway trip as it is on a twisty B road. The M3 saloon is the range-topping 3 Series performance model, producing 503bhp and boasting a 0-62mph sprint time of less than four seconds. The 3 Series is expensive, especially the £75,000 M3, but it feels worth it.
The Audi A4 inhabits a class of car that’s full of strong rivals, including the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Giulia, so the fact it still manages to come out as the best all-rounder is particularly impressive.
The interior is the best of the compact executive saloons, thanks to its minimalist look and impressive build quality, and 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 while it still lags behind the BMW 3 Series in terms of handling, it’s the best model yet in terms of driver engagement.
Volvo’s latest design direction has gone down well with the public and the S90 is a good example of why it has proved so popular. The distinctive grille and slim headlights with bold ‘Thor’s Hammer’ LED daytime running lights give the car a sleek, stylish look at the front, while inside the interior is beautifully designed and finished, with a striking nine-inch, portrait-orientated touchscreen for the infotainment system taking centre stage.
The engines on offer all give the S90 a decent turn of speed and although the car isn’t hugely exciting to drive, it’s very comfortable, which is what most buyers of a large saloon car will prioritise.
The Volkswagen Passat is more affordable than many of the best saloon cars available, but it still feels sufficiently upmarket to be considered by buyers with the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class on their shortlists.
While the Passat may not offer much in the way of flair or excitement, it’s smart inside and out, as well as being refined and practical, with a large boot and more space for passengers than ever. Like so many Volkswagen Group cars, the Passat benefits from a big engine range without a bad one to choose.
The Mazda6 is a great car to drive, delivering good performance and precise handling without sacrificing ride comfort. It’s capable of impressive economy too, particularly with one of the diesel engines under the bonnet, and owners consistently report good reliability and a satisfying ownership experience.
The sleek looks of the Mazda do impinge on practicality somewhat, with headroom for rear-seat passengers and boot space a little down on rivals, but the car is still an excellent and slightly unusual choice for families and professionals.
The latest Audi A6 is arguably the most stylish version of the car yet but it’s actually inside where the big updates have been made, as Audi has loaded the car with cutting-edge tech to help the car in its fight with the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series. Range-topping models get Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit display, plus a big infotainment touchscreen with a smaller one below it for climate control and other functions.
There’s 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, while City Assist watches out for vehicles emerging from side streets that haven’t seen you. Economical mild-hybrid powertrains are now available, helping to make the A6 a technological masterpiece, and the car is generally a smooth, soothing and stylish place to complete long motorway journeys.
The Mercedes C-Class is more about comfort than outright performance, delivering refinement for occupants and a luxurious, elegant style. The updated interior is plush, especially in the more expensive models, and the dashboard is modern, borrowing the portrait infotainment screen from the latest S-Class, which is easy to use and good to look at, even if some of the materials aren’t quite as high quality as those in an Audi A4.
Minor gripes include slightly less rear and boot space compared with rivals, and the diesel engines can be a bit noisy too. However, the C-Class is good, if not the last word in sporty, to drive, and comes with plenty of tech and is economical.
The Jaguar 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, close behind the BMW 5 Series.
Superb refinement and a genuinely luxurious feel to the tech-laden cabin add to the pleasure of driving an XF, while a strong range of petrol and diesel engines offers the choice of excellent efficiency or potent performance. The 296bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine will do 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds returning around 29mpg. While the 2.0-litre diesel is far more efficient, and capable of over 50mpg and 0-62mph in under seven seconds. In spite of its svelte looks, the XF is a practical choice, too, with a big boot and spacious rear seats all part of the package.
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