Great estates

Audi expects the new Avant to claim nearly half of all A4 sales. But Mercedes also has big hopes for its C-Class estate. Which is our pick?

mercedes vs audi

Touring, Sport Tourer, Avant... whatever happened to the estate? Call them what you like, but five-door load-luggers are big business, with more style and space than regular saloons.

The traditional holdall has been rebranded as a lifestyle model – and in the growing compact executive sector these cars are now arguably more desirable than four-door versions. The latest to hit our streets is the Audi A4 Avant, and company bosses claim it will account for 45 per cent of all sales in the A4 range.

That’s much more than German rivals will manage, so we’ve pitched the newcomer against the Mercedes C-Class to see what makes it so special. Will the three-pointed star put the boot into its opponent?

With the rising price of diesel at the pumps, plus the fact that oil-burning models cost more to buy in the first place, entry-level petrol cars are beginning to look more and more attractive. So we’ve opted for base engines from each range: the 1.8T FSI SE Avant and the C180K SE.

Weedy petrol units used to be incompatible with the demands of a heavily laden estate, but modern technology has put an end to that. Both our contenders feature forced induction systems – one turbo and one supercharger – to boost torque and flexibility. So while the power outputs won’t quicken your pulse, each has plenty of pace. But which wins this test?

Verdict

these cars prove that petrol is back in vogue for compact execs – particularly at the cheaper end of the range. While both are entry-level models, they have the performance to lug heavy loads.

The Mercedes feels more lively at lower speeds, as its supercharger provides instant responses. However, the C-Class chassis is too soft to deliver a truly enjoyable drive. Superior practicality makes it the better traditional estate car, but its classy appearance hasn’t been carried through to the inside. A real pity.

The Audi shows how things should be done, with a fantastic cabin that’s more comfortable and better equipped. Marking it out further are the sweet engine and more dynamic driving experience. Although the boot isn’t the most versatile around, this will only be an issue if ultimate load space is your main goal. So the hugely desirable new A4 Avant wins this test.

Ranking:

1stAudi A4 Avant Spend any time behind the wheel of the Avant and you can see why it is set to be such a hit with buyers. It strikes an excellent compromise by combining the pace and handling of the A4 saloon with an extra dose of practicality and style.

2nd Merc C-Class Estate The Mercedes is the sensible option for estate buyers, due to its greater practicality. But the driving experience and cabin let it down. Sealing its fate in second place, the C180K also costs more to buy than the new A4 Avant.

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