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Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get behind the wheel of a luxury car.
Well, you can if you want; it’s totally your call. But for those who want a fancy badge on a budget, there are plenty of relatively affordable options out there. And that’s why we’ve put together this handy list of our Top 10 favorite luxury cars and crossovers that you can buy for less than $35,000*.
10. Mercedes-Benz CLA
The smallest sedan in Mercedes’ lineup can actually be had for $32,700 ($35,300 in Canada), but spending a couple grand more adds the stuff you want, including 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The CLA’s interior materials are noticeably inferior to those found in the C-Class or better, though they are superior to those found in top-of-the-line mainstream sedans — cars that compete directly with this entry-level Mercedes when it comes to price. A lot of people have trashed the CLA since it was launched back in 2013 as not being a “real Mercedes,” but it is a great entry point to the brand for those dead-set on owning something with a Benz badge.
9. Mercedes-Benz GLA
If crossovers are more your thing, there’s always the GLA. Just like its sedan sibling, the GLA is the perfect point of entry for those in the market for a Mercedes. The cute-ute is often criticized for not offering all the frills usually associated with the brand — but it’s hard to argue with its affordability. It starts at $32,850 ($38,000 in Canada) and includes enough to compete with fully loaded mainstream models, albeit slightly larger ones.
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8. Infiniti QX30
Very much aware of how much headway Mercedes was making with the GLA, Infiniti responded with a compact crossover of its own, the QX30. And in what could be the ultimate case of joining them after struggling to beat them, the QX30 is not just built on the GLA’s platform but shares much of the Mercedes’ DNA. It’s also cheaper than the Benz, and starts at $29,950 ($35,990 in Canada), with three trim grades available inside our imaginary price cap.
7. Buick Encore
Buick may not be a true luxury brand, but it’s pretty damn close. It’s also got quite a few models that start at less than $35,000, but the best one is probably the new LaCrosse sedan. Unfortunately, the base model doesn’t include leather seats, and for that reason, it’s off our list. Thankfully, the tiny Encore crossover can be fully kitted out for less than $35,000 — and the new version looks and feels nearly every bit as premium as a much more expensive ride. Pricing starts at just $22,990 ($23,295 in Canada).
6. Lincoln MKC
Continuing with crossovers, the base Lincoln MKC drives a pretty hard bargain at $33,880 ($41,800 in Canada), and includes a decent selection of standard features. It’s also pretty roomy and offers enough space for a family of four.
5. Cadillac ATS
The Cadillac ATS sedan barely squeezed its way onto our list, coming in at $34,595 ($37,785 in Canada) for a base model. The ATS sedan is a sound choice in the midsize luxury sedan segment and provides a pretty sporty ride that can do battle with any of its German adversaries.
4. Infiniti Q50
And speaking of midsize sedans, the always excellent Infiniti Q50 easily makes our list thanks to its decently decked out cabin and impressive driving dynamics. Unfortunately, all-wheel drive pushes it over our imaginary price plateau, but if you can spring for the extra cost, it’s yours. Pricing for rear-wheel drive models start at $33,950, while all-wheel drive versions will set you back $35,950. (Canadian Q50s only come with all-wheel drive, and are priced at $39,900.)
3. BMW X1
Switching back to crossovers, the BMW X1 makes our list with ease thanks to its peppy turbo four-cylinder engine and reasonably well-equipped cabin. Of course, the purists will pile on over its front-wheel drive layout, but just like the Mercedes GLA, if you’re looking to stake claim to your first BMW the X1 will more than suffice. It will, however, cost more than the smallest Mercedes CUV, with a sticker price of $33,750 ($40,300 in Canada).
2. Audi A3
When it comes to small luxury sedans, the CLA from Mercedes isn’t the only option on the market. And making a slightly better case for your money is the Audi A3. It’s not quite as powerful as the CLA but feels slightly more sporty, while offering plenty of refinement and technology. The A3 is priced at $31,200 ($32,800 in Canada).
1. BMW 3 Series
And finally, topping our list of the best luxury cars for less than $35,000 is the BMW 3 Series. This is the quintessential car from the Bavarian automaker, and it’s surprisingly affordable. Starting at $33,450 ($41,200 in Canada), the 3 Series leaves enough room in the budget to add the Sport Package, which helps to take full advantage of the car’s fun factor.
(*Disclaimer: In the interest of fairness to Canadian luxury car buyers, the price cap for this list was increased to $42,000. Doing so would have been unnecessary just a few short years ago, but a fluctuating exchange rate has seen the price of certain cars increase substantially as of late.)