The draw of a luxury badge can be strong, but a sky-high monthly payment can make some car shoppers think twice about taking the premium-car plunge. Many luxury brands, however, have expanded their lineups in recent years to broaden their appeal and reach new buyers.
Related: Which Automaker Owns Your Luxury Brand?
Much of this growth has happened in the subcompact SUV class, and three of the five 2021 models in our list — the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Volvo XC40 — compete in this category and start at less than $37,000, including destination. The Genesis G70 compact sports sedan and Lexus ES mid-size sedan, which start at $37,025 and $41,025, respectively, round out the list.
And far from being warmed-over versions of mainstream models (we see you, Cadillac Cimarron), this new crop of entry-luxury models bolster, rather than discredit, their respective brands. Read on to see what else — besides affordable starting prices — makes these luxury models worth a test drive.
Affordable Luxury Cars
- 2021 Audi Q3
- 2021 BMW X1
- 2021 Genesis G70
- 2021 Lexus ES
- 2021 Volvo XC40
2021 Audi Q3
Base price: $35,095 (all prices include destination)
Combined EPA fuel economy: 25 mpg
Audi elevated its entry-level Q3 with its model-year 2019 redesign, giving the subcompact SUV a level of quality and technology that’s similar to the brand’s larger, more expensive SUVs. Powered by a 184-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the Q3 has standard all-wheel drive and a responsive eight-speed automatic transmission. An extensive list of standard comfort and convenience features, including a panoramic moonroof and an 8.8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, enhance the Q3’s value proposition. And despite its small footprint, the Q3 also offers good comfort in both rows.
2021 BMW X1
Base price: $36,395
Combined fuel economy: 27 mpg
The BMW X1 was last redesigned for the 2016 model year, and the result was the bigger, roomier entry-luxury SUV that’s still available today. Powered by a standard 228-hp, turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that works with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the X1 is available with front- or all-wheel drive. Standard features include navigation with an 8.8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and a power liftgate. The current X1 gives up much of the handling prowess that set its predecessor apart from competitors and some of its controls have aged poorly, but it remains a practical and reasonably luxurious premium SUV.
2021 Genesis G70
Base price: $37,025
Combined fuel economy: 25 mpg
The Genesis G70 sports sedan has impressed us from the start, winning our Best of 2019 award in its debut year thanks in part to its engaging driving experience and relative value. Powered by a standard 252-hp, turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the G70 comes standard with rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive and a manual are optional. A long list of standard active safety features includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability. There’s a refreshed G70 on the way that brings the sedan’s styling in line with Genesis’ new exterior design language, but the current version still remains a compelling sports sedan.
More From Cars.com:
- 2020 BMW X1 Review: Delightful to Drive, Confounding to Control
- 2019 Volvo XC40 Review: Premium Without Pretense
- 2020 Luxury Car of the Year
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2021 Lexus ES
Base price: $41,025
Combined fuel economy: 28 mpg (ES 250) or 26 mpg (ES 350)
A starting price north of $40,000 might not register as affordable for some people, yet for that kind of money, the Lexus ES is priced like a compact luxury sports sedan while offering the interior space of a class-up mid-size car. For the same starting price, shoppers have two versions from which to choose: There’s the all-wheel-drive ES 250, powered by a 203-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, or the front-wheel-drive ES 350, which gets a 302-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. Both sedans have a standard power moonroof, lane-centering steering assist, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
2021 Volvo XC40
Base price: $34,795
Combined fuel economy: 26 mpg
The Volvo XC40 debuted as a 2019 model, and it brought the Swedish luxury brand’s design identity from larger SUVs like the XC90 to the subcompact class. The XC40’s base engine is a 187-hp, turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder that drives the front wheels; all-wheel-drive versions get a more powerful 248-hp 2.0-liter engine. The XC40 drives well and feels stable at highway speeds. Inside, meanwhile, there’s standard leather upholstery, and a 9-inch touchscreen serves as the primary dashboard interface, taking the place of many physical controls. It’s an intuitive system overall that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity standard. And despite the XC40’s city-friendly dimensions, there’s good space in front and back for adults.
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