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

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 boot

Space and practicality 

Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot

Ah yes, the all-important question of boot space. There’s a clear winner here, with the V60 easily swallowing a useful eight carry-on cases, while the A4 Avant and 3 Series Touring 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 our 3 Series has anti-slip floor rails that were an option when new. The V60 on test didn't have the optional Convenience Pack; we'd recommend looking for this because it gives you a handy load separator that folds out of the floor.

BMW 3 Series Touring boot

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 don’t get boot-mounted seatback releases in the V60; instead, it forces you to go around to the side doors or stretch across the boot to lower the seats, and it’s the only one with a 60/40 seat split rather than the more versatile 40/20/40 configuration of the other two.

For those who are 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 those with even the longest of 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.

Volvo V60 boot

Meanwhile, our 3 Series’ optional panoramic roof (part of the Premium Package mentioned earlier) limits head room. 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 is the case with our test car).

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. The V60 also has the most comfortable centre rear seat, thanks to having the least intrusive central hump in the floor.

This all said, none of these cars is particularly accommodating if you try to squeeze three adults into the back. Once again, the Superb Estate offers far more space overall for less cash.