Every 2021 Small Luxury Car Ranked from Best to Worst

2021 red tesla model 3 parked on the street outside a house

Even luxury small cars can’t seem to fend off the ever-mighty crossover from eating into their buyers. Sales numbers are down for many of these vehicles, but it’s looking like manufacturers are keeping them around, at least for now. That’s probably thanks to higher margins on these luxury cars. The subcompact and compact segments typically straddle the line between sport-focused and feature-filled, especially compared to their more stately larger siblings.

We rank 23 compact and subcompact luxury cars from best to worst depending on their driving performance, standard features, design, and value. If we did a standalone list for each segment, it would be pretty small. Instead, we combined both sizes into a “small” luxury car list.

23. 2021 Infiniti Q60

a 2019 infiniti q60

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The 2021 Infiniti Q60 could use some updating when it comes to its infotainment system. Other competitors are leaving it in the dust. Additionally, it has some uninspiring steering for a sporty-focused coupe. In other bad news, there’s a recall out for the 2021 Q60s & Q50s for a stalling issue.

22. 2021 Acura ILX

a 2019 acura ilx

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The 2021 Acura ILX has a low starting price and some great standard safety tech. But it also isn’t the most fun to drive, even though it tries to sell itself as a sporty commuter. It may be a good deal, but you could also spend a little more and get a better car.

21. 2021 Infiniti Q50

a 2019 infiniti q50

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The 2021 Infiniti Q50 offers drivers competent handling, but this Infiniti also has pretty poor interior materials for a vehicle at this price point. Plus, it sucks down gas at rates similar to much larger cars. It also suffers from the same 2021 recall as the Q60.

20. 2021 Lexus RC

a 2019 lexus rc

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The 2021 Lexus RC is, if not dated then a little boring when it comes to exterior styling. It’s a small car, but even still, the storage capabilities are below average. It does have good reliability ratings, however, which is something you would expect from Lexus.

19. 2021 BMW i3

a black 2019 bmw i3

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The BMW i3 keeps falling year after year in our rankings, and it’s now pretty much an afterthought for BMW as it turns its attention elsewhere with regard to electric vehicles. BMW has said that the i3 will end (with no direct successor in 2024).

The 2021 model is spacious inside and has good driving dynamics, as well as safety ratings. But the funky design may not be everyone’s preference, and the range for this EV is low compared to newer competition.

18. 2021 Cadillac CT4

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Cadillac is known for their powerful array of engines, and the 2021 CT4 has one. It also has an intuitive infotainment system and responsive handling. The negatives, however, outweigh the positives. There’s a small trunk and tight rear seats. But the biggest offender, though, is the subpar materials throughout the cabin at this luxury price point. It’s not a good start for a model that is only two years old.

17. 2021 Jaguar XE

a 2019 jaguar xe

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What are cars used for? Driving around. And when it comes to driving, the Jaguar excelled. But that’s only half the story. Drivers have to interact with their cars by using the available space and making selections with the controls. That’s where the 2021 Jaguar XE lets drivers down. It also has below-average reliability ratings.

16. 2021 Lexus IS

a 2019 lexus is

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We aren’t fans of Lexus’s infotainment system, nor were we pleased with the small trunk. But the 2021 Lexus IS does offer sporty handling for a comfortable ride. Maybe in the future Lexus can provide better engines and improve fuel economy. In fact, an electrified engine option would hit both points in one move.

15. 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

a 2019 mercedes benz cla class

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That sporty raked-roof styling is impressive to look at, but when you’re trying to see out the tiny rear window, it’s not so helpful. Plus, anyone over 10 will struggle with the low roof in the rear seats. It’s better for buyers to opt for offerings in the C- or A-classes from Mercedes-Benz.

14. 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia

a 2019 alfa romeo giulia

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The 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia has taken a tumble down in the ratings. It has sports car handling for a fraction of the sports car price, with a responsive and nimble driving experience. However, while we do like the revamped center stack, the touchscreen is a little finicky (and cramped). Plus, the overall interior materials are below the class standard.

