Small luxury cars are a growing niche as automakers realize that some buyers are willing to pay more for a premium experience in a compact vehicle. In fact, some of the most intriguing small luxury car efforts have come from brands like Buick and Acura, which haven't traditionally sought out compact fans but were quick to pick up on the potential of a comfortable premium model. In their wake have come a host of European entries seeking to import trans-Atlantic sedans and coupes that have typically been reserved almost exclusively for Continental consumption.
Let's take a look at 7 of the best small luxury cars available for 2014.
Best Small Luxury Cars 2014 - 01 - 2014 Buick Verano
The 2014 Buick Verano is arguably the model that kicked off the small luxury sedan trend, as the domestic automaker paired the four-door with an attractive entry-level price and a quiet, comfortable ride right out of the box. The Buick Verano is also notable for delivery solid technology features, such as the Buick IntelliLink vehicle interface, a forward collision warning system, and a lane departure warning system. The car also comes with a reasonably spacious interior and a compliant suspension.
The 2014 Buick Verano starts out with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that delivers 180 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with this motor, and fuel mileage checks in at 21-mpg in city driving and 32-mpg on the highway. Stepping up to the Verano Turbo introduces a 250 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mill. Also capable of generating 260 lb-ft of torque, the unit can be matched with either a six-speed autobox or a six-speed manual transmission.
Best Small Luxury Cars 2014 - 02 - 2014 Acura ILX
The 2014 Acura ILX was quick to follow the Buick Verano out of the gate, appearing on the scene only one model year later. The Acura ILX played on parent company Honda's small car strengths, borrowing much of its chassis and one of its engines from the Civic Si sport sedan / coupe. Of course, the ILX is more than just a gussied-up Civic: it comes with its own unique styling, a longer and wider platform, and a long list of available equipment that includes features such as heated leather seats, Bluetooth connectivity, a navigation system, and surround sound audio.
The base version of the 2014 Acura ILX is outfitted with a 150 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that also produces 140 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic handles the gear shifting duties for this particular mill, and fuel economy shows as 24-mpg around town and 35-mpg during highway cruising. If you opt for the ILX 2.4 trim, you'll benefit from a rev-happy 2.4-liter four-cylinder that can only be had with a six-speed manual transmission (stolen from the Civic Si). Fuel mileage is knocked down somewhat compared to the more modest 2.0-liter engine, but acceleration to 60-mph improves by a full two seconds to seven seconds total.
Best Small Luxury Cars 2014 - 03 - 2014 Lexus CT 200H
The 2014 Lexus CT 200h might look like a sporty hatchback - and it is one, kind of - but it's more accurately described as an efficiency-first hybrid wrapped in a luxury package. The practicality of the Lexus CT 200h's extendable cargo area is substantial, and for those who are simply looking for a stylish fuel miser that is loaded with premium gear then the hatch's available rain-sensitive windshield wipers, leather upholstery, navigation system, and adaptive cruise control will fit the bill nicely. Anyone seeking a bit more fun in the handling department, however, would do well to spec the F Sport package, which include a stiffer suspension system, special 17-inch rims, a distinctive spoiler out back, and a number of other more aggressive trim upgrades.
Whether the F Sport package is along for the ride or not, all versions of the 2014 Lexus CT 200h feature the same hybrid drivetrain: a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder gas engine that works together with two battery-powered electric motors in order to produce 134 horsepower. A continuously-variable automatic transmission is standard with the CT 200h, and while acceleration is decidedly pokey, fuel mileage of 43-mpg city and 40-mpg highway makes up for it.
Best Small Luxury Cars 2014 - 04 - 2014 BMW 2 Series
The 2014 BMW 2 Series represents the next-generation update of last year's 1 Series coupe. As such, the BMW 2 Series maintains the rear-wheel drive dynamics and lively chassis tuning that made the 1 Series such a popular choice amongst performance-hungry luxury car fans. The entry-level edition of the 2 Series - the 228i - is fun enough through the corners, but ordering the M235i brings a host of go-fast improvements to the table, including an adaptive suspension system, an aero-focused body kit, larger brakes, a louder exhaust system, variable-ratio steering, and a higher overall top speed. Many of these features are also available as options for the 228i.
The 2014 BMW 2 Series features a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine when found in 228i trim. Capable of producing 240 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque, the 228i gets 23-mpg in city driving and 36-mpg on the highway. The M235i's 3.0-liter, turbocharged six-cylinder engine features a more robust 320 horses and 330 lb-ft of torque, and while it's thirstier than its four-cylinder sibling it's able to leap to 60-mph in under five seconds. Either model can be paired with a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission.
Best Small Luxury Cars 2014 - 05 - 2015 Audi S3
The 2015 Audi S3 will be available in 2014, qualifying it for our list of the best small luxury cars. What else helps the Audi S3 get its foot in the door? How about a panoramic sunroof, standard quattro all-wheel drive, a navigation system, adaptive cruise control, leather seats, and of course Audi's MMI system with 4G connectivity. Don't forget the S3's sporting roots, which means a performance-oriented tune for its suspension system and a curb weight of roughly 3,200 lbs.
The 2015 Audi S3's beating heart is a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that has been prodded by Audi engineers to grind out roughly 300 horses and 280 lb-ft of twist. A six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transmission is the only option with the S3, but its lightning-quick shifts help it to reach 60-mpg in 4.8 seconds. Fuel mileage for the small sedan has yet to be rated by the EPA.
Best Small Luxury Cars 2014 - 06 - 2014 BMW i3
The 2014 BMW i3 is a new kind of small luxury car - one that runs entirely on electricity. Yes, you can purchase a range-extending gas generator for the BMW i3 as an accessory, but the entire drivetrain for the subcompact hatchback is electric-only, stealing juice from the generator to keep its battery charged only if absolutely necessary. 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque are impressive figures for an electric car, and the BMW i3 makes good use of them with its 7.2-second sprint to 60-mph and top speed of just over 90-mph. During more pedestrian drives, the i3 promises up to 100 miles from a single battery charge, and it also offers features such as available 20-inch rims, a sunroof, leather seats, a navigation system, and automated parallel parking. In short, the tiny BMW i3 is nothing like any other small luxury car on the road, nor does it share much with its electric subcompact brethren.
Best Small Luxury Cars 2014 - 07 - 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG takes the somewhat milquetoast CLA-Class platform and cures many of its ailments through the judicious application of horsepower. The Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG is also much more aggressive-looking than the CLA-Class, as its four-door 'coupe' body style is augmented by all manner of air inlets, muscular bulges, and body-color trim. Big brakes, a track-ready suspension system, and the availability of a panoramic sunroof, heated leather seats, HID headlights, and an automatic parking system of its own are other aspects of the CLA45 AMG experience.
Pop the hood on the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG and you'll find a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that has been boosted to produce 355 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard with the CLA45 AMG, as is a seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox, and the end result is a trip past 60-mph in a scant 4.7 seconds. Fuel efficiency figures for the small luxury car are listed as 23-mpg in stop and go driving and 31-mpg on the highway.