New Audi A4 Avant & BMW 3 Series Touring vs Volvo V60: space
Audi, BMW and Volvo are all experienced at making plush executive estates with four-wheel drive if you need it. Let’s see which of their contenders is the best buy...
Space and practicality
Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot
Ah yes, the all-important question. There’s a clear winner here, with the V60 swallowing a useful eight carry-on cases, while the A4 and 3 Series only just managed seven. To put that into perspective, the cheaper Skoda Superb Estate swallows a mighty 11.
Despite the similarity in capacity between the A4 and 3 Series, the latter is let down by the fact that its boot is the narrowest between the wheel arches and the shortest with the rear seats in place. However, each car has a range of hooks, straps and netted areas to stop smaller items from rattling around, while the 3 Series has optional anti-slip floor rails (£890). The V60 is available with a Convenience Pack (£300) with a handy load separator that folds out of the floor.
If you need to transport something really big, you’ll find it’s easy to lower the rear seatbacks in the A4 and 3 Series, because they have remote release levers near the boot entrance. You can’t get boot-mounted seatback releases in the V60, forcing you to go around to the side doors or stretch across the boot, and it’s the only one with a 60/40 seat split rather than the more useful 40/20/40 configuration of the other two.
In the rear seats, our tape measure suggests that the 3 Series and V60 are similar in terms of space, but in practice there’s more knee room over a wider area in the V60, because its front seatbacks are a better shape.
Meanwhile, the 3 Series’ optional panoramic roof (part of the Premium Package mentioned earlier) limits head room if you move your bonce off the headrest. As for the A4, it has a little less space than the 3 Series but is less restricting for head room when no panoramic roof is fitted (as in our test car).
The V60 also has the most comfortable centre rear seat with the least intrusive central hump in the floor, although none of these cars is particularly comfortable if you try to squeeze three adults in the back. Once again, the Superb Estate offers far more space for less cash.
If you’re part-giraffe, it’s the A4 that has the most front head room and the V60 the least, although none of our 6ft-plus testers had any issues with their hair rubbing the roof in any of our contenders. Similarly, all have seats that will slide back enough to accommodate even daddy long legs and interiors wide enough to give you plenty of elbow room.
You can tell our contenders have been made with long journeys in mind. Each has a pair of sizeable cupholders that will securely hold a king-sized coffee cup, door bins that are big enough for plenty of clutter and a tray in front of the gear selector for smaller odds and ends. Under the comfortable central armrest of each (adjustable for height in the A4), you’ll find yet more storage, although this is a bit small in the V60.
The Avant’s boot may not be vast, but it’s a practical, square shape with little width variation. It has the lowest loading lip of our trio and the load cover retracts electrically.
Boot 505-1510 litres Suitcases 7
Width is the 3 Series’ biggest problem; you just can’t fit a great deal of stuff between the rear wheels. Electric seatback release buttons are a nice, practical touch, though.
Boot 500-1510 litres Suitcases 7
V60 has the biggest boot here, although it’s the only one without three-piece folding rear seatbacks. Convenience Pack (£300) adds a useful fold-away load partition system.
Boot 529-1441 litres Suitcases 8