Audi A4 Avant – first drive

  • We test the 2.0TDIe 134bhp SE company car favourite
  • Stop/start helps improve emissions and economy
  • Tweaked suspension makes it even more relaxing

The Audi A4 Avant is a popular choice for company car drivers, and now it’s been given some minor tweaks to cement its place in the fleet sector.

This may be just a mild facelift, but there are important changes to take note of. For instance, the addition of stop/start technology across the range reduces CO2 emissions, making it an even more attractive prospect to those paying company car tax.

We drove the Audi A4 Avant 2.0TDIe with 134bhp in SE trim with six-speed manual gearbox. Thanks to the stop/start system, this particular model emits 115g/km of CO2. Rivals include the BMW 318d ES, emitting 120g/km, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class estate C200 CDI BlueEfficiency emitting 127g/km. So Audi already has the upper hand in the fleet car sector, dipping below the magic 120g/km threshold that so many fleet managers adhere to.

This means BIK figures are good too. When taxed at 40% the A4 Avant costs around £119 per month. The BMW is around £115, but the C-Class estate is significantly more expensive at £170 per month.

More good news for Audi in the economy stakes. On an average run it is claimed it will achieve 64.2mpg. That is impressive, but in real world driving we expect you’re more likely to get around 55mpg. Still, not too shabby considering the BlueEfficiency C-Class estate has a claimed average of 58.9mpg and the 318d ES has a claimed average of 62.8mpg.

In terms of practicality, things haven't changed. The A4 Avant still offers 490 litres of bootspace with the seats up. The Merc has 485 litres of luggage space and the 3-Series Touring lags behind with 460 litres.

Performance is good and, although this is the smallest engine in the range, it has enough power to pull away from junctions in a quick and safe manner. This model can get from a standing start to 62mph in 9.6 seconds and has a top speed of 129mph. Overtaking slower traffic needs to be planned and you will have drop down a gear or two to complete most manoeuvres.

The A4 Avant is still not as engaging as the 3-Series Touring, but it performs well through corners and there is minimal body roll. The Audi Drive Select does help to make things a little more interesting. It alters settings for the engine, steering, automatic gearbox (if you opt for one) and suspension. There are four settings, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Efficiency. Auto mode switches between comfort and dynamic depending on your driving style, while economy mode is claimed to reduce fuel consumption.

As well as the stop/start system, the new electromechanical steering has also helped in dropping emissions and improving economy. Unfortunately this has also played a part in and reducing driver feedback and means there is little steering feel too.

While engagement may not be the A4 Avant’s forte, the latest model is even more comfortable than before. The car feels assured and is relaxing to drive, which is ideal if you have to spend hours sitting on the motorway. The reworked suspension negotiates bumps in the road with ease thanks to its supple suspension.

There’s a decent amount of standard kit on offer. Our SE model included 17-inch alloys, three-zone climate control, a ten speaker, 180-watt Concert CD audio system with aux input and a 6.5-inch monitor, cruise control, rear parking sensors, light and rain sensors and Bluetooth mobile phone preparation.

The new A4 Avant is available to order now, with deliveries beginning in March 2012.


Also consider

BMW 3-Series Touring

It’s top of the class in driving terms, but doesn’t have the practicality of some of its rivals. Comes with a good range of economical diesel engines or performance focused petrol units.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate

This is a roomy, premium estate with high levels of comfort, safety and equipment. It’s the perfect blend of potent performance and good looks with excellent interior refinement.

Peugeot 508 SW

The car that replaced the dated 407SW is a big deal for Peugeot. The SW is better looking than the saloon while it’s relaxing to drive, with some very good diesel engines on offer.