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Hear the word ‘saloon’ and Audi, BMW or Mercedes likely spring to mind. Admittedly, these manufacturers have built a solid reputation for their saloon cars, but they’re not the only ones to be putting worthy saloons out onto the market. The Stinger from Kia Motors, the Model 3 from Tesla and the Passat from Volkswagen, plus several others, are all out there and giving them a run for their money.  

Saloons provide a sense of balance. If you want a larger car but don’t fancy grappling with the bulk of an SUV, a saloon is there to fill the gap. If you want a stylish car but a hatchback doesn’t quite do the trick for you, again the saloon is there to save the day. Not only that, saloons are comfortable, spacious and practical, which makes them good for families.  

What should you look for in a saloon? 

A good saloon car will have plenty of legroom and headroom for you and your passengers. It will also have a decent amount of boot space, although hatchbacks steal the march on them slightly in this latter aspect. Since saloons have a reputation for being comfortable and sophisticated, expect comfortable seating and a generally nice interior.  

A saloon is all about the driving experience. Being a little larger, you’ll want the car to handle well and the engine should deliver a reasonable amount of power to cope with the car’s size, but not something you’d see on a racetrack.  

Nicest saloons to drive on the British roads 

Thinking of treating yourself to that something that little bit more luxurious? A saloon car could be just the ticket. Easy on the eye. Refined on the inside and outside. Sophisticated. Yes, you’re definitely onto something with a saloon. Here are 10 of the best saloons to drive in the UK. We get things underway with the Giulia from Alfa Romeo…. 

1. ALFA ROMEO GIULIA

The Giulia is a beautiful saloon offering from the Italian manufacturer Alfa Romeo. The standard Super trim with basic specs features a 2.0 litre turbo petrol engine with 200 horsepower. Alternatively, you can opt for a 2.2 litre turbo diesel that sacrifices some of its oomph and delivers 160 hp. Both offer 8 speed automatic transmission, however, for smooth gear changes. 

The ride is smooth and comfortable, thanks to the willing and able suspension and Alfa Romeo’s decision to go with smaller 17” alloy wheels. The vehicle is light on its feet and the sharp steering allows you to manoeuvre the Giulia easily, which is handy because saloons’ bulky bodies make them more difficult to park. The Giulia has plenty of grip on the roads and feels very stable, handling well overall 

Inside, the finishes are elegant and refined and you can enjoy the user-friendly infotainment system while you drive. You’d have to be really tall not to have enough space in this car. The Giulia offers a respectable amount of loading space, which you can increase if you choose folding seats on the Standard trim or will get anyway on the Sprint trim and above. 

Best features:

  • Excellent suspension for an entry level vehicle 
  • Easy manoeuvring  
  • Feels at home on most roads 

Prices start from £14,000 

2. BMW 5 SERIES 520i

It’s sleek, it’s the BMW 5 Series 520i and it’s a magnificent saloon, boasting a 1.6 litre engine with 184 hp and 214 lb ft (290 Nm) torque powering it on through. It’ll take you from 0 to 62 mph in a reasonable 7.9 seconds and to a top speed of 140 mph. Best of all, you’ll hardly hear a peep out of the engine when you’re driving. That’s one of the glories of a saloon 

While you’re inside, the car gets to work on the comfort and convenience with plenty of connectivity, driver assist and infotainment features, so you can stay entertained and safe while you’re on the roads. The 5 series is generous with head- and legroom, front and back, and you can fit eight carry-on suitcases in the boot. This boot is also deep, which allows it to accommodate bulkier items well.  

One thing you’ve got to love about the BMW 5 series is the ride consistency across the range. Stick with the 17 inch alloy wheels and it remains smooth throughout, with the suspension soaking up the pock marks on the roads no problem. The nicely weighted steering makes driving the car bliss, especially if you’re turning in and out of corners, and there’s a decent amount of grip on the roads. Bravo, BMW! 

Best features:

  • Consistently comfortable ride 
  • Quiet engine 
  • Well-weighted steering for easy manoeuvring 

Prices start from £495 

3. JAGUAR XE

The British masters have delivered another outstanding automobile in the form of the XE saloon. A basic 2 litre petrol engine — although diesel is available if you want it — will deliver 178 hp (180 PS) and 317 lb ft (430 Nm) of torque, powering the vehicle to a humble 132 mph and 0 to 60 in 7.8 seconds. Gears? Eight speed automatic, of course. Only the smoothest will do for Jaguar! 

The XE doesn’t just look the part, though: the car balances the handling with its punchy performance to a tee. The steering is direct, well weighted, predictable… the list of compliments goes on. There’s a deliciously old-school feel to it, too. On corners, the car feels flat and stable. On roads it feels settled and the suspension soaks up pesky potholes greedily. What more is there to say? It’s magnificent, really. 

