Car shoppers interested in a luxury car aren't always after a large vehicle with a huge engine and muscle-car acceleration. Some buyers are mainly seeking a luxury brand and upscale trimmings, but they aren't willing to break the bank in the showroom-or at the gas pump. For those car shoppers, we've listed our favorite compact luxury vehicles, each of which is available new or with a manufacturer-backed certified pre-owned warranty for around $30,000. These cars may not have the presence of a Mercedes S-Class or the sleek, exotic lines of a Porsche 911, but each model we recommend does have luxurious equipment, impressive fuel efficiency and the cachet of an upscale brand.
Acura's compact ILX sedan made its debut just last month, and it has already become one of our favorite entry-level luxury cars. We feel that car shoppers will agree, thanks to the sedan's reasonable base price of less than $27,000 and a long list of other attributes like strong fuel economy and luxurious equipment. Unfortunately, since it's such a recent arrival, there are no certified examples in dealer hands, meaning shoppers on a strict $30,000 budget will have to opt for the base 2.0-liter model. But while the available hybrid and 2.4-liter versions have their advantages, we like the 2.0 variant's competitive pricing and fuel economy ratings of up to 35 mpg on the highway. Our earnest recommendation is further earned by standard equipment including side curtain airbags, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote keyless entry and push-button start.
With a base price of around $28,000, the Audi A3 is a great choice for shoppers interested in a sporty, luxurious compact. Available equipment such as leather upholstery, a navigation system and a lightning-quick dual-clutch automatic helps the A3 live up to its place in Audi's upscale lineup. Also available are two impressive engines to satisfy different buyers. A standard 200-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder provides muscular acceleration while still achieving up to 30 mpg on the highway. For drivers interested in fuel economy, the top choice is clearly Audi's 2.0-liter turbo-diesel 4-cylinder, which achieves up to 30 mpg in the city and 42 mpg in highway driving. An A3 TDI isn't available new for less than $30,000, but many certified pre-owned examples well within our budget boast the miserly engine and Audi's six-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
BMW 1 Series
With a starting price of around $32,000, BMW's sporty 1 Series doesn't fit into our price range. But nearly 200 certified examples of the compact BMW are currently listed on AutoTrader.com for $30,000 or less, making the two-door BMW an easy choice for buyers willing to consider a used car. Nearly all of those are the automaker's base 128i model, and around half are convertibles, which provide the same four seats as the coupe plus an easy-to-use power soft top. They also include BMW's certified pre-owned warranty, which provides up to six years or 100,000 miles of powertrain protection.
When many buyers hear the name Buick, they likely think of large, luxurious sedans of the type that have waned in popularity over the years. But the compact Verano sedan is proof that the General Motors brand is back with a renewed energy. Gone are the staid styling and bulky proportions of Buick's past models, replaced instead by a sporty appearance and a compact 183.9-inch length. The Verano also trades in big engines of past General Motors models for a 177-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder that's capable of up to 32 mpg in highway driving. If that's not enough to help you add the brand-new Buick to your shopping list, consider its base price: under $23,500, including destination, for a base model, or less than $27,000 for an upscale leather-trimmed version that includes a heated steering wheel, heated seats, push-button start and a Bose sound system. Indeed, the compact Verano warrants giving Buick another look.
Although it can be a stretch to get a new CT200h for $30,000, certified pre-owned examples are easily available for that reasonable sum. That's great news for shoppers browsing this list, as the CT200h is the quintessential fuel-efficient luxury compact. Under the hood, it's powered by a 1.8-liter hybrid engine capable of up to 43 mpg in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway. Inside, available equipment includes a navigation system, heated seats, a power sunroof and automatic headlights. And there's no denying the luxurious prestige of the Lexus brand. Best of all, the CT200h is backed by one of the top warranties on the market, which covers the hatchback for up to three years or 100,000 miles from the date of purchase.
Volvo's C30 provides buyers with an impressive array of luxury features for under $30,000. The base model offers only typical standard equipment. Adding the available Platinum package boosts the C30's base price to a still reasonable $29,000 with shipping and includes a navigation system, satellite radio, power front seats, a power sunroof and attractive LED running lights. The C30 also includes a powerful yet efficient 227-hp turbocharged 5-cylinder powerplant, which propels the hatchback from 0 to 60 mph in around six seconds and can still achieve up to 30 mpg in highway driving. Many of the certified pre-owned examples currently listed on AutoTrader.com provide an even better deal and carry Volvo's six-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
What it means to you: It's possible to get a fuel-efficient compact and an upscale luxury vehicle wrapped in one.