There is more than a hint of the emperor’s new clothes about the concept of the modern ‘four-door coupé’, isn’t there?
The classic three-box saloon has, for many decades, been a vehicle concept preferred to various others all over the world for its elegance and desirability. A good-looking saloon is, you might say, a car that really doesn’t need much making over, styling up or reinventing.
And yet the visual makeover of the traditional saloon has been a key process with which the modern car industry has been busying itself for decades; and the four-door coupé is what it has come up with. Would it be unfair to describe these cars as saloons with curvier features and less impressive interior packaging? Perhaps, although in some cases it’d be pretty accurate. Cynics might even call some of these cars ‘booted hatchbacks’.
Not the better ones, mind you; and those are the cars we’re here to give credit to. A stylish, fairly compact modern saloon needn’t be a self-proclaimed four-door coupé at all, as this list evidences. It simply needs to look great and retain commendable four-passenger practicality - and if it can deliver an appealing interior, a strong-feeling, poised-handling drive and distinguishing value for money, it’s more likely to rise to the top of our chart.
These are the options vying for consideration at the more affordable end of the four-door coupé market. Bigger, richer and more expensive options such as the Audi A7 Sportback, the Porsche Panamera and the Mercedes CLS are ranked in our Grand Tourers chart.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia simply had to be a beautiful car. The first all-new-from-the-ground-up Alfa Romeo in many years, it was also the first rear-wheel drive Alfa in a generation, carrying on its shoulders the rejuvenation of a once world-leading Italian brand. Pressure like that often doesn’t produce the best results from a team of designers; but the one responsible for this car - led by the since-departed Marco Tencone - certainly delivered the goods.
At the time of the Giulia’s market introduction in 2016, automotive commentators were of one voice in praise of the car’s perfect lines, details and proportions. Meanwhile, the Giulia’s agile, incisive, perfectly balanced rear-driven handling won it almost as many fans when the road tests came around; and there was plenty of praise, too, for its engines - not least the headline-grabbing Ferrari-derived turbo V6 in the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio version.
The Giulia doesn’t offer perceived cabin quality or infotainment sophistication to rival the best Germans in this list, and has been justifiably criticised by some owners for its disappointing reliability. Alfa Romeo ownership in the modern era clearly isn’t too different, in some ways, from how it was 40 years ago. For Alfa brand fans, however - and for us - that fact doesn’t alter one key reality: that the very best-looking new saloon car in production is once again an Alfa Romeo.