The interior is reasonably spacious, especially in the front. In terms of loading the vehicle, you may prefer the optional folding seats to really get the most out of the boot space. The narrow loading bay might persuade you to look around for a different vehicle, however. That driving experience, though… 

Best features:

  • Handling matches performance 
  • Smooth automatic gears 
  • Cruise control, speed limiter and other safety features as standard 

Price start from £7,500 

4. MAZDA 6

The sporty MX-5 may steal the show slightly when you hear ‘Mazda’ but the 6 Saloon is a tasty little matter, too. This sharp car is fun to drive, thanks to its predictable steering, and will cruise calmly down the motorways. Keep to the smaller-wheeled versions to preserve ride comfort, however 

The entry spec 2 litre petrol engine musters up 143 hp (145 PS) and 157 lb ft (213 Nm) torque to push it to 129 mph tops and accelerate in 9.9 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. You can choose between manual and automatic gears, but the automatic will eat into your fuel economy, leaving you with 40.4 mpg versus the 42.2 mpg of the manual. The expense could soon mount up, so if you’d rather refuel later than sooner, the petrol engine with manual transmission is the way to go.  

The interior is generous all around space-wise and you can fold down the seats to extend the ample 483 litres the boot already affords you. One final ingredient for a comfortable journey is the inclusion of the Mazda Connect infotainment system with 8” touchscreen in all the trims. Delightful!  

Best features:

  • Fun to drive 
  • Settles well on the motorways 
  • Good visibility from the inside 

Prices start from £395 

5. AUDI 6

Even the entry trim in the Audi 6 line oozes sophistication. A 2 litre 45 petrol engine with all-wheel drive and dual clutch 7-speed semi-automatic transmission — ‘quattro’ and ‘7-speed S-tronic’ in Audi-speak – delivers 261 hp (265 PS) and 273 lb ft (370 Nm) of torque. What happens next? 0 to 62 mph in 6 seconds, so hold on to your hat, and a top speed of 155 mph. This thing can move for a big car. 

It’s not all just muscle, though; it drives well, too. In cities as much as on motorways. The steering is intuitive and the vehicle is agile but stable, holding the road well and leaning little, if at all, as it goes into corners or comes out of them. The suspension depends on the model, but all roads generally lead to a comfortable ride. You could even upgrade to a trim with 20” wheels and still enjoy the same comfortplus that extra touch of style.  

This luxurious vehicle spoils you with space inside. Three adults can sit more than comfortably in the back, although foot space is a little more restrictive if you’re in the middle. Boot space is marvellous, with room for nine carry-on cases. If you need more loading space, then three cheers for the folding back seats, which fold nearly completely flat. Basically, Audi can do no wrong with the A6 saloon. 

Best features:

  • Sophisticated interior 
  • Good infotainment system 
  • Stable and agile 

Prices start from £795 

6. VAUXHALL INSIGNIA

Not only is the five-door delight from Vauxhall an attractive saloon in its basic SE NAV form and beyond, but it’ll give you a sexy bang for your buck if you choose a 1.5 or 2 litre turbo diesel engine. You’re looking at between 56.5 and 61.4 mpg, depending on the engine. The petrol engines come nowhere near that and have greater emissions, but they provide more horsepower if you want it.  

A horsepower of 120 (122 PS) and a decent-sized torque of 210 lb ft (199 Nm) gets behind the vehicle and once you’re out on the road, the car sets about charming you instantly. The gear shifts are smooth, the acceleration is good and the engine is quiet. Vauxhall have been working on the steering, too, which enjoys more weight and feel. The car is stablecourtesy of a nicely equipped suspension, and offers a comfortable ride. You might even feel as if you’re in a higher end vehicle. That’s not bad feeling to have.  

Vauxhall put you onto a winner on the inside. The interior is down to earth, with soft materials and decent infotainment features, and the room is good in the front and the back. Boot space is where the interior really shines: it’s deep, long and wide, with up to 490 litres, and you can double this if you fold the seats down. Awesome.  

Best features:

  • High-end vehicle ride comfort 
  • Good connectivity and infotainment 
  • Excellent fuel economy 

Prices from £150 

7. VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT SE

To leave the Volkswagen Passat out of an article about saloons would be insane. The German manufacturer doesn’t faff around and the result is a saloon that’s precise and easy to steer, is solid on the road and knows how to deal with bumps on the road so they don’t disturb your comfort. The Passat has been around for some time now, but you’re the one in control. The Passat never forgets that. 

