Executive motoring always means space, comfort and drivability wrapped up in a classy and stylish package. Great for long journeys and making a good impression on clients because you’ve arrived refreshed and relaxed. And then these vehicles also perform in the weekend and evening when you have to fill them with the kids and shopping.
You might think that a saloon car with all of that for under 5 grand is a big ask, but here’s what our experts found:
Not the most exciting vehicle to look with its safe styling, but it’s very comfortable and reliable, as you’d expect from a Toyota. The Avensis comes with a load of options and there’s plenty of room inside for that comfortable ride. And as one of the more cost effective cars on our list you can get a much newer version than most of the competition.
Our pick: 2013 Toyota Avensis 2.0 T2 Diesel with 59,000 miles for £4999
Much like the Avensis the Honda Accord isn’t the best looking vehicle on the list, but you do get top reliability and a strong customer satisfaction rating. Comes with all the mod-cons as standard and is renowned for its well-made construction, which plays no part in its reputation as a safe ride. You get nimble handling behind the wheel and it cruises nicely at those top speed. Need to transport some people? You’ll find plenty of space in the back, but be aware that diesels tend to wear the clutche out quite quickly so put the gearbox through its paces during the test drive.
Our pick: 2009 Honda Accord 2.0 i-VTEC ES GT 4dr Petrol with 72,000 miles for £5000
One of the classier models on our list coming with that understated German engineering elegance. Winner of the 2016 What Car? Car of the Year award, the Audi A4 has a great reputation. Good handling makes it as lively as a BMW 3 series when you’re behind the wheel and everything about this vehicle simply oozes build quality with a refined, stylish interior. Loads of equipment, great efficiency and a ton of different engine and trim options make this a highly desirable motor, so expect to pay a bit more than the others on our top ten list.
Our pick: 2008 Audi A4 2.0 TDI SE 4dr with 79,000 miles for £5000
One of the best executive cars that money can currently buy. Great behind the wheel experience together with a wide range of engine options make the Skoda Superb a real pleasure to drive. Efficiency is up there with GreenLine trim giving you the ultimate in environmentally aware economy. When it comes to interior space you’re looking at possibly the most spacious on our list. It fits 5 comfortably and there’s plenty of room in the back with a nice big boot. Ride quality is very comfortable, there’s plenty of mod-cons, however some critics claim that whilst it is stable and quiet on the motorway, the ride is very firm and the nimble handling in corners is one of the few highlights as it can be dull to drive.
Our pick: 2011 SKODA Superb 2.0 TDI CR DPF Elegance DSG with 55,000 miles for £4995
BMW 5 Series
There’s very little chance you don’t know this iconic vehicle with its cool trademark. The BMW 5 series sets the benchmark for sports saloons with its highly responsive ride that’s a joy in the corners whilst retaining comfort over longer journeys. Always expect that high quality build that’s a cornerstone of the brand and it’s not too cool for school as you can fit 4 adults with stretch room and a whopping boot that puts the capacity of the 3 series to shame.
And when it comes to the interior expect luxury. You should have no problems getting leather seats in this price bracket and when it comes to fuel economy, you won’t be overspending here either. Out on the road the cabin ride is smooth, refined and quiet and even if this brand doesn’t quite resonate with you it’s still worth a test drive. Its popularity means you’ll be spoiled for choice in the second hand markets and guess what? It’s safe too with a 5 star Euro NCAP rating and safety features including traction control and all round airbags.
Our pick: 2007 BMW 5 Series 2.5 525i SE with 42,000 miles for £5000
Whilst the Mazda 6 is not particularly remarkable, lacking something of the upmarket prestige of its rivals, it does come stacked with reliability and quality. From that first drive you’ll notice the well-built and robust interior that gives this car is good reputation. Behind the wheel there’s a great drive, sharp response and the engine has a punchy feel that’s more akin to a sports car than an executive sedan. Fuel efficiency is good, the overall feel is smart and reliable and the car is spacious although somewhat lacking in head room.
Our pick: 2011 Mazda6 2.5 Sport with 87,000 miles for £4995
Mercedes C Class
The little brother in the Mercedes family, the C-Class still rocks a classy premium image. You get smart upmarket looks, a luxurious feel and the solid build quality you’d expect from this high end German manufacturer. Very comfortable and great for the long journeys and it’s not only the good handling that will make you relax behind the wheel, but the vehicle’s reliability. Good handling comes with a wide range of highly efficient engines and whilst there are cars on this list that are more fun to drive, you do get that lovely Merc feeling. Diesels are a little noisy and you might struggle for space in the back, but you do get a 5 star NCAP rating.
Our pick: 2008 Mercedes-Benz C Class 1.8 C180 Kompressor SE with 71,000 miles for £5000
BMW 3 Series
There’s a reason why this car is so popular; it’s a great all-rounder that’s managed to preserve its good reputation over the years. This compact executive saloon is great fun to drive and comes with a wide range of superb and efficient engines. Expect a comfortable ride and enough space for the average family. Despite the well-equipped and stylish interior there are question marks over the diesel reliability so stick to petrol models. And with the car’s aspirational sporty upmarket image you might pay a little more for popularity than with other models.
Our pick: 2010 BMW 3 Series 2.0 318i M Sport with 75,000 miles for £5000
The Ford Mondeo might not be the first model that jumps into you head when you consider an executive saloon as it hasn’t got the class appeal of some of the others and might appear a bit average, but look again. Brilliant handling, a responsive drive and plenty of high spec options means it gives others on the list a run for their money. Perfect if you don’t want to appear to be too ostentatious. There are even more plusses with a comfortable ride, spacious interior and a great boot. Want more? Good safety, quiet ride on the motorway, well equipped, good economy and loads of options and choice make this number 2 on our list. The only downside is that the inside looks a little cheap, but you know what? This is a much overlooked choice that has a classic feel.
Our pick: 2011 Ford Mondeo 2.0 Zetec with 38,000 miles for £5000
Might not be as exciting as all the others, but the VW Passat is a brilliant all-rounder. Comfortable, efficient and dependable, offering a good enough handling that gives you a less than inspirational ride. You get a range of engine choices that encompass efficient diesels through to thumping V6 petrol engines, although watch out for expensive engine faults and the DSG dual clutch automatic gearbox can be costly to fix if it goes wrong. The interior is nice and classy and comes with good, upmarket luxurious looks. Whilst the ride is great, especially at high speeds where some might say it’s relaxing, you might want to watch out as the visibility isn’t the best in the back. Put all the above in a package and then drive the cost right down and you’ll understand why this value for money car tops our list.
Our pick: 2010 Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI BlueMotion Tech SE DSG with 82500 miles for £5000
As with all second hand cars, be careful and perform all the necessary checks when you’re taking it out on a test drive. Get the full lowdown with our helpful article and remember, if you have any doubts whatsoever about the heritage or condition of a vehicle then it’s always easier to walk away happy than drive away unsure.