The best used small executive saloons for bargain prices: Ten cars with a touch of luxury that can be bought for under £10,000
- BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class all feature
- Alternatives from Japan include the current Mazda 6 and Toyota Avensis
- Other European options are Ford's Mondeo, Skoda's Superb and Citroen's C5
- See examples of each model we found for less than £10,000 at PistonHeads
We may not all be executives, and many of us wouldn’t want to be. But many would also quite like the cars they drive.
They’re usually quite luxurious while neatly balancing decent power and performance with economy. Add in a fair bit of space, lots of kit and often a premium badge, and you have a desirable car that is usually out of reach.
A notch under the full-sized executive saloon comes a more affordable option, often called the junior executive class. Brand new, these cars can still cost a pretty penny (and lose plenty in depreciation).
But pick one up second-hand and you can bag something of a bargain, especially if you can find one where the first owner got a bit excited with the options list. For a budget of £10,000 you could have any of these, our top 10 choices. Here we go...
1. BMW 3 Series
Epitome of junior exec: The BMW 3 Series is one of the cars you should most associate with the term 'junior executive', referring to the most compact luxury saloon cars. It's our recommended choice of the 10 here
The 3 Series hits the number one spot because it’s such a consummate all-rounder.
There’s a decent amount of cabin space despite the lack of bulk; it’s comfy and fun to drive; equipment levels are good and it has that image and that badge.
We reckon it’s good value as a used proposition too, although we’d be happier if the car’s reliability record was better.
We found this one on PistonHeads: 2010 320d EfficientDynamics, 48,162 miles, £9782
2. Volkswagen Passat
The VW Passat is a worthy choice. It's available with a range of quality of engines and there are plenty of examples on the market today
Look at this, the first of two VW Passat’s on the podium. Since it doesn’t have the CC’s roofline – see below – there’s more practicality and space on offer.
The Passat makes a great executive car as it’s so accommodating, sensible and cost effective.
You can have a wide range of engines from diesels up to a quick V6 petrol, and really there’s isn’t much reason not to buy one.
We found this one on PistonHeads: 2011 2.0 TDI 140 Sport, 42,000 miles, £9996
3. Volkswagen Passat CC
The most stylish of the cars in this list, the VW Passat CC gives away some practicality for it to have these classy looks - it might be worth the compromise for some
The CC has a stylish, coupe look to its lines, making it one of the most handsome cars on this list.
The downside is that rakish roofline means space in the rear is slightly compromised, but otherwise everything is good and sensible, from ride and handling, to cabin and engines.
On style alone, this is the car that will get the most looks parked on your driveway.
We found this one on PistonHeads: 2009 2.0 TDI 140, 43,500 miles, £9250
4. Mazda 6
This is the current generation Mazda 6 on sale today. Models haven't retained as much value as some may have expected but that means some bargains can be had on second-hand sites
If you’re blinded by badge envy, then the Mazda 6 won’t be for you. But if you’re after a really reliable, smart and fun car that’s good to drive, then this could well be for you.
The cabin is large and well equipped although ride is a bit rough.
But prices are sensible and this makes a great used buy.
We found this one on PistonHeads: 2014 2.2D SE, 38,000 miles £9798
5. Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The C-Class is one of the established executives on the market. You might need to go for a relatively basic spec to get under the £10,000 bracket, though
This isn’t the ultimate driver’s car, but if you’re doing the miles then it’s easy to see why many choose a C-Class.
It’s comfy, relaxed, luxurious and feels really well built.
The engines are all sound, bar a slightly noisy set of diesels, and the whole experience lives up to the badge.
We found this one on PistonHeads: 2011 C220 CDI SE Auto, 46,000 miles, £9526
6. Ford Mondeo
The Ford Mondeo might not have the premium badge of some rivals seen here already, but it will drive circles round most of the competition
It looks sharp these days, handles tremendously well and has lots of steering feedback and grip.
Those might be the top qualities you’d want in your hatch, but you can also have them in this large saloon.
With a big cabin, cavernous boot and decent kit, the Mondeo is a very accomplished car, even though some won’t like the image and some won’t like the lack of a premium feel to the cabin.
We found this one on PistonHeads: 2013 2.0 TDCi 163 Titanium X Business Edition, 41,000 miles, £9998
7. Skoda Superb
The Superb is, without doubt, the most practical car here. If you want passenger and luggage space in acres, this is the choice for you
If you regularly need to carry four passengers, and they all have diva attitudes to luggage then the Skoda Superb should be your wagon of choice.
It’s huge in both body and boot, and very nicely finished too.
Quiet, stable, nimble – it’s a great and accommodating companion for those long journeys.
We found this one on PistonHeads: 2010 2.0 TDI SE Auto, 52,000 miles, full service history, £7989
8. Audi A4
If you can forgive its washboard-hard ride, the Audi A4 is a good option. Again, expect to have to go for a more basic spec if you don't want to spend over £10,000
The A4 is relatively expensive, so for the money you have to accept either higher mileage, lower trim or whatever, but we rate the SE trim as the best value anyway.
The engine choice is terrific, build quality ditto, particularly in the cabin, and you’ll be driving an executive car with a premium badge.
The ride is too firm for some, but the handling is great.
We found this one on PistonHeads: 2010 1.8 TFSI SE, 38,500 miles, £8991
9. Toyota Avensis
At first glance you might not consider his as an executive saloon but it has the space, ride control and performance to match rivals here. Where it lacks is a flash interior, but it's likely to last longer than the competition and suffer from fewer mechanical issues
A great choice if you’re after something well-built, sensible and long-lasting.
Which means it’s not exactly a riot to drive, but there’s good space in the cabin, and it’s a very hushed experience.
Don't expect to be caught out with reliability problems; there's a reason why so many minicab drivers use them - they very rarely break down.
We found this one on PistonHeads: 2013 D-4D Icon, 25,000 miles, £9998
10. Citroen C5
Unlike the Toyota, the C5 is likely to suffer from some gremlins, if reliability records ring true. That said, it's comfy, classy and has loads of space
This is a bit of a left-field option, but if you go for the Exclusive model then you get the hydropneumatic suspension that delivers feather-bed soft ride quality.
It’s also a very quiet car with its acoustic windscreen and laminated windows.
What a great combination if you need to do the miles, and yet prices are relatively cheap.
We found this one on PistonHeads: 2012 1.6 HDi VTR+, 30,000 miles, acoustic windscreen, £8,999
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