Top 10 best sport saloons 2022

Open gallery Close News by Matt Saunders 12 mins read 14 December 2022 Follow @TheDarkStormy1 Share

When you’re in the business of testing the latest and greatest new cars, you invariably devote a great deal of effort, brainpower and words defining and expressing what separates a truly great supercar, sports car or hot hatchback from one that is merely very good.

And while that’s often a captivating process, it’s important to remember one universal truth: that, for most of us, the very best kind of driver’s car is the one you can afford. It’s the one you can justify to yourself. Often it’s also the one that suits the kind of driving you’ve got in mind for it; that will best serve your practical purposes, too; and which makes you feel content and secure – and sufficiently unselfconscious – to want to own and be seen in it.

It’s that particular happy real-world compromise that the cars in this top ten chart are intended to address. The sport saloon is a time-honoured vehicle concept too little written about these days, because upper-level ‘super’ saloons are easier to write headlines about or to get mind-blowing laptimes out of.

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Generally, sport saloons are less powerful than super saloons but they’re also more affordable, more usable, often more compact, less highly strung and easier to enjoy on public roads. Many are four-wheel drive, making them suited to being driven every day, all year round and almost wherever you fancy. Some are more understated – stealthy, some might say – than others. And yet the very best still count as absolutely first-class driver’s cars based on the involvement they provide and how often they can be enjoyed.

Stand by to find out which fast four-doors deliver for a smaller outlay.

1. BMW M340i xDrive

As you’d expect, it’s the tarmac-shredding and sideways-smoking M3 that steals all the BMW 3 Series headlines, but the recently facelifted M340i xDrive is arguably a more rounded proposition for most. The combination of its 369bhp turbocharged straight six engine, its agile all-wheel drive handling, its roomy, well-equipped and solidly hewn interior and its BMW-brand desirability make it so complete as a sport saloon that – as the 3-Series has for so long – it deserves to be the default choice in this class.

With adaptively damped M Sport suspension as standard, the car has specially tuned suspension geometry and axle kinematics to take it above the already high dynamic standards of a regular 3-Series. Our testers report that, while it’s got a firmer and shorter-feeling ride than other Threes and feels more aggressively firm over certain sorts of surface, it remains a very livable and civilised compromise well-enough suited to the rigours of the everyday.

The car adopts a standard torque-vectoring locking rear differential, too, in order to make even better use of its rear-biased xDrive driveline; and that adds just a touch of throttle-adjustable cornering poise to the car’s handling, depending on selected driving mode. The car’s fast, smooth and sweet-revving when you want it to be, then; but can feel surefooted in bad weather, or lithe and lively if you prefer. The price has crept up to nearly £60,000, but its a pill worth swallowing when you consider that the M340i really has, and does, it all.


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2. Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce

A multi-cylinder engine would be a bit of a miss for any sporting Alfa Romeo, when so many have come with such memorable V6s over the years. That caveat, as well as a classier-feeling cabin and more adjustable electronic stability controls, are really all that prevent this car from topping our sport saloon pile. There can certainly be no doubting that, in terms of handling balance, incisiveness and all-round driver appeal, the Giulia Veloce has what it takes to stand out.

A chassis of unequalled dynamic agility and super-direct steering makes this car feel more like a sports car, at times, than a practical five-seater. It has really wonderfully well-balanced grip levels also, and deserves a properly switchable stability control system that might allow you to explore and exploit those grip levels to maximum amusement. Sadly, the range-topping Quadrifoglio is the only Giulia on which you can fully deactivate the electronic nannies, although the Veloce does at least get a limited slip differential.

Alfa’s turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine gives the car a healthy 276bhp, and it sounds fairly pleasant and revs freely by 4-cyl turbo standards. It’s just a shame that’s not quite what the chassis is worthy of, or what rivals for the same money will provide; because in other ways this car is little short of brilliant, especially when you consider it’s priced at a whisker over £46,000 and that a facelift in 2023 will bring subtly updated looks and vastly improved interior tech and finish.

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3. Mercedes-AMG C43

The Mercedes-AMG C43 gave us our first glimpse of the high performance four-cylinder powered C-Class, which would ultimately lead to the plug-in hybrid C63 that has so far received a lukewarm welcome. Unlike its more muscular brother, the C43 does without the high voltage electricals, getting instead for the same turbocharged (the compresser is assisted by an electric motor for less lag) 2.0-litre that is here linked to a 48V mild hybrid system. The result is 402bhp and 369lb ft of torque – figures that trump the old V6-engined model.

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