Best Small Luxury Cars for 2023 (2024)

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The best small luxury cars pack the same style, posh accommodations, high-tech features and performance as their larger sisters into a smaller and more affordable package. In an ideal world, the contents are like a 12-piece box of Neuhaus chocolates: just as indulgent as the Belgian chocolatier’s larger assortments, just with a lower price and fewer calories. But since luxury is at least in part about presence and room, small luxury cars (and affordable ones) inherently mean compromises.

Most smaller premium vehicles, cars or SUVs are aimed at younger or first-time luxury buyers. That means keeping the price within reach of people who don’t winter in Saint-Tropez and have never been aboard an Ocean Alexander 100, but not skimping on the kind of premium experience that defines luxury: design, feel, features and power.

For that reason, while you won’t find cabin fragrancers or burled walnut tray tables on any of these cars, fine materials, active-safety gear, panoramic roofs and performance abound. Size itself is also a compromise in these cars, which often feature expansive space up front, but usually come up a bit short on rear-seat room, particularly compared to their SUV kin.

Our list of the best small luxury cars of 2023 includes both compact and subcompact models. While the latter used to mean real compromises on room, the only two remaining subcompacts in this class (the Audi A3 and BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe) actually compare pretty well to their compact siblings.

Our list also includes a couple of cars that blur the lines between luxury and mainstream, like the Acura Integra, which is by far the most affordable in this set and the best value, and Tesla Model 3, which feels less like a luxury car inside than most others but offers fantastic performance.

These are the best small luxury cars available for 2023, though some 2022 models are still listed as availability and testing have been delayed.

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What is the Most Luxurious Car Under $50,000?

Happily, just about all of the cars on this list can be had for less than $50,000, which is not the case for many luxury SUVs. But even so, there are degrees of luxuriousness. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers the most special-feeling and luxurious interior in this group, in part because many alternatives lean into sportiness and sports sedan feel, which is what many sedan buyers prefer. The Volvo S60 and BMW 2, 3 and 4 Series models aren’t far behind.

What is the Cheapest Luxury Car?

In this crowd, the Acura Integra is hands down the most affordable, although getting the most out of the Integra requires opting for the A-Spec Technology package, which starts at $36,895 including destination fees. For that you can get the manual transmission, which is the best way to experience that car, and that’s where it tops out. Almost all the other small luxury cars start at around that point.

Audi A3 starts out at $35,895 with its base 201-horsepower engine, while the BMW 230i coupe rings in at $37,345 to start. Cadillac’s CT4 starts lower at $35,090, but to get many features rivals offer standard, you’ll need to upgrade to the $39,990 Premium Luxury trim.


We sorted our small luxury cars primarily by their overall rating as assigned by Forbes Wheels team of experts, but we also included some additional models that we feel have merit beyond their formulaic scores. As there are now only two subcompact small luxury cars (the Audi A3 and BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe) on the market, we’ve included both subcompact and compact models on our list. Our list also contains some 2022 models, as we continue to evaluate their 2023 replacements.

For 2023, our ratings categories are:

  1. Performance
  2. Fuel Economy
  3. Safety
  4. Infotainment
  5. Comfort & Room
  6. Cargo Space & Storage
  7. Style & Design

Overall: 100 points

  • Performance (15 points) The Performance score is a subjective assessment of a vehicle’s handling, braking, acceleration, ride quality and other qualitative performance measures such as horsepower, torque, zero-to-60 time and top speed. Towing capability for trucks and SUVs also is considered. Performance of the vehicles is compared against the identified competitive set. While driving, reviewers look for attributes relative to the expectations set by the manufacturer and by consumer expectations.
  • Fuel Economy (15 points) The Fuel Economy score is based on the combined mpg estimate for the entire model lineup and how that figure measures against the identified competitive set. The mpg estimates are based on EPA data or the manufacturer if no EPA data is available. Hybrid and plug-in electric variants within a lineup that significantly lower their overall average will not be included in the comparison unless the competitive set also have hybrid or PHEV variants. Scoring for pure electric vehicles will be based on kilowatts consumed per 100 miles and the comparative mile per gallon equivalent, or MPGe.
  • Safety (15 points) The Safety score is based on crash test results from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Vehicles not yet rated by either agency receive zero points. Also included in the safety rating are points awarded for certain advanced driver-assistance safety features offered as standard equipment on the base trim. There are nine safety features Forbes Wheels considers mandatory for the standard offering: forward emergency automatic braking, forward collision warning, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic warning, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning or one its higher-level variants, lane keeping assistance or lane centering. Vehicles must have at least four of these in their standard offering to receive points. Vehicles that offer a Level 2 self-driving system, (a combination of adaptive cruise control and lane centering) are eligible for a bonus point.
  • Infotainment (15 points) The Infotainment score is based on points awarded for certain features offered as standard equipment on the base trim. Forbes Wheels identifies certain features that are growing in popularity and therefore have been adopted by both premium and mainstream automakers. Some of these features include a minimum 7-inch touchscreen (or premium vehicles that use a rotary knob, touchpad or other mechanism to control a non-touchscreen display), wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a customizable, digital driver information display or instrument panel and at least 2 USB ports. Additional points are awarded for popular features that haven’t been widely adopted in mainstream vehicles such as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and wireless charging capabilities.
  • Comfort & Room (15 points) The Comfort & Room score is based on points awarded for the reviewer’s assessment of the vehicle’s comfort, ergonomics and overall interior feel as well as effective use of space. Points also are awarded for the measurement of rear-seat legroom and how it compares with the identified competitive set. Vehicles that offer a segment-best legroom in either rear seat or optional third row are eligible for a bonus point.
  • Cargo Space & Storage (15 points) The Cargo Space & Storage score is based on points awarded for the reviewer’s assessment of the vehicle’s large and small cargo spaces (as well as small-item storage) and how well they serve their purpose and effective use of space. Reviewers also consider innovative storage solutions and flexible loading features. Points also are awarded for the cargo space measurements for rear cargo hold or trunk and how it compares with the identified competitive set. Vehicles that offer a segment-best cargo or trunk space are eligible for a bonus point.
  • Styling (10 points) The Performance score is a subjective assessment of a vehicle’s overall styling and design, inside and out. Reviewers also consider the configuration of the interior and how well the design plays into the function. Build quality also is a consideration.

Why You Can Trust Forbes Wheels:

The Forbes Wheels team is committed to bringing you unbiased, unvarnished information about new and used vehicles, automotive accessories, the vehicle buying process and the fast-evolving technology in today’s automobiles. Our vehicle and accessory reviews are backed by decades of experience and a team of dozens of veteran automotive experts from all walks of life. We create our rankings using published, data-driven methodologies and our direct experiences. While we sometimes participate in manufacturer-hosted events, we also independently source and test vehicles and accessories.

Best Small Luxury Cars for 2023 (2024)


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