An SE trim with basic spec 1.5 litre petrol engine and 7-speed semi-automatic transmission will treat you to a top speed of 137 mph. A horsepower of 148 (150 PS) and 184 lb ft (250 Nm) of torque will see it through. The acceleration isn’t shabby either and the car will take you from 0 to 62 mph in an acceptable 8.7 seconds 

Volkswagen have done their useful thorough job of the interior, which is comfortable and spoils the driver and passengers with extra space, although a middle passenger in the back would appreciate more foot space. Boot-space-wise, you certainly can’t grumble. The space is ample — 486 litres – and you can up that by folding down the seats. It’s another fine effort from VW. 

Best features:

  • Solid on the roads 
  • Respectable acceleration 
  • Driver-assist features such as lane assist and parking sensors 

Prices start from £390 

8. MERCEDES BENZ E CLASS SALOON

The E Class from Mercedes Benz is another car it would be madness not to include in an article about best saloons. A standard diesel E220d engine will return 0 to 62 mph in 7.2 seconds and a top speed of 149 mph, but you’ll shave a second or more off that if you upgrade. Torque of 295 lb (400 Nm) and horsepower of 194 (197 PS) work together in a quiet, smooth-running 2 litre engine to produce the motor’s magic. Gears? Nine-speed automatic. Standard. 

Once you get behind the wheel, you’re in for a treat. The automatic gears shift down promptly when you push the accelerator. The car spoils you with light, accurate steering, little body lean and plenty of grip. Meanwhile, the suspension does its thing, gobbling up the bumps in the road. The result is a relaxing, agreeable ride from the saloon.  

What about inside? Surely a brand such as Mercedes won’t skimp on space? They don’t. When you sit inside the E Class saloon, you’ll have plenty, even if you fit the saloon with panoramic sunroof. The boot space is likewise generous, with room for a good nine carry-on cases. Combine space, the classy interior materials and the infotainment system and have a fine saloon. Top job as always from Mercedes.  

Best features:

  • Gears respond well to acceleration 
  • Good infotainment system 
  • Trademark Mercedes luxury inside 

Prices start from £600 

9. KIA STINGER

The Stinger is a gorgeous four-door sports saloon from the South Korean manufacturer Kia Motors. It’s their first, in fact — and what a marvellous debut it is. A 2 litre GDI petrol engine in the GT S trim pounds out 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, spurred on by 242 brake horsepower (bhp) and 260 lb ft (353 Nm). Top speed: 149 mph. Oh and the transmission is 8-speed automatic. It’s a beautiful combination.  

This seductive-looking vehicle delivers on the roads, too. It’s light on its feet and is easy to drive. The steering is accurate and not too heavy or too light, so you feel in control as you guide the vehicle. Although the Stinger is slightly on the weighty side, you don’t really notice it because of the vehicle’s agility and it grips the roads well. The suspension adds to the stability without sacrificing too much ride comfort.  

Inside, the cabin is roomy, with plenty of space front and back. At 406 litres, the boot space could happily accommodate a family of four, and the rear seats fold down to provide 1 114 litres worth. Once you’ve packed your luggage and decided the seating arrangement, you can get on with the drive and enjoy the services of the infotainment system. All in all, this is a good first effort from Kia.  

Best features:

  • Good first sports saloon from Kia  
  • Weightiness doesn’t affect driving experience 
  • Nice acceleration 

Prices start from £21,000 

10. TESLA MODEL 3

Who’d have thought saloons could move so fast? A standard Tesla Model 3 shifts from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds — the Long Range and Performance models are even quicker off the mark — and can cover 254 miles before it’s due another charge. Top speed is 140 mph.  

The steering is sharp and the overall handling of the Model 3 is keen, but might take some getting used to. The tight turning circle is no mean feat for a saloon and makes it easier to park or perform U-turns. Driving the Model 3 at faster paces is pleasurable, with firm body control on country lanes, motorways and A-roads and the suspension soaking up bumps in the road well for a comfortable ride.  

Things are just as comfortable on the inside, with the interior not just being spacious but also feeling it, due to the lack of any claustrophobic feel. Even if you’re over 6 ft, you’ll struggle to be uncomfortable. The boot has a decent amount of space and there’s some extra room under the bonnet for storage, allowing you to pack the car with as many as 10 carry-on casesThis car is a tidy outing from Tesla. 

Best features:

  • Useful driver-assist functions for city settings and safety 
  • Good infotainment system 
  • Minimalist, functional interior 

Prices start from £37,000 

Searching for the right saloon that handles well and is comfortable to drive? We’ve got an extensive range of used saloons on Motors.co.uk 

Search used saloons
Back to articles February 12, 2021

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