The BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class are three of the best upmarket medium saloons, giving buyers a hefty dose of style, equipment, performance and economy. However, they are all victims of their own success somewhat, with their sheer popularity making them much less exclusive than many buyers may want.
However, if you’re after a stylish – and exclusive – medium car from these well-respected German brands, fear not, as opting for one of their sleek siblings could give you all the same qualities in a less ubiquitous package. We’ve rounded up four of these sharply-styled alternatives that could be just the car you’re after – along with a Japanese interloper that is similarly stylish, while undercutting the Germans on price.
BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe
The BMW 3 Series saloon has been one of the bestselling cars in the country for several years. If you’ve got a little more to spend, however, but don’t want to sacrifice on space, the 4 Series Gran Coupe gives you hatchback practicality, along with much of the style of the 4 Series Coupe.
The Gran Coupe still offers rear doors, however, making it more suitable for those who regularly carry rear passengers than its two-door coupe sibling. Engines range from frugal 2.0-litre diesel models, which can top 60mpg, to rapid turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol and diesel models that can sprint to 62mph in less than five seconds. Prices start from just over £30,000.
The Mercedes CLA may be based on the compact A-Class hatchback, but it has grown in size in its transformation to a saloon, with prices starting from just under £25,000.
Buyers are spoilt for choice in terms of engines, with everything from economy-focused diesel models, which return claimed economy of up to 70.6mpg, to a ludicrously powerful four-wheel drive A45 AMG, which can rocket to 62mph in a mere 4.6 seconds.
As with larger Mercedes models, buyers can also choose from a long list of optional kit, though ticking too many boxes can bump the price up dramatically.
Audi A5 Sportback
The A5 Sportback may share much of its DNA with the A4 saloon, but looks much more rakish. As with the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, prices start just north of £30,000, with the A5 sharing its engines with the A4.
A wide range of motors are available from a low-emission diesel, which costs just £20 to tax every year and should be similarly cheap for company car drivers to tax, to the extremely fast four-wheel drive S5 version. The best blend of power and economy, however, comes from the four-wheel drive 3.0-litre diesel, which sprints to 62mph in under six seconds but is capable of 46.3mpg economy.
Volkswagen Passat CC
Volkswagen may have recently given the Passat saloon a complete overhaul, but this model still looks bland compared to many new cars. If style is high on your wishlist, though, the Passat CC – which is based on the previous Passat – could fit the bill with its sleeker silhouette.
For the size of car prices are reasonable too, starting at just over £25,000 and topping out at less than £33,000. One turbocharged petrol engine and two diesel motors are available, with all returning more than 45mpg, meaning that visits to the petrol station should be few and far between.
Mazda 3 Fastback
Mazda may not typically go into battle against BMW, Mercedes and Audi, but with its striking styling, punchy but economical engines and strong value, the Mazda 3 Fastback could steal many sales from the German big three carmakers.
Prices may start at just over £17,000 for this Mazda, but buyers still benefit from petrol models that can return over 50mpg and a diesel model that breaks the 70mpg mark in fuel economy, while still being able to accelerate to 62mph in a speedy 8.0 seconds.