The Audi A3 is one of the most popular and stylish models in its segment, with the car recently crowned the 2014 World Car of the Year.
Audi’s best-seller is available in the following body styles: three-door, Sportback, Cabriolet and Saloon, with prices starting from £18,280. Later this year, Audi will also release the A3 Sportback e-tron, which offers a plug-in hybrid drive.
The popular Audi A3 is available in three trim levels: SE, Sport and S line, with all models coming well equipped.
Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, 5.8-inch colour display screen, DAB radio, Audi Music Interface, Bluetooth, voice-control system, front fog lights, body-coloured roof spoiler, air conditioning and leather multi-function steering wheel.
Moving up the trim levels brings additional features such as larger alloys, sports suspension, colour driver’s information system, front sports seats, dual-zone climate control, Xenon Plus headlights and chrome exhaust tailpipe trims.
A host of petrol and diesel engines are available to power the Audi A3, with sizes ranging from 1.2-litres to 2.0-litres and offering between 104bhp and 182bhp.
Depending on the version chosen, the Audi A3 will return average fuel economy of between 42.8 mpg and 74.3mpg, while emitting between 99g/km and 152g/km of CO2.
With sub-100g/km CO2 emissions and a host of equipment, our pick of the range is the Audi A3 1.6 TDI SE.
Mercedes-Benz is known for its sleek, premium models and the A-Class is no exception.
Priced from £20,715, the Mercedes A-Class is available in three trim levels: SE, Sport, AMG Sport and the range-topping Engineered by AMG.
Standard equipment across the range is plentiful, with all models receiving alloy wheels, air conditioning, leather multi-function steering wheel, sports seats, 5.8-inch tablet-style colour display, Bluetooth, USB port and telephone keypad.
Higher-spec models receive larger alloys, cruise control, comfort/sports suspension, Bi-Xenon headlamps, ambient lighting, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and AMG bodystyling.
Optional equipment is also plentiful, with option packages including ‘Night Package’, ‘Memory Package’, ‘Exclusive Package’ and much more.
Numerous engines are available for the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, with power outputs ranging from 107bhp to a whopping 354bhp. CO2 emissions produced will vary from 92g/km to 161g/km, depending on the version chosen.
Furthermore, the A-Class will return average fuel economy of between 40.9mpg and 78.5mpg.
Our choice of model is the Mercedes-Benz A-Class A180 CDI SE ECO, with its sub-100g/km CO2 emissions meaning that customers will pay no VED tax and will avoid the London Congestion Charge.
BMW 1 Series
Rounding off the trio of German-made compact executive cars is the stylish BMW 1 Series, which is available in three- and five-door body styles.
The BMW 1 Series is priced from £17,775 and can be specified in one of the following trim levels: ES, SE, Sport, Urban and M Sport.
Standard equipment is plentiful for the 1 Series, with even entry-level models receiving alloy wheels, 6.5-inch Control Display, BMW Professional radio, Comfort Go keyless start, DAB radio and a leather steering wheel.
Moving up the range adds extra desirable features such as Bluetooth hands-free facility, multi-function leather steering wheel, sat-nav, leather upholstery, ambiance lighting, front sports seats, dual-zone air conditioning and numerous ‘M’ styling features.
Numerous petrol and diesel engines are available for the BMW 1 Series, with power output ranging from 94bhp to 315bhp. Depending on the version chosen, the 1 Series will emit between 99g/km and 188g/km of CO2.
Customers can specify the BMW 1 Series to have an eight-speed automatic transmission if they so wish, which is the first to be offered in the compact class.
Our pick of the range is BMW 1 Series 116d EfficientDynamics as it offers sub-100g.km CO2 emissions and enough luxury kit for most drivers.
Best compact executive cars 2012
Alfa Romeo 159
Ageing, but still good-looking saloon with a premium interior and fewer reliability issues than Alfas of the past. Looks great but this is not matched in terms of refinement and comfort on the road.
Nissan-owned alternative to the German brands. Looks good and luxurious interior is a bonus. Eye-watering running costs from the single petrol engine are not.
A four-door saloon with a huge amount of safety kit and can compete with other premium cars in terms of materials and equipment. Looks good but can be a little cramped.
Plenty of equipment available and the IS is comfortable and fitted to a high specification. Ride quality is not up there with German rivals however. Intriguing alternative but not the best around. Available in convertible format.
Top quality entry-level trims and plenty of storage space. Although it is expected with a Mercedes, prices are very high. Residual values are impressive.
Smart looking, plenty of street credit and a wide range of impressive, economical engines. The badge keeps residual values high and comes with the premium feel you would expect from BMW. But prices are a little steep.
Four-door saloon or estate compact model from Jaguar. Based on the same platform as the Ford Mondeo but with added luxury and a more executive design. Nowhere near the BMW 3-Series.
Audi A4, A4 Allroad
You can expect high quality interiors, styling and storage space, but if you want a fun-to-drive model go for the Allroad, the SUV/estate version. Also comes in more performance-oriented S4 and RS4.
Surprisingly spacious and very stylish. The engines are superb, making the Audi A5 comfortable, quiet and refined. A real star in the compact exec segment. Audi S5 offers a sportier design and more performance.
Quite a nice interior as expected of a Saab but its design is a little drab. Packed full of safety equipment. Saab folded in 2012 so warranty and availability issues will plague the 9-3.