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Compact exec face-off: new Audi A4 vs 3 Series, C-Class, XE and Giulia

We compare Audi's 2016 A4 with the Jaguar XE, BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class and Alfa Romeo Giulia to see who wins the numbers war

Audi has just revealed its long-awaited next-generation A4 saloon to the public, at a time when the compact exec class is more competitive than ever. It'll go on sale in September after a Frankfurt show debut, but it'll need to be good to usurp the latest crop of compact executive class rivals.

We've put the A4's technical specs up alongside the newly updated BMW 3-Series, Jaguar's excellent new XE, Mercedes' upmarket C-Class and the striking new Alfa Romeo Giulia to see if Audi's new saloon can win the battle before its even hit the road. Fleet buyers in particular will be more interested in stats such as fuel economy and emissions rather than looks but style and technology will be important to those who'll actually be sitting behind the wheel.

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Audi A4 2015: first drive review 

New Audi A4 vs rivals: dimensions and weight

As is the norm in the compact executive class, the 2016 A4 has grown in size compared to the previous model. At 4,726mm, its 21mm longer than before, making it a whopping 102mm longer than the current 3 Series, 55mm longer than the XE and 40mm more than the C-Class. The boot, at 480 litres, is identical to both the 3 Series and the C-Class, and is 25 litres more than the XE. 

Dimensions of the Giulia are yet to be released, but we expect it to be similar in size to the XE due to its more sporting angle and sleek styling. We do know the 503bhp Quadrifoglio Verde model claims a best in class power to weight ratio with roughly a 1,500kg kerbweight, which beats the M3 saloon by 80kg, the highest powered XE S by 165kg and the AMG C63 by a whopping 215kg.

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In terms of the A4, no hot 'RS' model has been announced yet, but we do know that Audi claims weight for the standard cars has been decreased by up to 120kg thanks to the use of hot-formed steel in the chassis and aluminium body panels. That should put it right in line with its main rivals across the board, despite its size advantage.

 

New Audi A4 vs rivals: performance

The A4 range is launched with seven engines available; four diesels and three turbocharged petrols. The base engine is a 148bhp 1.4 TSI petrol, with 30bhp more than before, that makes the A4 capable of 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds and a top speed of 131mph. By comparison the BMW 316i ES uses a 1.6-litre turbo petrol producing 134bhp, but can do 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds and hit a top speed of 130mph.

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The base Mercedes C-Class is a C200 petrol with 184bhp, which will be more expensive than either of them. But the base XE, a 161bhp turbo petrol, does 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds and hits 141mph. The diesels are more closely matched between rivals, with the 148bhp base unit in the A4 hitting 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds. By comparison, the BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics has 161bhp, and hits 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds, the XE 2.0-litre D SE (also with 161bhp) does the sprint in 8.4 seconds, and the equivalent C200 BlueTEC SE has a 1.6-litre diesel with 134bhp, and only manages 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds.

At the other end of the scale, the most powerful engine the A4 currently offers is a 3.0-litre TDI diesel with 272bhp, and the XE has a 335bhp 3.0-litre supercharged V6. BMW's M3 has a 4.0-litre twin turbo straight six with 424bhp and 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds, while the Mercedes-AMG C63 S gets a whopping 503bhp and does the sprint in four-seconds flat. 

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But the new entrant, the Alfa Giulia, trumps the lot of them. The hot 'QV' version gets the same 503bhp as the C63, but its lower weight means a 0-62mph time of just 3.9 seconds. 

New Audi A4 vs rivals: efficiency and emissions

Often the most important factor for buyers in this sector, especially business fleets, is efficiency. The new A4 is very capable in this regard, with a headline-grabbing 74.3mpg from the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI Ultra saloon. It also manages CO2 emissions of 95g/km.

By comparison, the BMW 320d in Efficient Dynamics spec manages an identical 74.3mpg, but CO2 emissions are narrowly worse at 99g/km. The XE with the 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel also manages an uncanny 74.3mpg, matching the 3 Series with 99g/km Co2 emissions. The C200 BlueTEC SE is behind the class best, with less power, a claimed 72.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 101g/km.

The Alfa Giulia only has one engine revealed right now, but we can expect a range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines to compete with the class best for performance and efficiency. 

Ok, you've seen the stats we have so far. Here's the big question: Which would you choose, Audi's A4, BMW's 3 Series, the Mercedes C-Class, Jaguar's XE or the Alfa Romeo Giulia? Let us know in the comments section below...

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