Compact Executive Car of the Year 2017: Jaguar XE

The Jaguar XE is the 2017 Auto Express Compact Executive Car of the Year, with the Alfa Romeo Giulia and BMW 3 Series commended

The Jaguar XE remains our favourite compact executive car for the third year running, despite strong competition from established German rivals and the all-new Alfa Romeo Giulia. While others excel in one area, none can match the baby Jag’s breadth of talent.

It’s great to drive, is packed with kit and the relatively refined 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel is fast and frugal. Recent additions to the engine range have only confirmed the car’s standing as our top compact exec, too. Buyers are offered options spanning the fleet-friendly, low-emissions diesel to the sports car-baiting supercharged petrol – with anything and everything in between. The lightweight aluminium architecture gives the XE an edge in this class and makes it feel impressively agile.

The standard rear-wheel-drive layout and well weighted steering mean this is one of the more involving cars to drive in its category, too, relaying plenty of reassuring messages back to the driver. This ensures the XE delivers some fun but still provides enough refinement and comfort to ensure it excels where it needs to as a junior executive saloon.

Jaguar’s slick-shifting eight-speed auto gearbox is among the best in the business, while the option of all-wheel drive across the range adds reassurance in tricky conditions.

A cosseting but controlled ride is the icing on the car’s perfectly constructed cake, plus you can enhance the breadth of ability on offer by going for Adaptive Dynamics automatically adjustable suspension dampers that monitor conditions and tweak the settings to suit the mode you’re in.

Inside, the car comes loaded with standard equipment, with even entry-level models boasting two-zone climate control, DAB radio and Jaguar’s InControl infotainment complete with satellite navigation. Mid-range R-Sport versions offer the best value, however, adding heated leather seats and sportier trim.

Jaguar XE - rear

Buyers in this sector value style as highly as substance, and the XE is up there with the best cars on the market. Its sleek lines and distinctive front end give it real presence on the road, while the F-Type-inspired lighting signature ensures that it stands out at night, too.

The only downside is the slightly cramped cabin compared with more spacious rivals, but there’s still enough practicality here thanks to the 455-litre boot. However, the XE’s real benefit is in its driver-focused feel that’s missing from some other models in this class. 

Our choice

Jaguar XE 2.0d 180 R-Sport Auto (£35,285)

While racier R-Sport trim adds some additional style to the XE, it manages to balance this with cost. The ride is not too firm, either, meaning the Jaguar offers plenty of comfort along with a sporty edge that involves the driver once you turn off the motorway. It’s quiet and refined when cruising, while the infotainment system helps make living with the car relatively simple.

Commended

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo Giulia - front

Alfa’s most convincing model in more than two decades came within a hair’s breadth of taking the compact exec title. It’s arguably the most desirable-looking car in this sector, but unlike Alfas of old, it backs up the style with a decent driving experience, efficient engines and a practical yet high-quality interior.

BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series - front

The BMW 3 Series remains one of the most complete cars on sale today, and a round of recent model revisions only cements its place near the top of this class. It’s great to drive, roomy and well built, and the addition of a 330e plug-in hybrid version means it now offers lower emissions than most small city cars.

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