Skip to main content

Luxury automakers long ago realized that in order to grow, they need to move down-market by making smaller, more affordable vehicles.

In 2005, Mercedes launched the diminutive B-Class hatchback. BMW began producing the 1 Series in 2004. While rich customers spending $100,000 on full-size luxury sedans from these companies might’ve been mortified to see such plebian vehicles in showrooms, semi-affordable entry-level models are now a staple of every luxury brand’s lineup.

The vehicles assembled below are the most affordable ways to drive off a luxury car dealer’s lot. They all have prices under $40,000 and come in all kinds of shapes, from coupe, to sedan, to SUV.

Story continues below advertisement

In Europe and the U.S., luxury vehicles make up a larger percentage of the overall market than they do in Canada. However, that’s changing. Sales of luxury cars and SUVs in Canada are leading industry growth, posting double-digit year-over-year increases, according to a 2017 Scotiabank report.

Expect entry-level luxury cars to feel fairly Spartan — unless you dive into the option list — and be smaller than something similarly priced from a mainstream brand.

Your head tells you to resist. You’re paying more to have that luxury badge on the steering wheel. But, increasingly, our hearts prevail and desirability takes the day.

The Volvo XC40, which was designed by Ian Kettle, was intentionally shaped to look like an SUV.

The Globe and Mail

Volvo XC40

Price: $39,900

Aston Martin’s chief designer, when recently asked which other brand is doing good design work, replied: Volvo. The Swedish company’s turnaround is in full swing. They’ve come so far from those boxy station wagons. The XC40 stands out from the masses of other small SUVs by looking both distinctive and stylish. The interior is full of useful details too, like hooks for takeout food and a removable garbage bin for receipts and old parking passes.

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz B-Class.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

Price: $35,900

While popular in Europe, the B-Class never sold well in the U.S. Here in Canada the smallest Mercedes always found more buyers. The three-pointed star is the car’s most prominent design feature on purpose. You wouldn’t spend this kind of money on any other front-wheel drive sub-compact. If you’re interested, you may want to wait for the upcoming A-Class hatchback. The price will be a smidgen higher, but it’s more of a bonafide luxury car and the interior is in a different league.

Story continues below advertisement

The 2018 Cadillac ATS.

Cadillac

Cadillac ATS Sedan

Price: $37,945

This is your last chance to buy Cadillac’s often-overlooked ATS. Production of the compact sport sedan is winding down as of this year. The rear-drive machine had the performance and handling chops to rival the best Germany had to offer. The base 2.0-litre motor made 272 horsepower, and the big V-6 was good for 335 hp. While the interior was never quite up to par, it was a solid comeback effort from Cadillac. Expect it to be replaced, eventually, by an all-new sub-compact model.

The Audi A3 sedan.

Audi A3 sedan

Price: $34,300

The A3 sedan was introduced in 2013. Compared to its German rivals, the smallest Audi feels grown-up. It looks just like the bigger A4, which is a large part of its appeal. Refreshed for 2017, the four-door A3 is a more practical choice than BMW’s 2 Series coupe or Mercedes’ fastback CLA sedan. The base model is front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available for $39,100. If it’s performance you’re after, the $62,900, 400 hp, RS3 is both the cheapest model in Audi Sport’s lineup and the most fun-to-drive.

BMW 230i Coupe

Price: $38,050

BMW is the only one of the German luxury automakers to offer rear-wheel drive in its most affordable model. For many purists, this car is a return to BMW’s glory days. Handling is nicely balanced and the controls are feelsome. The punchy four-cylinder makes 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, enough to get the car from 0-100 km/h in 5.6 seconds. A six-speed manual transmission is standard while a paddle-shift automatic is available for an extra $1,600. The $1,850 Performance Pack adds adaptive sport suspension. Downsides? It’s heavy for such a small car and it only has two doors, which will limit its appeal.

Story continues below advertisement

The 2018 Acura ILX.

Honda

Acura ILX

Price: $29,990

It is mightily affordable for a car with a premium brand badge, but if you put it next to a Honda Civic you’ll quickly see why. The ILX has always been an up-market version of the best-selling Civic. Acura dressed it up with fancy jewel-like headlights and leather upholstery but its humble origins show through in big chunks of black plastic in the cabin. The 2.4-litre engine makes a fruity 201 horsepower, and is mated to a dual-clutch automatic transmission. The Acura has good residual value and gets top marks for initial quality, but the handling isn’t up to the standard set by rivals.

The 2018 QX30.

The Associated Press

Infiniti QX30

Price: $38,490

This is Infiniti’s all-new entrant in the red-hot compact luxury SUV segment. The QX30 is built in England and was co-developed with the Mercedes GLA. Infiniti undercuts the BMW X1 and aforementioned Benz, and offers a (relatively) cavernous trunk. The 208 horsepower engine won’t light your hair on fire, but it’s enough. “Leatherette” trim is standard. Optional real-leather on the seats and dashboard make the cabin feel properly luxurious, but it’s part of a $5,000 option package. Infiniti expects the QX30 to attract first-time luxury car buyers, targeting customers in their early 30s.

Sign up for the weekly Drive newsletter, delivered to your inbox for free. Follow us on Instagram, @globedrive.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter