Audi A4 Avant review

Category: Estate car

Superb quality, comfort and refinement, but plenty of rivals offer more space

Audi A4 Avant 2021 front right tracking
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 front right tracking
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 rear tracking
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 dashboard
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 rear seats
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 infotainment
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 front right tracking
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 front
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 front left static
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 right rear static
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 alloy wheel
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 front seat detail
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 boot open
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 front right tracking
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 rear tracking
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 dashboard
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 rear seats
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 infotainment
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 front right tracking
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 front
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 front left static
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 right rear static
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 alloy wheel
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 front seat detail
  • Audi A4 Avant 2021 boot open
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Introduction

What Car? says...

If you fancy an estate car with a swanky premium badge, the Audi A4 Avant really should be on your shortlist. It has all the positive attributes of the A4 Saloon, but adds a bigger, cleverer boot to combine driving prowess with practicality. 

It’s Audi's smallest estate model, and you don't need to be a car buff to know what its chief rivals are because they're pretty well known: the BMW 3 Series Touring and the Mercedes C-Class Estate. Plus, don't forget the Volvo V60 (a slightly left-field option, admittedly) or, if you want more car for less money, the Volkswagen Passat Estate. We'll talk more about how they compare in terms of value later in this review.

On that subject, we'll also mention, when relevant, how the Audi A4 Avant compares with bigger premium estate car rivals. After all, if you're looking at one of the more expensive versions, you could well be spending the sort of money that will get you an Audi A6 Avant, a BMW 5 Series Touring or a Mercedes E-Class Estate, so it's all useful info.

We haven't even got to the niche versions yet, which we've reviewed separately. Those include the potent Audi S4 Avant, the properly quick Audi RS4 Avant and the off-road inspired Audi A4 Allroad.

Here we're keeping things simple by concentrating on the regular versions. We’ll be comparing them directly with the rivals mentioned above and telling you which version of the A4 Avant makes the most sense.

So, please do keep reading through the next few pages of this Audi A4 Avant review and, don't forget, if you want to buy one – or indeed a new vehicle of any make and model – you could save a fortune without the hassle of haggling by checking out our free New Car Deals buying service.

Overview

If you want a relatively compact estate with a premium badge, there are lots of things to like about the A4 Avant – particularly if opt for our recommended 35 TDI diesel engine, which is frugal yet punchy, and Technik trim, which is relatively well-equipped. Much bigger estates are available for considerably less money, the best of which is the Skoda Superb Estate, while the BMW 3 Series Touring is as classy as the A4 Avant but more fun to drive.

  • Refined engines
  • Comfortable ride
  • Superbly made interior
  • Not as fun to drive as the BMW 3 Series
  • More practical estates are available
  • You can’t add many options
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

The entry-level 161bhp 35 TDI  is our pick of the entire range. It has plenty of low-down punch so you can tootle around town effortlessly, as well as enough outright pace to whisk you up to motorway speeds effectively (0-62mph takes a very respectable 8.5sec). Then there's the 201bhp 40 TDI, which enables even easier B-road overtakes, although we’d argue that it’s not worth the additional cost.

What about the petrol engines? Well, the 148bhp 35 TFSI needs to be worked fairly hard to build speed in a hurry. That's why we prefer the 201bhp 40 TFSI, which is the best option if you don't want a diesel. It provides a considerable performance boost over the 35 TFSI and works really well in every situation (0-62mph takes 7.3sec – about the same as the BMW 320i Touring) without pushing up the running costs too much.

Audi A4 image
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Most Audi A4 Avant engines come with a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which can be a little slow on the uptake after you've kicked it down, but pings through each gear change quickly once you're accelerating. The four-wheel-drive quattro models are able to launch out of a T-junction without spinning a wheel, even in greasy conditions.

Suspension and ride comfort

The Audi A4 Avant offers two suspension set-ups; the one you get depends on which trim level you go for, but the general rule of thumb is it's a more comfortable car than the equivalent BMW 3 Series Touring. Technik and Sport Edition trim have our favourite Comfort Dynamic setup. That puts comfort first, unsurprisingly, especially if you stick with the default 17in or 18in alloy wheels. It deals very effectively with all manner of lumps and bumps, yet still controls body movements extremely well over dips and crests. It pays to remember that larger wheels tend to make the ride harsher, though.

The pricier S line and Black Edition come with Sport suspension as standard. It's a stiffer, lower set-up that sharpens the handling (see below) but at the expense of comfort, introducing a little extra bumpiness at low speeds. It's far from a deal-breaker, but we'd suggest sticking with the Comfort Dynamic set-up if you can.

Audi A4 Avant 2021 rear tracking

Handling

All Audi A4 Avants handle predictably and securely. They come with precise steering that weights up consistently as you turn in to bends, and grip the road very well. Versions equipped with the stiffer Sport suspension feel the most nimble, staying flatter through corners and changing direction with extra eagerness.

Despite a little added body lean, we’d stick with the softer Comfort Dynamic suspension that’s standard on Technik and Sport Edition. It gives you a better balance between ride and handling (there are sharper-handling rivals if that really is your priority). The more powerful front-wheel-drive A4 Avants can struggle for traction if you put your foot down on the way out of a corner and the road is wet, but four-wheel-drive quattro models are pretty much unflappable.

We mentioned that the Audi A4 Avant has more dynamic rivals, and if you want something truly entertaining to drive you’re better off with the BMW 3 Series Touring. The larger Jaguar XF Sportbrake is another car that's worth looking at. Both are available with rear-wheel drive and steer more sweetly, helping to create more involvement on a spirited blast along a country road.

Noise and vibration

This is one of the Audi A4 Avant’s strongest suits. None of the engines, even the diesels, transmit much in the way of vibration through the body of the car. Even though the diesels are a bit more vocal than the petrols, every engine tends to be smoother and quieter than the equivalent BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class.

It also betters its rivals in suppressing wind noise, and you’ll hear only the occasional muted thud from the suspension over the roughest patches of Tarmac. Road noise is also very well subdued, but try to avoid the bigger wheel and tyre options if you want to keep it as low as possible.

The Audi A4 Avant's six-speed manual gearbox is precise, light and easy to use, with a clutch that's easy to judge. The S tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox flicks up and down gears near-imperceptibly but can be a little jerky at parking speeds.

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

You won’t have too many issues getting comfortable in the Audi A4 Avant. There are generous seat and steering wheel adjustments, including four-way electrically operated lumbar adjustment that's standard with entry-level Technik trim. From Sport Edition trim upwards you'll find well-bolstered sports seats that hold you in place more securely through corners. Whichever seat is fitted, it's comfortable on a long trip and you get a comfy adjustable centre armrest.

That said, there are some problems. The pedals are offset to the right and there's a bulge in the footwell by your left leg. It's quite pronounced, but the BMW 3 Series Touring and Mercedes C-Class aren't much better. The Volvo V60 is the car we'd choose if you want one of the best driving positions around. 

The A4 Avant’s minimalist dashboard is simple and easy to use, with big buttons and knobs for operating the main functions, including the climate controls. All models get Audi's excellent Virtual Cockpit system as standard. It replaces analogue dials with a 12.3in digital display that you can configure in multiple ways with ease from the steering wheel buttons. 

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

The Audi A4 Avant has fairly narrow windscreen pillars so you get a decent view forward. The size and shape of the door mirrors give you a good view of what’s coming up alongside, too. Its estate car shape opens up the view rearwards compared with the A4 Saloon, although the angled rear pillars mean it’s still not quite as easy to see out of as some rivals, such as the boxier Volkswagen Passat Estate.

Fortunately, every version has front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. 

All Audi A4 Avants come with bright LED headlamps, although there is no option to upgrade to adaptive Matrix LED headlights.

Audi A4 Avant 2021 dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

Every A4 Avant gets Audi’s impressive MMI infotainment system with a 10.1in touchscreen. The graphics are sharp, the screen is really responsive and the menus are decipherable after a little acclimatisation. We still prefer the iDrive system you get in the BMW 3 Series because it gives you the option of a touchscreen and a physical rotary controller, which is a less distracting way to make changes while you're on the road. 

You get lots of kit as standard with the Audi A4 Avant. That includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, built-in sat-nav, online features, voice activation, two USB sockets in the front and an eight-speaker stereo. If you add the optional Comfort and Sound pack or go for the high-end Vorsprung trim, you get a B&O stereo with 19 speakers and 755 watts of power.

Quality

The Audi A4 Avant’s interior is beautifully crafted from high-class materials. Harder plastics are few and far between, and nearly everything else has a plush, soft-touch finish. Real metal or gloss black (depending on the trim level) garnishes the dashboard and centre console, combining with well-damped switches to create an upmarket ambience.

The overall level of fit and finish is at least a grade or two above plenty of other cars in the class, such as the Skoda Superb Estate, and even some of the more expensive estates, including the Jaguar XF Sportbrake. Only the BMW 3 Series Touring comes close for similar money.

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

Getting in and out of the front is easy because the Audi A4 Avant has wide door apertures and low sills. Once inside you’ll find plenty of head, leg and elbow room, so you're unlikely to feel cramped unless you’re remarkably tall. There are bigger estate cars, though, from the cheaper Skoda Superb Estate to the more expensive Volvo V90

You get plenty of interior storage, too, including a tray under the adjustable armrest, two cupholders in front of the gear lever, and sizeable door bins with recesses big enough to each hold a 1.0-litre bottle of water.

Rear space

The Audi A4 Avant falls a little way short of the BMW 3 Series Touring and the Volvo V60 on rear space, and a long way short of the Volkswagen Passat Estate and Superb Estate when it comes to rear space. There is still enough room in the back of the A4 Avant to accommodate a couple of six-footers, but it's tight if the front seats are slid back on their runners.

Storage amenities come in the form of rear door bins that will each fit a 1.0-litre bottle of drink. You’ll need to add the optional, but reasonably priced, Storage Pack if you want nets on the backs of the front seats and cupholders in the central armrest.

