Audi A4 2.0 TDIe SE

Eco-badged model comes with stop-start for the first time

Image is hard to measure, but vitally important in the compact executive sector. And while Audi is one of the most desirable badges around, the firm has struggled to match the green appeal of its BMW rival – until now. The A4 TDIe aims to put the brand back in front.

Its new eco model promises to add some glamour to the office car park. The car in our pictures is in sporty S line trim, with racy bumpers, side skirts and larger alloy wheels, but the SE version we tested still wins the battle to turn heads.

Standard 17-inch alloy wheels and fresh styling give the A4 a more modern appearance than its 3-Series rival. It’s bigger than the BMW in every dimension, too, so there’s more space inside.

With comfortable seats and a driver-orientated layout, as well as classy aluminium inlays and lighter coloured materials, the Audi’s cabin feels brighter than the sober BMW’s. Simple dials and high-quality switchgear look and feel a cut above those fitted to the 316d. There’s no doubt that both of these cars are premium products, but the Audi has the classier feel.

Sit in the back, and it also has more room, although the amount of foot space beneath the front seats is a little tight. A standard split-folding rear bench and larger boot opening make it the more practical choice, too.

The A4’s advantage continues under the bonnet. The 2.0-litre diesel has 134bhp and 320Nm of torque, which is 18bhp and 60Nm more than its rival. On the road the performance gap is small, but like the BMW, the Audi delivers an impressive amount of mid-range punch for a model with strong green credentials. The A4 TDIe is marginally more flexible than the 316d, and its smoother engine suits the relaxed nature of these cars.

The front-wheel-drive Audi lacks the fluidity offered by the BMW, though. And while its tyres grip hard, its steering is slow-witted with no feel and inconsistent weighting.

A notchy gearbox and firm ride – thanks to lowered sports suspension – also do the Audi few favours. However, the big news is that the car now features stop-start technology to boost fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions.

As with the system fitted to the BMW, it works smoothly, but the Audi still trailed its rival at the pumps. A return of 40.5mpg was 8.3mpg behind the 3-Series.

With CO2 emissions of 120g/km, the A4 is only slightly more polluting than the 316d at 118g/km. Both cars qualify for £35 road tax and have identical company car bandings.

Keen drivers will favour the rear-wheel-drive BMW, but the Audi’s cabin quality, space and refinement make it a comfortable mile-muncher. Could its smoother engine and stronger residuals swing the verdict in its favour?

In detail Price: £24,320 Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 134bhp 0-60mph: 9.7 seconds AE economy: 40.5mpg Annual road tax: £35

Details

WHY: It’s a handsome and comfortable saloon, and the TDIe has the green firepower to match the 3-Series.

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