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What is the Best Compact Luxury Sedan?

March 22nd, 2013

2013_Cadillac_ATSSo, you’re looking for a personal luxury sport sedan.  Where do you start your search?  There are always the top-selling Germans, traditionally the gold standard in this category – the BMW 3-series, Mercedes C-Class, and Audi A4.  But what about their well-established Japanese rivals – the Lexus IS, Infiniti G, and Acura TSX?  And then, to make matters interesting, there are two new American challengers, the all-new 2013 Cadillac ATS, and the redesigned 2013 Lincoln MKZ, just launched to spearhead Lincoln’s intended resurgence.  Historically, American entries have not played well in this category, but are these latest offerings worth a look?

Well, before you drive all over your local area visiting dealerships and test driving all the various models, here is something to help you hone down your search.  At True Consumer Reviews, we invited over 100 compact luxury sedan owners to our research facility to conduct a detailed, hands-on comparison of 8 top-selling models, including the recently launched 2013 Lincoln MKZ and 2013 Cadillac ATS.  The compact luxury sedan owners pored over each vehicle, rating them on over 100 attributes.  Then, we statistically summarized their ratings into a handy summary that gives you a quick, clear look at how each model measures up in all the major categories.  So, what did over 100 real owners – people like you – find to be the best compact luxury sedan when they compared them all?  Here is a brief look at what consumers found in a back-to-back, hands-on comparison.

The American Surprise

Compact luxury sedan owner scores reveal the two new Americans – the Cadillac ATS and Lincoln MKZ – have joined the club, scoring mid pack.  Both entries rate above two of three Asian entries, the Lexus IS250, now in the last year of its life cycle, and the Acura TSX.  These two Americans take different approaches.

Lincoln MKZ:  The MKZ is a front wheel drive, midsize entry.  It is based on the same underlying structure as a Ford Fusion.  Despite its larger size, MKZ is priced alongside the compact entries and is Lincoln’s entry level luxury sedan.  Its strengths include best-in-class front and rear seat comfort and trunk space.  The MKZ features touch screen controls and a push button shifter, which some feel gives the car a clean, leading edge technology look and feel.  Targeting a comfortable, quiet ride over that of a stiffer European sport sedan, MKZ rates average overall, above the Lexus IS and Acura TSX.

Cadillac ATS:  Unlike the MKZ, the ATS is based on an all new rear wheel drive vehicle architecture shared with no other vehicles.  Like the top-selling Germans, the ATS is a true compact sized entry, delivering rear wheel drive handling feel and exterior proportions.  Press drives confirm the ATS has the dynamic performance to match its European sport sedan character.  In our study, ATS topped all vehicles for feel of interior quality, seat material quality, and front seat storage.  Like MKZ, ATS features touch screen controls that some feel lend a clean, leading edge technology look and feel.  ATS finished with an overall vehicle score equal to the average for the 8 vehicles.

One Japanese Model Distinguishes Itself:

Despite being in the last months of its lifecycle, the Infiniti G37 scores in the upper half of the 8 sedans tested, just behind the Audi A4 Quattro.  The G-series tops the class for overall interior appearance and value for the money.  Its 3.7 liter V6 is known for delivering exhilarating acceleration.

The Germans (Still) Rule:2013_Audi_A4

The three top selling German models, the BMW 3, Mercedes C, and Audi A4 took the top three scores for overall vehicle.

2013 BMW 328i:  Re-designed for the 2012 model year, the 328i ties the Mercedes C-Class for the top overall vehicle rating and for exterior styling.  While its interior is a bit disappointing to some, many feel its styling and dynamic strengths are worth the sacrifice.

2013 Mercedes C250:  The C250 ties the BMW 328i for the top exterior styling and overall ratings.  Like the BMW, the C250’s dynamic strengths are well documented.  Compact luxury sedan owners rate the C250’s interior controls, driver visibility, acceleration, trunk area, and value for the money above average.

2013 Audi A4 Quattro:  The A4 scored 3rd highest overall, with the top-rated trunk area and driver visibility.  Exterior appearance and rear seat comfort and roominess score above average.

Want to learn more?  Start comparing compact luxury sedans now. You’ll get something you cannot find anywhere else:  the compiled ratings of over a hundred midsize sedan owners who compared all the major models, hands-on.  Then, click on the rating symbols to get the photos and explanations behind the ratings.