Used Audi A4 review
A full used buyer’s guide on the Audi A4 covering the A4 Mk5 (2015-date) and A4 Mk4 (2008-2015)
The Audi A4 has been a staple of the compact executive saloon class since it first arrived as the replacement for the Audi 80 in 1994. Back then it was a relatively niche seller because, as with all premium German brands at the time, sales volume wasn’t as much of a key factor as it is now.
But things have changed: over the past three decades or so, companies such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes have massively increased the number of cars that they sell, to the point where the A4 is now far from exclusive. That doesn’t make it any less desirable, though, because as Audi and its rivals have proved, it’s possible to have both quantity and quality.
- Audi A4 Mk5 (2015-date) – the Mk5 offers plenty of tech and an upmarket interior, as well as a refined drive.
- Audi A4 Mk4 (2008-2015) – the popular Mk4 compact exec now looks great value used.
Audi A4 Mk5
The fifth-generation Audi A4 saloon (codenamed B9) made its debut in late 2015. Buyers could choose between 148bhp 1.4 TFSI and 187bhp 2.0 TFSI petrol engines; the latter also came in 248bhp form with standard quattro four-wheel drive. Diesel fans could select between 148bhp and 187bhp 2.0 TDI engines, or a 3.0 V6 TDI unit in 215bhp and 268bhp guises.
Audi introduced the Avant estate in January 2016 and a 349bhp S4 saloon and estate in June 2016. The A4 allroad also arrived then, with standard quattro four-wheel drive and a 34mm taller ride height.
Front and rear styling was lightly refreshed in November 2018, and in September 2020 an improved infotainment system was introduced, along with a 3.0 V6 TDI diesel engine for the S4, 134bhp and 161bhp editions of the 2.0 TDI engine and mild-hybrid tech for most powerplants.
Which one should I buy?
There are no poor choices in terms of engines or gearbox; your decision should be based on whether you prefer manual or auto, petrol or diesel, saloon or estate.
All A4s are generously equipped, with even the entry-level SE featuring 17-inch alloys, xenon lights, three-zone climate control, a powered tailgate on estates, a DAB radio, a seven-inch display, cruise control, plus front and rear parking sensors.
Move up to an A4 Sport and you’ll get heated front sports seats along with navigation (and 18-inch wheels on cars from June 2018), while the S line comes with sports suspension that’s lowered by 20mm. Also included are LED headlights, 18-inch alloys, leather and Alcantara trim plus illuminated door sills. Buy a Black Edition and it’ll come with 19-inch wheels, exclusive body styling, privacy glass and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Alternatives to the Audi A4
The BMW 3 Series is a fearsome adversary for the A4, with its wide model range, efficient engines, impressive build quality and superb dynamics. Choose between rear or four-wheel drive, saloon or estate. The Mercedes C-Class offers much the same traits and is every bit as desirable, but not quite as involving to drive; you’re unlikely to be disappointed overall, though.
While there isn’t much choice in the compact executive estate segment, there are a few more saloons. The Jaguar XE has a narrow model range and the cabin is cramped, but it’s comfortable and great to drive. The Lexus IS also has a narrow model range (with no diesel option) but it’s supremely reliable and refined, while the auto-only Alfa Romeo Giulia is as good to drive as it is to look at.
What to look for
Some A4s get a space saver, others get a mobility kit. If the latter is fitted, it’s usually still possible to fit a space-saver spare.
Buy an early entry-level SE and it may not come with sat-nav, which was optional back then. It became standard in November 2018.
A September 2020 update brought standard LED headlights. These are superb, if costly to replace, although they don’t often go wrong.
From 2019, the 2.0 TFSI 150 and 190 became the 35 TFSI and 40 TFSI, while the 2.0 TDI 136, 163 and 190 became the 30 TDI, 35 TDI and 40 TDI.
Online forums are home to many satisfied owners, but those telling of issues talk about problems with the stop-start system and trim rattles from a number of spots in the cabin. Avant owners mention faults can occur with the powered tailgate, too.
From the outset the A4’s cabin has been a paragon of quality and ergonomic brilliance, but the 2020 updates took things up a level in terms of dash design, clarity and infotainment functionality. Cabin space is excellent with lots of head and leg room for four (or even five) adults, and boot space is also impressive.
The saloon’s boot can stow 480 litres with the seats up, or 965 litres with them folded (folding rear seats are standard across the range); equivalent figures for the Avant are 505 and 1,510 litres respectively. If infotainment is important to you and a model with the newer set-up is within budget, it’s worthwhile – the 10.1-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit go well together.
PricesYou can buy an Audi A4 Mk5 from as little as £7,850 on our sister site BuyaCar.
A4 owners can choose between fixed and variable service regimes, with the former set at every 12 months or 9,000 miles. Services alternate between minor and major, with the minor one being mostly made up of an oil change.
Anybody opting for the variable scheme needs to get their Audi serviced every two years or 18,600 miles; at the same time an inspection service (oil change) is due. An oil service is priced at £205, whereas an oil and inspection service with a fresh pollen filter costs £365.
On top of this, fresh brake fluid is required every two years, at £70, and all engines are fitted with a cambelt; replace this every 140,000 miles. Audi in Germany doesn’t specify a time limit on cambelt renewal, but Audi UK recommends changing this critical part every five years, at a cost of £595.
The fifth-generation A4 has been recalled a total of 12 times so far, which isn’t particularly reassuring. The first time was in January 2017 because of poorly made front seats, which could cause injury in a crash. A month later the A4 was recalled because of airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners not working, then faulty water pumps led to campaigns in May 2017 and June 2018.
Sharp-edged speaker trim led to a recall in April 2018, with further campaigns following because of poorly secured airbags (December 2018), fuel leaks (March 2019), plus faulty shock absorbers and poorly manufactured towing brackets (both in May 2019).
Moisture getting into the starter-alternator led to recalls in June and October 2020, with the most recent recall also issued in October 2020 because of poorly secured seat frames.
Driver Power owner satisfaction
The last time the A4 Mk5 appeared in a Driver Power survey was in 2019, when it came 73rd in our new car poll; this generation has never appeared in a used car survey. For a premium car a higher score might have been expected, but owners weren’t impressed by the A4’s lack of storage space, inert steering and high servicing costs. They did like the refinement, along with the interior design and quality.
The original A4 was a very desirable car when it made its debut almost three decades ago, and over the years Audi has honed the formula to a point where the fifth edition is a staggeringly good, and very appealing, compact executive. As a premium product you’ll pay for the privilege of buying a new A4, and strong demand means that used values are also high. But if you want a car that’s enjoyable and easy to live with, then the A4 is easy to recommend, provided you’re happy to pay that premium. Having said this, the A4 hasn’t scored all that impressively in our Driver Power surveys, partly because owners’ expectations are (quite rightly) very high. So before you commit to buying an A4, take an extended test drive to ensure it’s the right car for you.