Audi A4 Avant 2021 rear seats

Seat folding and flexibility

Folding down the rear seats is easy in the Audi A4 Avant – it’s just a case of pulling the release levers positioned conveniently inside the tailgate opening so the backrests fold in one simple action.

The seats fold in a 40/20/40 arrangement, giving you more options when you need to carry long loads but still need to fit people in the rear seats.

Boot space

The Audi A4 Avant's boot is slightly bigger than the one in the Mercedes C-Class Estate, about the same as in the BMW 3 Series Touring and a bit smaller than you'll find in the Volvo V60. It has a wide aperture and a low loading lip (to help take the strain out of lifting heavy items in and out), and the load area is relatively unencumbered by wheel-arch intrusion. The minimum width is a metre across, which could prove useful if you’re on an Ikea run.

It also comes with some helpful features. There's a standard powered tailgate with an optional sensor that opens the tailgate if you wave your foot under the rear bumper (useful for when you have your hands full). The load cover also retracts automatically as the tailgate opens, plus there's a netted storage cubby on either side of the boot to stop loose items flying around.

If you simply want an estate car with the biggest boot and you are not fussed about a posh badge, the class-leading Skoda Superb Estate is impossible to overlook. It’s far cheaper yet can swallow loads more luggage – the Audi A4 Avant fits seven carry-on suitcases, while the Superb Estate takes 11.

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The Audi A4 Avant is more expensive than the non-premium estates, which include the Skoda Superb and Volkswagen Passat, but it's predicted to hold on to its value well. Resale values are similar to those of the BMW 3 Series Touring and stronger than the Mercedes C-Class Estate. That helps to keep its PCP finance rates competitive, but these will vary depending on the deals that Audi and its rivals are doing at the time. Check out our New Car Buying service for the latest offers. 

Executive estates are popular with company car drivers, a car’s official CO2 emissions and P11D value are the critical factors that determine the benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax paid. The diesels emit the lowest CO2 and are all RDE2 compliant (so there's no 4% diesel surcharge), but that's negated slightly by the fact that they’re pricier – and consequently have a higher P11D value – than the petrols. There isn't a plug-in option of the A4 Avant, though. Plug-ins substantially lower your BIK tax and there are many available, including of the BMW 330e Touring, the Mercedes C300e and the Volkswagen Passat GTE. 

When it comes to fuel economy, most Audi A4 Avants are roughly on par with the equivalent 3 Series Touring or C-Class Estate. Our pick is the 35 TDI diesel, which officially averages over 55mpg. Meanwhile, our favourite petrol engine is the 40TFSI and that officially averages just under 45mpg.

Equipment, options and extras

Entry-level Technik trim is our pick for the Audi A4 Avant. You get 17in alloy wheels, power-folding door mirrors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated front seats, front and rear climate control, cruise control, keyless start, and we've already discussed the parking aids, LED headlights and infotainment features. That's not a bad tally. 

That said, we wouldn’t blame you for stepping up to Sport Edition trim. That adds 18in wheels, leather seat trim, sports front seats and more aggressive looks but, importantly, retains the softer Comfort Dynamic suspension for a suppler ride than S line trim.

As well as firmer sports suspension, S line has leather and Alcantara seats, privacy glass and 19in alloys, to which Black Edition adds, well, black styling details and some Audi Sport wheels. You can add very few individual options to an Audi A4 Avant; as a result, you could well end up going without certain features unless you're prepared to spend a big chunk of change on a higher trim.

Audi A4 Avant 2021 infotainment

Reliability

Estate cars weren't specifically featured in the latest What Car? Reliability Survey, but if we go by Audi A4 generally, it didn't do too well, finishing below the BMW 3 Series and the Skoda Superb, while the Mazda 6 was top. The Mercedes C-Class came bottom, by the way.

Not only that, but Audi ranks near the bottom in the overall brand rankings too, finishing 18th out of 30 manufacturers. That’s well below BMW, but again above Jaguar and Mercedes.

You do get a three-year, 60,000-mile manufacturer’s warranty, which includes roadside assistance. For a reasonable cost, you can extend this for up to five years or 90,000 miles.

Safety and security

The Audi A4 Avant received five stars from Euro NCAP for its ability to protect occupants in an impact. Study the results in more detail, though, and you’ll see the Audi scored lower marks than the BMW 3 Series for protecting adults in the event of a crash.

All versions come with automatic emergency braking (AEB) as standard to help prevent low-speed shunts, and the optional Driving Assistance Pack includes road sign recognition, lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control, which make easy work of following the car in front when traffic builds up. The Avant also comes with six airbags as standard, and you can also choose to add rear side airbags.

Thatcham awarded the Audi A4 Avant five stars (out of five) for resistance to theft and four stars for guarding against being broken into.

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At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £4,180
Target Price from £37,010
Save up to £4,180
or from £353pm
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Nearly new deals
From £27,990
RRP price range £40,100 - £53,720
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)4
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)diesel, petrol
MPG range across all versions 38.7 - 57.6
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / 60000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £2,452 / £3,711
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £4,904 / £7,423
Available colours