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Used test: Audi A4 Avant vs BMW 3 Series Touring vs Volvo V60 costs

These used executive estates all offer plush interiors and the security of four-wheel drive, but which is the best buy? We've tested them back to back to find out...

Audi A4 Avant driving

Buying and owning

Costs, equipment, reliability, safety

The Audi A4 Avant was the most expensive car here when new, but as a used buy it will cost you the same amount as the BMW 3 Series Touring and Volvo V60 Cross Country – that being £28,000. You could see this as the A4 offering the best deal, but it could also indicate worse deprecation for the future. 

The 3 Series is the easiest on fuel; it managed 41.6mpg in our economy test, compared with 39.3mpg for the A4 and a lowly 35.6mpg for the V60. When new, all three bust through the luxury vehicle tax threshold with list prices the wrong-side of £40,000, so all three will cost the same in annual VED: £165 per year, plus £355 per year for year's two to five after the car has been registered. 

BMW 3 Series Touring side

To insure, the A4 Avant and 3 Series Touring should be the cheaper cars (by a small margin). They occupy insurance group 31 and will attract a fee of around £835, while the V60 (in group 32) will set you back around £849.

For servicing, expect to pay £480 on a fixed price service plan, consisting of two services, on the A4 Avant. We were quoted £211 for a singular service of the 3 Series Touring. You can buy a £699 servicing package for the the V60, and this includes three services. 

The 3 Series proves the best at protecting adults and children in the event of a crash, closely followed by the V60. The A4 was tested under an older set of regulations, so its scores can’t be directly compared. All three get automatic emergency braking, although the 3 Series adds lane-departure warning, while the V60 can actually guide the car back into its lane if you start to wander, with its lane-keeping assistance system.

Volvo V60 driving

In our latest What Car? Reliability Survey, the A4 ranked 20th out of 26 cars in the executive car class, while the 3 Series came 22nd and the S60 12th. We don't list estate cars separately, hence we're citing results for the almost identical executive cars they're based on. In the brand rankings, Audi came 21st out of 32 manufacturers featured. BMW placed 16th and Volvo 17th. 

From new, the V60 gets the most standard equipment for your money, it being the only one with keyless entry, a hands-free tailgate, and hill descent control. That said, the A4 and 3 Series give you three- instead of two-zone climate control.