13. 2021 Volkswagen Arteon

a 2019 volkswagen arteon

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The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon has good interior space and some great tech features for the price, but when you try to use them, things get a little confusing. The ho-hum styling isn’t as exciting as it could have been, but then again, VW was going for comfort instead of sportiness here.

12. 2021 Audi A3

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The 2021 Audi A3 has a lengthy list of standard features. That’s something we like. Plus, that powerful engine in a small athletic body results in an energetic sportster in the guise of a comfortable luxury sedan. The downsides are the tight rear seats and the tiny trunk.

11. 2021 BMW 2-Series

a blue 2021 bmw 2 series

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The 2021 BMW 2-Series landed just outside the top 10. Compared to other competitors at this price point, the 2-Series offers wonderful value for first-class materials and upscale interior. It’s athletic and sporty to drive. But sizing up just a little bit (say, to the 3-series), makes all of these good things even that much better!

10. 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class

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The Audi A3 and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class are neck-in-neck. They are both around the same price, both provide an upscale interior, and both bring a smile to your face as you push the pedal to the floor. The A-Class edged ahead thanks to slightly higher design ratings.

9. 2021 Volvo S60

a 2019 volvo s60

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The 2021 Volvo S60 has what is probably our favorite interior in the segment, if not on any car. It has a large screen but also a select few buttons. It’s intuitive and responsive. (Hey Tesla, this is how it’s done). Additionally, materials are first-rate, the seats are comfortable, and the standard array of safety features is impressive. Unfortunately, it’s less athletic than competitors on this list. But it…tries.

8. 2021 BMW 4-Series

a black 2021 bmw 4 series

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The 2021 BMW 4-Series gives drivers peppy and responsive handling thanks to powerful engines. But it also has one of the highest starting prices in its class, where other competitors offer value on similarly equipped cars.

7. 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

the front grille of a white 2021 mercedes-benz c-class

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The 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is our favorite Mercedes model in this class and has a brand-new redesign for this year. The interior is futuristic without being confusing. The seats are supportive, and the larger space provides room for everyone. Besides the numerous standard features that already come with this vehicle, there is an even more exhaustive list of optional features to make it the perfect choice for you.

6. 2021 Audi A5

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Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz all have two cars in the top 10. They really know how to build a great car. The interior of the Audi A5 is top-notch, the controls are intuitive, and the engaged steering provides a smooth stately ride.

5. 2021 Audi A4

a 2019 audi a4

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The 2021 Audi A4 is a classy affair. Its sleek and stylish exterior carries over inside to a classy interior that spacious and comfortable. All the standard features that you could want are here when it comes to creature comforts, and the handling is top-notch. Wireless Apple CarPlay is now standard for 2021.

4. 2021 Kia Stinger

a 2019 kia sitnger

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Yes, you read that right. There’s a Kia in the top 5 of our list. If you took the badge off and test drove the Stinger, you’d swear it came from Europe and not South Korea. It’s spacious, has a clean and intuitive interior, and it’s one of the most fun vehicles to drive thanks to wonderful handling.

3. 2021 BMW 3-Series

a 2019 bmw 3 series

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The 2021 BMW 3-Series is the best Beamer our list with exciting engine options, capable steering and handling, and supportive seats. Is the infotainment system the cleanest? No, but hopefully you’re having too much fun driving to fiddle with all of that.

2. 2021 Genesis G70

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The 2021 Genesis G70 is akin to its Kia Stinger sibling (Hyundai & Kia are sister companies). All the same positive driving aspects carry over to the G70. Add to that a dizzying array of standard features for this price point, and you’ll be laughing with glee all the way to the bank!

1. 2021 Tesla Model 3

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The 2021 Tesla Model 3 has stellar safety ratings, and it has one of the longest EV ranges on the market. While the minimalist interior is nice to look at, it’s rather cumbersome to use the iPad-like screen for everything. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto? Nope! But this is the best affordable EV on the market if you price it right. Plus, it’s fun to drive!