The Audi A4
represents the old guard in this test. With its traditional diesel engine and old-fashioned manual gearbox, the executive saloon can’t match its rivals for hi-tech, eco-friendly engineering.
But don’t discount the A4 just yet. A recent mid-life refresh has resulted in a number of changes, including the introduction of an even cleaner TDIe model, as tested here.
Featuring a number of mechanical tweaks, the latest addition to the A4 line-up promises to return a remarkable 65.7mpg and emit only 112g/km of CO2. So, will its mix of upmarket appeal and supermini running costs be enough to beat its new-age rivals?
The A4 definitely can’t match the other cars here for visual impact. As with other models in the recently revised range, the headlamps and front grille have been subtly altered, while the TDIe gets 20mm lower sports suspension. However, the sober-suited Audi doesn’t attract as much attention as the futuristic Ampera and boldly styled Leaf.
Inside, the A4 leads the way for quality and practicality. Its cabin is beautifully built from high-grade materials, while the slickly designed dashboard is clearly and logically laid-out. The classy and desirable ambience of the A4’s interior is a cut above its rivals.
It’s spacious, too. Rear occupants enjoy the most head and legroom of our quartet, while the well shaped boot will swallow a generous 480 litres of luggage – 180 litres more than the Ampera. Fold the rear bench flat and that figure increases to 962 litres.
There’s plenty of standard kit as well. In SE trim, you’re treated to Bluetooth, climate control and rear parking sensors. Yet you have to pay extra for leather trim and sat-nav, both of which are standard on the Vauxhall.
The A4 was comfortably the quickest of our contenders at the test track: its smooth and responsive 134bhp 2.0-litre diesel needed only 9.4 seconds to accelerate the car from 0-60mph. What’s more, the Audi is the most engaging choice from behind the wheel. Its new electrically assisted steering lacks feel, but there’s plenty of grip and decent body control in corners. Only the extremely firm ride spoils the otherwise excellent dynamics.
However, this test is more about reduced running costs than performance and poise – and that’s where the Audi struggles. Despite having fuel-saving kit such as stop-start and regenerative braking systems, the A4 could manage only 32.4mpg on our 40-mile commuting route. It returned a reasonable 39.7mpg on the test overall.
Plus, while the 112g/km emissions are impressively low in isolation, this car is the dirtiest of our group. As a result, it’s by far the costliest company choice, with higher-rate earners forking out £1,378 a year in tax. That’s £599 and £266 more than Vauxhall and Lexus respectively. Further adding to the A4’s woes are relatively weak residuals of 41.2 per cent.
Yet the Audi isn’t out for the count. It’s by far the most refined and upmarket choice here, plus it’s the best to drive. Will that be enough for the old guard to score a win?
Chart position: 2WHY: Can a more traditional efficient diesel saloon hold its own among the latest advanced hybrid and electric-powered competition?