Small doesn’t have to mean basic. And a luxury car doesn’t have to have a buffed up presence, more land than a small county and with an aggressive grille that screams ‘look at me’ to anyone who may pass.
Luxury means high-class material, great tech, a comfortable drive with a smooth engine. And these small cars have it in spades.
So good things can come in small packages.
BMW 1 Series
Best luxury city car
City driving isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There’s the traffic, and the parking. But the BMW 1 Series goes some way in challenging the problem.
With its punchy powertrain – right across the range – and more than enough room to remain comfortable, city driving can be enjoyable once more.
It’s a nice place to be, too. Everything inside the 1 Series smacks of seamless, streamlined quality. At the same time, there’s an abundance of technology at your fingertips through BMW’s i-Drive infotainment system – which is version 7.0 in the 2020 model.
With expert crafting from the outside right through the car, the hatchback’s smaller base gives it spirit, character and a lot of fun. And if you spend a lot of time in the city, you’d be hard pushed to find a better companion.
Best small luxury car for letting your hair down
BMW has, on the whole, stayed true to the Mini brand, not swerving too far off the past of tried-and-tested. That’s until the Mini Convertible.
This award-winning model is still aligned with Mini’s timeless style, but with updates that make it one of the best-selling convertibles in the country.
With an electrically powered soft top that folds down in 18 seconds, even when you’re driving, full front and rear LED lights and a whole host of personalisation options, colours and alloy wheel designs, this is truly a beautiful car.
Choose between the 1.5-litre Cooper with 134bhp or the 2.0-litre Cooper S with 189bhp, which is seriously quick. The Cooper S has a top speed of 143mph and can zip from 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds.
But if you want real speed, there’s the John Copper Works, which uses the same engine as the Cooper S but extracts even more power – 228bhp.
There are also optional safety features to choose from including camera-based driving assistance systems to keep you safe on the road and rear parking distance control.
With a low, yet wide driving seat, this is a comfortable car with spirit.
Best luxury small electric car
If you’re looking for a small luxury electric car, you can’t go too far wrong than the BMW i3 with its unique, futuristic design packed full of innovative tech features.
Prestige looks aside, the i3 features a 168bhp electric motor, which drives the rear axle via a single-speed automatic transmission. With a top speed of 99mph, it can hit 62mph in 6.9 seconds.
This is an incredibly light car, constructed out of carbon fibre and clad in plastic panels, which makes it a joy to handle. Steering is fast-acting and nimble in the corners.
Perfect for city living, the BMW i3 has a lot going for it as a fun, affordable, luxury and eco-friendly lifestyle car.
Best luxury sports coupe
Small (ish), sporty and luxurious, the A5 will get you from A to B quickly and in style.
The smallest petrol engine is a 2.0-litre turbocharged powertrain which produces 187bhp. The diesel is another turbocharged 2.0-litre creating 161bhp.
As you climb the range, the option for more power becomes prominent, with both the RS5 coupe and Sportback housing a 444bhp turbocharged 2.9-litre engine, which is controlled by an excellent 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox. In a nutshell, this is a proper fun and sporty drive.
It’s also a classy design. The combination of LED lights, distinct edges and Audi’s four rings provide a simple yet stunning finish.
Then there’s the refined, minimalist cockpit with three-zone electronic climate control, twin-leather front sports seats, a spacious interior and a mountain of technology including Audi’s MMI, Parking System Plus, cruise control, smartphone integration and Audi Connect.
It all makes for an excellent driving experience.
Best small luxury hatchback
The A-Class is a striking looking hatchback, and that doesn’t stop with the exterior. The interior with panoramic screen, smooth transitions between dash and door and ambient lighting creating undoubtedly the most luxurious cabin in its class.
Through MBUX, the A-Class is also incredibly intelligent; learning about its driver every day, such as the fastest route to work if there’s congestion, your favourite music, even reacting to your mood. All of which is available through ‘Hey Mercedes’.
