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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For Elegant, refined and desirable

Against Not as good to drive as a BMW 3 Series

Verdict Classy compact executive shouldn't disappoint

Go for… 2.0 TDI SE

Avoid… 1.6 4dr

Audi A4 Saloon
  • 1. Check the oil level in 2.0 diesel cars - if it's been neglected, there can be serious engine damage
  • 2. The central locking system can fail - ensure all the doors lock and unlock easily
  • 3. The glovebox and dash can rattle in some cars. A test drive should expose this
  • 4. Stiff clutches or difficult gearchanges can be symptoms of a known gearbox fault
  • 5. Cabin is a refined place to be, with high-quality switchgear throughout
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Audi A4 Saloon full review with expert trade views

Despite looking like an all-new car, this model is a heavily revised version of the earlier A4 (2000-2004). It's slightly bigger inside, but dynamically very similar.

With precise handling and good roadholding, the Audi is entertaining to drive, and unsettled by only the bumpiest surfaces. It grips well and turns into corners crisply, and rides comfortably over most surfaces. Although the Audi ultimately falls short of the BMW 3 Series for driver enjoyment, it's perfectly acceptable.

This A4 retains Audi's tradition for clarity, quality and comfort inside the cabin. Controls are logically laid out and feel durable, and four people can sit in comfort. However, five will struggle due to the bulk of the transmission tunnel. Wind and tyre noise are kept in check.

Trade view

Diesel owners who've neglected the oil level regularly may have wrecked the engine

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

Go for the 2.0 TDI engine, which is smoother than the 1.9-litre diesel option. You get 138bhp and an average of 47.9mpg. Large diesels comprise 2.5-litre, 2.7-litre and a 3.0-litre V6s

Diesel models have better residual values, but if you want a petrol car the turbo-charged 2.0-litre FSI engine is a sensible choice. Avoid the underpowered 1.6-litre model, but the 1.8 turbo model is worth considering.

The 3.2-litre petrol-engined version is rare and not that exciting, as opposed to the 4.2-litre which produces up to 414bhp, and rivals BMW's M3.

The more powerful versions of the A4 come with four-wheel drive, which noticeably improves traction but lowers fuel economy.

The entry-level trim (unnamed) is poorly equipped, so opt for the mid-level SE with four electric windows and a CD player. The S-line model comes with sportier trim, seats and detailing. An early version of Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI) is a desirable option, and like BMW's iDrive, lets you control the radio, CD player, ventilation system and sat nav.

Trade view

A sharp-looking car, but not as reliable as you might think

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

The A4 is cheaper to own than to rivals, taking depreciation into account, and should prove as reliable. Main dealers have a reputation for higher prices, but stick to independent specialists and you can cut up to 35% off your service bills. However, franchised dealers can use this as an excuse to undervalue your car, so be wary when getting newer cars serviced.

The 2.0-litre diesels are popular with fleet buyers because of their economy and low group 12 insurance rating. The petrol 2.0T FSI does 36.7mpg and is the more-expensive insurance group 15, so residual values aren't as strong as a result.

The 4.2-litre models may have the performance of junior supercars, but running costs will reflect this, with an insurance group rating of 20, a special servicing schedule and only 20mpg.

For cars out of warranty, the average repair bill works out to roughly £330 according to Warranty Direct.

Trade view

Diesel owners who've neglected the oil level regularly may have wrecked the engine

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

Generally this generation of A4 is reliable, but there are some issues.

The 2.0-litre diesel models can burn oil over time and some owners don't check the level, relying instead on the oil warning light. This is dangerous, and could cause permanent engine damage. Consult the service book to find out when the oil was last changed, and then check the dipstick to see if it's low.

The central locking can fail, and dealers aren't always able to fix it quickly. Check that all the doors unlock, and that the remote is working correctly.

Although generally well built, some A4s have gloveboxes and dashboards that rattle or squeak. A test drive should expose any faults.

Problems changing gear, as well as very stiff clutches, are early signs of a known gearbox problem. During a test drive, ensure you can select every gear easily. Audi has been known to contribute to the cost of repairing some cars out of warranty, so you shouldn't expect to pay for fixing cars that are less than three years old.

Trade view

A sharp-looking car, but not as reliable as you might think

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor
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