There’s no doubting that if you want a classy compact executive saloon car, Audi makes some of the best. For many years, this sector was more or less defined by the BMW 3 Series, a refined four-door exec that excelled in ride comfort and handling prowess. Recently, though, Audi has hit back with newer and more competitive versions of both the A3 and A4, and we reckon either of these would make a sound alternative to the 3 Series.
However, you have a further choice. You can either buy the A3 as a new car, or you can purchase the slightly larger A4 as a used buy for the same money. If that sounds like it’s too close a sibling rivalry to call, read on and we'll try to unravel the threads as we pit our favourite version of each car against the other.
Audi A3 2.0 TDI 150 Sport List price £27,150 Target Price £25,046 Official fuel economy 67.3mpg Emissions 110g/km CO2 Power 148bhp 0-62mph 8.6sec Top speed 139mph
Audi A4 2.0 TDI Ultra 190 Sport S Tronic Price new £35,245 Price today £24,450 Official fuel economy 70.6mpg Emissions 103g/km CO2 Power 188bhp 0-62mph 7.7sec Top speed 130mph
Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and a full service history
New Audi A3 vs used Audi A4 – interior & equipment
Both of these cars’ interiors exude class. The A3’s dashboard and surrounding areas has plenty of soft-touch material in evidence, and all the appropriate buttons and switches are well damped. It has to be said that the fit and finish is a cut above all other rivals in this class, too. Further good news comes in the shape of how well equipped the A3 is. Sport is our favourite trim and it comes as standard with dual-zone climate control, alloy wheels, a DAB radio and Bluetooth. On top of that, there’s the excellent rotary controller that operates the MMI infotainment screen, making this responsive system logical to use.
All the same applies to the A4. Its dashboard and general interior quality set the standards by which all other cars are judged. The materials used across the interior are top notch, of course, and the MMI infotainment system is one of the best. Our favourite trim is Sport here, too, and once again it’s handsomely equipped, featuring sat-nav, a 10-speaker stereo and sports seats.
New Audi A3 vs used Audi A4 – space & practicality
The A3’s driving position, aided by multi-adjustable seats, including a rotary dial controller for the rear seat angle, is spot on. You sit low, but visibility isn’t a problem, except to the rear, where the rear window is rather shallow. Space is fine for the two up front, but tight in the rear – leg room is limited, especially behind a taller driver, and there’s not a huge amount of head room. The boot’s a good size, but a little down on the boots of other cars in this class.
Climb aboard the A4 and it’s obvious that it’s a bigger car. It has the same fine driving position, helped by multi-adjustable seat and steering wheel settings, but there is far more space both up front and in the rear. A six-footer can sit behind another six-footer – just – and that wouldn’t be easy in the A3. The boot is usefully bigger, too, making family holidays, or even just trips to the supermarket, that much easier.