Top 5 Executive compact saloonsBy Hanleigh Daniels 8 October 2012 | Categories: feature articles
Volvo S40 2.0
Volvo's have always been known for their safety features, with the current S40 also bringing an elegant design, practicality and comfortable ride to the compact-saloon table. A 1 999 cc four-cylinder petrol engine churns out 107 kW at 6 000 RPM and 185 Nm at 4 500 RPM. This is enough to propel this Swedish looker from 0-100 km/h in under ten seconds, whilst keeping fuel usage manageable at 7.6 l/100 km on a combined cycle (highway and city driving). With a starting price of R283 300, this Volvo certainly isn't cheap, but is still considerably less than most of the other vehicles in this comparison. This RRP nets you one of the most functionally laid out interiors in the business, as well as a handy 400+ liters of boot space.
Propelling this stately Japanese Lexus forward is a 2 500 cc V6 that delivers 153 kW at a glorious 6 400 RPM, as well as 252 Nm at 4 800 RPM. This gets you to 100 km/h in 8.4 seconds and onto an illegal terminal velocity of 225 km/h. All this sportiness does come a cost though, with fuel usage being on the thirsty side at almost ten liters per 100 km. Getting into the driver's seat of this luxury sedan costs an equally luxurious R380 000, but the car does offers a lot more standard options compared to its rather spartan segment counterparts. This extensive feature list includes a touch-screen navigation system, rear camera parking assist and keyless go.
Audi A4 1.8T FSI
Audi revised its A4 at the beginning of this year with subtle styling changes and an improved engine, leading to a desirable combination of German efficiency, performance and elegant looks. The car is powered by a 1 798 cc inline four-cylinder engine with exhaust turbocharger and intercooler, delivering 125 kW between 3 800 and 6 200 RPM, as well as 320 Nm between 1 400 and 3 700 RPM. This is enough go juice to propel the vehicle from standstill to 100 km/h in 8.3 seconds on to a top speed of 225 km/h. All this whilst the A4 consumes just 5.5 l/100 km. The base price is R349 000, but unfortunately the 1.8T FSI is not exactly packed to the hilt with extras. Ticking any of the extensively listed options will quickly drive that up, with a Bang and Olufsen premium sound system adding another R9 800 for example.
Mercedes-Benz C180 BlueEfficiency
With its BlueEfficiency models Mercedes-Benz introduces intelligent measures such as reducing the vehicles' weight and aerodynamic drag to decrease fuel consumption and carbon emission levels, whilst retaining high levels of comfort and safety. Even with its eco warrior credentials, this pricey (R368 500) car is no slouch, with its speedometer hitting 100 km/h in just over eight seconds, whilst the terminal velocity is around 220 km/h. The 1 796 cc four cylinder engine cranks out 115 kW of power at 5 000 RPM and 250 Nm between 1 600 and 4 200 RPM, with fuel usage remaining frugal at a sub-7 liters per 100 km.
Like the A4, the C class has been sent for a bit of nip tuck recently, with minor design alterations such new headlights that remind one of the sublime C63 AMG Black Series.
BMW's newest 3 series offers drivers a more eye catching design and larger dimensions (translating to more interior space), without compromising the sporty ride for which this sedan is known. This is made evident with its two liter four cylinder engine churning out 135 kW at 5 000 RPM and 270 Nm between 1 250 and 4 500 RPM, whilst fuel usage comes to 6.1 liters per 100 km.
Another feature augmenting the sporty characteristics of the 320i is BMW's Driving Experience Control, which allows you to choose between four setup modes namely comfort, sport, sport+ and eco pro. Each of these modes makes changes to engine performance, the electromechanical steering system, throttle response and traction control, resulting in either a fuel efficient, less hurried ride (eco pro) or a very sporty but fuel tank draining performance (sport and sport+). Factors such as these help keep this class benchmark perched upon its class leading throne, but the gap between itself and its rivals has closed considerably. R363 000 is the price you'll need to pay for this rendezvous of luxury, efficiency and driving dynamics.
This article first appeared in TechSmart Magazine Issue 109, October 2012.
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