During the past three years, if you’d asked us which compact executive car you should buy, we’d have had only one answer: a BMW 3 Series.

Yet Jaguar has now launched a car that feels as good inside as the BMW, is virtually as accommodating and, crucially, is for the most part better to drive. Certainly, it excels over the other main players in this sector, the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. In doing that, Jaguar has done what Lexus, Infiniti and others could not.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Road test editor
Jaguar has been brave enough to make a car capable of taking on the established players at their own game

Jaguar hasn’t just made an alternative to the big three – offering something a little different, a touch quirky – to snare a few buyers. Instead, it has been brave enough to make a car capable of taking on the established players at their own game.

Because it has put a lot of stock into interior feel and dynamic ability, it has succeeded. There’s still a little work to be done to make both the four-pot petrol and diesel motors as appealing as the XE deserves, but be in no doubt about its abilities. But be in no doubt the waters are far murkier than when the XE arrived, with the 3 Series the main target, since then Audi has revamped the A4 and Alfa Romeo has stormed the scene with its handsome and barnstorming Guilia. Never has the compact exec market been full of such a rich choice of options.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Compact saloons

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo front
    The new BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo
    First Drive
    16 February 2018
    The top-of-the-line 6 Series Gran Turismo has arrived in the UK, but does a more potent engine increase its unusual appeal?
  • Audi TT RS Coupé
    First Drive
    16 February 2018
    The Audi TT RS has the looks, a vociferous engine and the supercar-baiting performance, but is it too uncompromising to use as a daily driver?
  • Range Rover Velar front quarter
    The new Range Rover Velar P300 features a four-cylinder petrol engine
    First Drive
    16 February 2018
    JLR’s most powerful four-pot isn’t the engine the Velar truly wants but perhaps the one that makes most sense
  • Mitsubishi Outlander diesel
    The Mitsubishi Outlander diesel is available with five or seven seats
    First Drive
    15 February 2018
    The Outlander isn't just available as a PHEV: how does the diesel version compare to seven-seat rivals such as the Nissan X-Trail and Skoda Kodiaq?
  • Ferrari Portofino
    The Portofino's engine revs to a tremulous 7500rpm; it has a huge swell of mid-range torque; and it responds crisply at all times and feels unusually progressive in its power delivery for a highly stressed turbo
    First Drive
    13 February 2018
    Faster, more agile and perhaps more authentically ‘Ferrari’, but the Portofino lacks the dynamic sophistication of a great GT car, just like its predecessor