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Thursday Throwdown: 2014 Small Luxury Cars

In today’s Thursday Throwdown, we list small luxury cars. These coupes, sedans and hatchbacks are usually the entry-level luxury car buyer’s purchase with both price and value for luxury in mind. Some buy them as second commuter cars or daily drivers next to their larger, more difficult to park full-size luxury rides.

Our top picks are chosen for their overall appeal and ranked on specific metrics. Our full list of vehicles represents the best to be had in the small luxury car segment. These 2014 models are beginning to appear as used car and dealer demonstration vehicles now, so be sure to check the CARFAX report for one you might purchase used and our Used Car Listings to find one for yourself.

Side-by-Side Comparison Chart of Top Picks

2014 Small Luxury Cars New $ MPG Safety (of 10)
Acura ILX $26,900 24/35 9
Audi A5 $39,000 22/32
BMW 2-Series $32,100 23/36 7
BMW 3-Series $32,750 24/36 8
BMW i3 $41,350 N/A
Cadillac ATS $33,065 22/33 5
Lexus CT 200h $32,050 43/40 5
Lexus IS $39,615 19/28 7
Mercedes-Benz C-Class $35,800 22/31 8
Volvo S60 $32,400 21/30 10

2014 Top Small Luxury Car Picks

Lowest Entry Price: Acura ILX
Best Fuel Economy: BMW i3, Lexus CT 200h
Quietest Ride: Lexus IS, Volvo S60
Most Refined Overall: BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Most Refined Interior: Audi A5, Cadillac ATS
Most Fun To Drive: BMW 2-Series, Cadillac ATS

2014 Acura ILX

The lowest-priced vehicle in our Throwdown is also the least luxurious by comparison, but the Acura ILX has a good four-cylinder base engine and impressive fuel economy to match. The turbocharged four-cylinder option is preferred, however, for its sportier driving experience.

2014 Acura ILX
Base price new: $26,900
EPA rating: 24/35 mpg city/highway
Crash test ratings: IIHS – G/N/G/G/G, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Audi A4

The turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the Audi A4 is the same as the one in the A5 (below), but the A4 offers a four-door body style and a little more space in the back seat. For winter drivers, the A4 is available in all-wheel drive. A premium interior finishes the deal for many.

2014 Audi A4
Base price new: $33,800
EPA rating: 24/32 mpg city/highway
Crash test ratings: IIHS – G/P/G/G/G, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Audi A5

The Audi A5 is a nicely balanced coupe offering confident driving dynamics and composed feel on the road. The A5’s interior is very high quality with that signature German appeal many enjoy. Its turbocharged four-cylinder is not overly peppy, but it does offer good fuel economy and acceleration.

2014 Audi A5
Base price new: $39,000
EPA rating: 22/32 mpg city/highway
Crash test ratings: IIHS – N/A, NHTSA – N/A

2014 BMW 2-Series

2014 BMW 228i - exterior 2 - AOA1200pxNew for 2014, the BMW 2-Series replaces the BMW 1-Series. It’s a slightly larger, more roomy coupe than the outgoing model. The 2-Series is marked by sporty handling and great engine options, with the base-level turbocharged four-cylinder being an excellent goer for the class. This car was an easy shoe-in for our Most Fun To Drive pick.

2014 BMW 2-Series
Base price new: $32,100
EPA rating: 23/36 mpg city/highway
Crash test ratings: IIHS – TSP+, NHTSA – N/A

2014 BMW 3-Series

A bit bigger than the 2-Series, the BMW 3-Series offers the same basic performance and handling in a larger sedan shape. With a quality, roomy cabin and refined everyday appeal, the 3-Series is a great choice in a field of excellent small, entry-level luxury sedans.

2014 BMW 3-Series
Base price new: $32,750
EPA rating: 24/36 mpg city/highway
Crash test ratings: IIHS – G/M/G/G/G, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 BMW i3

The only fully electric car in our Throwdown this week, the BMW i3 is a relatively new, small EV. With a fun interior design, great driving dynamics and futuristic appeal, the i3 is a solid entry in the small luxury segment. For green driving, it doesn’t get much better than this, with easy parking and a good driving range (a range-extending gas engine is also available as an option). Its only negative is its lack of crash testing (as of this writing).

2014 BMW i3
Base price new: $41,350
EPA rating: 137/111 mpg-equivalent city/highway
Crash test ratings: IIHS – N/A, NHTSA – N/A

2014 Cadillac ATS

2015 Cadillac ATS - 3 - AOA1200pxAvailable as a coupe or sedan, the Cadillac ATS sports one of the best interiors we’ve seen in the entry-level luxury market. Although not for everyone, the ATS Coupe offers sporty handling and fun driving dynamics to go with its high style. The sedan is a bit more sedate, but includes family-ready versatility and a smart look.

2014 Cadillac ATS
Base price new: $33,065
EPA rating: 22/33 mpg city/highway
Crash test ratings: IIHS – N/A, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Lexus CT 200h

2014 Lexus CT200h - fence 5 - AOA1200pxThe Lexus CT 200h is one of the more efficient cars on our list. With a contemporary look and sporty appeal, the CT 200h suffers from a lackluster interior. With excellent fuel economy, though, and a fun driving experience around town, the CT 200h is still noteworthy.

2014 Lexus CT 200h
Base price new: $32,050
EPA rating: 43/40 mpg city/highway
Crash test ratings: IIHS – G/N/G/G/G, NHTSA – N/A

2014 Lexus IS

2014 Lexus IS350 F-Sport Convertible - top down 2 - AOA1200pxRedesigned for 2014, the Lexus IS has a few engine options. In its 3.5-liter V6 form (IS 350), it is a good sports sedan with a consistent appeal. A convertible option has become a popular choice as well, while the IS-F model throws all efficiency out the window in the name performance.

2014 Lexus IS
Base price new: $39,615
EPA rating: 19/28 mpg city/highway
Crash test ratings: IIHS – G/N/G/N/N, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers a very well-made interior and confident driving dynamics. Not as sporty as others in this segment, the C-Class is nevertheless adorned with a peppy base engine and great upper-level engine upgrades.

2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Base price new: $35,800
EPA rating: 22/31 mpg city/highway
Crash test ratings: IIHS – G/M/G/G/G, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

Sporty performance and great styling are the hallmarks of the small Mercedes-Benz offerings. The CLA-Class is upscale and efficient, but lacks the interior refinement some might expect from a Mercedes. Its turbocharged four-cylinder engine and dual-clutch transmission, however, add a lot of sport to its fun factor.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class
Base price new: $29,900
EPA rating: 26/38 mpg city/highway
Crash test ratings: IIHS – N/A, NHTSA – N/A

2014 Volvo S60

The Volvo S60 is very sporty and stylish, both inside and out. As a competitor to the German makes that dominate the luxury car classes, the S60 has a turbocharged five-cylinder engine and standard six-speed automatic that rival anything from over the Alps. If you want more power, the R-Design model offers a turbocharged six-cylinder engine.

2014 Volvo S60
Base price new: $32,400
EPA rating: 21/30 mpg city/highway
Crash test ratings: IIHS – TSP+, NHTSA – 5-Stars

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