The cheapest luxury cars money can buy

Red Alfa Romeo Giulia QV

Bruce Newton

Posted August 30, 2021

Thought you had to break the bank to get inside a luxury vehicle? Not anymore.

In the past, it was pretty easy to picture a luxury car. A sedan for sure, probably something with a German badge. Maybe a Rolls-Royce or Bentley if you were travelling really well. 

But as the car market has fractured into a thousand niches and we have started buying many more SUVs and utes than traditional luxury saloons, we have to ask - has that picture lost focus?

Traditional luxury brands are now chasing volume into cheaper segments, while  blue-collar brands who are just as enthusiastically searching for profit upmarket all adds up to a profusion of choice.

What we’ve witnessed is a real democratisation of prestige and luxury automotive buying. This is great news for consumers - it’s now possible to pamper yourself without necessarily investing six figures. 

So, if you fancy luxury at an (almost) affordable price, here are some choices to consider.

Volvo XC40
Ford Ranger Wildtrak.
Porsche Macan.

Volvo XC40

Starting price: $47,490 plus on-road costs (ORCs)

The Swedish brand has gone through an almost miraculous reinvigoration since Ford sold it to China’s ambitious Geely in 2012.

The XC40 is a great example of that u-turn. It’s a compact SUV that captures Volvo’s essential charm and smarts in one pocket-sized package.

It is cheekily styled both outside and inside, proving once again that Volvo is the master of tasteful and functional cabins. It drives nicely, lacks nothing for equipment and is priced competitively.

A slew of awards also proves it’s the pick of the crop when it comes to small luxury SUVs.

Adding further to its appeal? A fully electric version is launching later this year.


Tesla Model 3

Starting price: $59,900 plus ORCs

Tesla is the first and so far, only, electric vehicle maker to establish itself.

Easily the Yankee brand’s most popular model in Australia is the Model 3 sedan. It’s also Australia’s biggest selling EV, although we’re not yet talking massive volumes. That means you’re unlikely to have one parked in the driveway next door.

Another lure of the Model 3 is the pricing that undercuts popular premium sedan staples such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series. The price comes down even further  in some states when incentives are included.

The instant torque provided by its electric motor (or motors, depending on the variant) ensures it lacks nothing for performance, and even more importantly, there are no carbon emissions.

On the downside, the Tesla doesn’t present luxuriously inside, and if you don’t like touch screens, you’ll struggle here. Build quality can also be variable, although supply has just switched from the USA to China, so the jury’s out on that.


Blue Tesla Model 3 driving

The Model 3 isn't just Tesla's top-selling model, it's the best-selling electric vehicle in Australia.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak

Starting price: $62,390 plus ORCs

What? A pick-up in a story about luxury vehicles?!

Go and check the pricing out, and you’ll see the top-end 4x4 dual cab utes are priced at $60,000 or more, and Aussies buy them by the 10stens of thousands.

We’ve plucked the Wildtrak out because it’s one of the most impressive driving examples of the breed. That’s partially because it’s designed and developed in Australia, and therefore really works on our roads.

Buying a ute also sticks it to the man, because they qualify for the instant asset write-off and don’t get slugged with the luxury car tax. Bonus.

The Ranger is getting a bit long in the tooth and is due for replacement in 2022, but if that puts you off, there is an enormous amount of ute variety out there.


Genesis G70

Starting price: $63,000 plus ORCs

Automotive history is littered with mainstream brands launching luxury spin-offs. Some have foundered on Aussie shores, like Infiniti (Nissan) and Eunos (Mazda). Others, like Lexus, a division of Toyota, have done very well.

Now, as they seek to climb out of the bargain basement, the Korean manufacturers are attempting the same thing.

Leading the way is Hyundai’s spin-off, Genesis.

Its core model is the G70, a rear-wheel-drive sports sedan that has been refreshed for 2021, and convincingly goes toe-to-toe with the European and Japanese models.

Mind you, if you want much the same thing for significantly less dough and don’t care about an upper-class badge? Then check out the Kia Stinger, it’s a working man’s G70 that’s priced from $50K.   


White Genesis G70

The Genesis G70 sedan.

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Starting price: $63,950 plus ORCs

When it comes to European mid-size rear-wheel drive sports sedans, the default choices are the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-class.

By contrast, the lovely Alfa Romeo Giulia is ignored. That’s got nothing to do with its design, equipment, pricing or driving, the Italian stallion just doesn’t seem to get cut-through against the German goliaths.

Maybe it’s the reputation Alfa has for second-hand values that don’t hold up as well as the segments stars.

That’s a pity, because it is a good looker, comes powered by a free-spinning engine brimming with zest and has enthusiastic handling to match.   


Porsche Macan

Starting price: $84,800 plus ORCs

Who doesn’t want a Porsche? Sadly, the iconic 911 sports car or even the new-fangled Taycan electric vehicle are well beyond the purchasing power of most of us.

But not the Macan SUV.

It’s the cheapest of all Porsches in Australia, with pricing starting under $85,000. before on-road costs.

A five-seat mid-size wagon, it actually shares a significant amount of tech with fellow Volkswagen Group brand Audi’s Q5.

But if you like a bit of thrill in your driving, then the Macan fills the bill as a sharper drive than the Audi and just about every other SUV out there.