There are 13 different model variants of the A-Class, from the entry-level SE to the sports-tuned A45 S 4MATIC+ Plus. But even at the base trim level, the A-Class is littered with style and technology.
There’s also a hybrid option, which combines a 1.3-litre petrol engine and 75 kW in batteries to produce 262 bhp.
Audi A3 Sportback
Best small luxury car for refinement
It’s Vorsprung Durch Technik once again when it comes to the Audi A3 Sportback, a premium compact car.
With a completely digitalised interior, cutting-edge infotainment, powerful engines and a sleek design, this is one of the best in its class.
The A3 comes with the option of either a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol or a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine. And whichever you opt for, both are pretty quick; topping out at 139mph.
It’s also a deceptively spacious car, built for comfort and practicality with an electric boot lid to help if your arms are full of shopping or you simply want to show off in the work’s car park.
And if you’re looking for the latest in tech, even the base model features a 10.1-inch touchscreen display that runs Audi’s latest infotainment system with smartphone mirroring for both Apple and Android devices.
Best Luxury Small Car For Business
With a premium cabin, refined driving performance and low running costs, the smallest car in the Lexus range makes a big impact.
The Lexus CT runs on a headline hybrid engine, so no hassle of plugging it in. Its interior is swathed in top-class leather, focusing entirely on driver and passenger comfort.
There are six trims available, from the entry-level SE up to the Luxury. The SE comes with 16-inch alloys, a seven-inch display screen and dual-zone climate control.
Add a Plus Pack and you’ll get added safety systems, sat nav, rear parking sensors and 17-inch alloys.
Fancy something sportier? The F-Sport with Premium Pack has an upgraded sound system, special 17-inch alloys and a sporty exterior.
Achieving up to 79mpg with as little as 97g/km CO2 emissions, it’s good for company and personal cars alike.
The Lexus CT also comes with an optional safety pack which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, automatic high beam, adaptive cruise control and road sign assist.
Volkswagen Golf R
Best small luxury car for speed and fun
The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf R is the most powerful Golf yet, with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, seven-speed DSG auto and all-wheel drive. It’s also stunning, packed full of tech and comfortably snug.
Available as a three or five-door, the Golf R is incredibly spacious, with room for four adults. And thanks to those big sports seats, you can sit comfortably while you tackle even the tightest of corners.
The premium R performance package may have aggressive styling on the outside, but the interior of the cabin is anything but. It’s a quality setup with precision mechanics and a touchscreen sat-nav.
The Golf has become synonymous for quality and reliability, and this incarnation is no different, being one of the most reliable premium small cars around.
Best small luxury car to express yourself
The iconic Mini Clubman has all the classic curves you’d associate with the iconic car, but at more than 4.2 metres long, there’s even more Mini for your money.
It packs a punch with the Cooper S Clubman and ALL4 versions running on 1.5-litre petrol twin-power turbo engines.
Choose the base level trim for a leather-wrapped steering wheel and 17-inch alloy wheels; next level Signature with panoramic roof, touchscreen, heated seats and keyless entry; or Iconic level where navigation and Apple CarPlay make an appearance alongside leather seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.
As is standard with Mini, you have loads of options to personalise the car as you wish, from colours and trim to wheels and tech. It’s really a car to have fun with.
Best small luxury car for a family with style
So you have a family. That doesn’t mean you can’t bask at the altar of luxury and style. That is what this Mercedes Benz CLA coupe is all about.
A diamond grille is the first thing to catch your eye on this refined model. Stunning from the inside out, the CLA is luxuriously comfortable and packed nose to bumper with tech.
There’s the 5.8-inch colour screen mounted high on the dash and, of course, as it’s a Mercedes, you get a whole raft of safety systems from Collision Prevention Assist to lane-keep assist.
Available in either petrol or diesel, and with start-stop technology, the CLA is also incredibly fuel-efficient and cost-effective.