What are they like inside?
Two adults can stretch out in the front of any of our contenders, with the Audi A4 providing the most head room and the Alfa Romeo Giulia's front seats adjusting to give the most leg room. Although the driver’s seat and steering wheel adjustment must be done manually in all three cars, there’s plenty of scope for people of all shapes and sizes to get comfortable.
All three car makers offer optional electric seat adjustment; BMW charges the most for it, and Alfa Romeo the least. It’s disappointing that none of the cars come with adjustable lumbar support as standard, either.
Forward visibility is good in all three, so pulling out at junctions and roundabouts isn’t a problem. The Giulia’s slightly shallower rear windows and thicker rear pillars make it the hardest to see out of when reversing. Like the others, the Giulia comes with standard rear parking sensors, though.
According to our tape measure, the Giulia has the most leg room. However, in reality, the driver will need to slide his or her seat back farther than in the German cars because of the positioning of the steering wheel, which eats into rear leg room. The Giulia still beats the A4 for knee room, but the BMW 3 Series is most accommodating for those sitting in the back.
Unusually, all three cars have exactly the same official boot capacity, but when measured, the A4 comes out on top. It has the longest boot with the widest opening and the most uniformly shaped load bay. Both Alfa Romeo and BMW deny their customers split-folding rear seats as standard, although both offer a 40/20/40 seat configuration as an option. Audi, however, includes 60/40 split rear seats as standard.
It’s Audi, too, that provides the classiest interior, not just among this trio, but also among the wider executive class. Everything from the A4’s dashboard to the insides of its doors are covered in dense, soft-touch materials, and its switches all feel robust and operate slickly. The 3 Series looks the part, but you notice scratchier plastics the farther down you go, while its switches don’t convey the same luxury feel as the A4’s.
Although the Giulia is by far Alfa’s best attempt of recent times, and its steering wheel and optional (£275) paddles feel reassuringly solid, it simply can’t match its rivals’ softer surfaces and slicker buttons. In fact, some of the plastics on the console between driver and front passenger feel downright cheap.
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