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Used test: Audi A4 Avant vs Skoda Superb Estate vs Volvo V60
If you're in the market for a used estate, are you better off with the gargantuan Superb, or one of the smaller but more upmarket options available for similar money?...
Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI 190 S line S tronic
List price when new £38,135
Price today £17,000*
Available from 2015-present
The A4 saloon is a previous Car of the Year, and the estate is a chip off the old block
Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TDI 190 4x4 Laurin & Klement DSG
List price when new £37,625
Price today £20,000*
Available from 2015-present
Hard to beat if your priority is having as much space as possible
Volvo V60 D4 Inscription
List price when new £37,860
Price today £21,000*
Available from 2018-present
A smaller version of the excellent V90 that promises almost as much practicality and comfort
*Price today is based on a 2018 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
Big boots are an estate car forte, and they don't come much more capacious than the Skoda Superb Estate's. Its caboose is sizeable (to say the least), making it extremely practical. It can handle it all, from the family holiday to moving house.
However, if you're prepared to sacrifice some boot space for more luxury, the Audi A4 Avant is worth considering. It's still spacious, yet promises greater refinement and an interior finished in finer materials.
Splitting the difference between these two is the Volvo V60, which is more upmarket than the Superb Estate and roomier than the A4 Avant. In other words, it looks to have the best of both worlds.
So, should you immediately go out and buy a V60? Well, hold fire for a second. If all three cars are four-year-old used buys (with savings of more than £16,000), the V60 is more expensive than its pair of rivals. Perhaps it's not a shoe-in, but we shall find out.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Each of our combatants comes with a 2.0-litre diesel engine that produces around 190bhp and drives through an automatic gearbox. But while the A4 and V60 are front-wheel drive, you get four-wheel drive in a Superb of this price.
There are drawbacks to this that we’ll explain in the buying and owning section, but the added traction of four-wheel drive certainly helps the Superb get away from the mark without fuss or drama – especially in slippery conditions. Even so, its more substantial size and hefty weight means it starts to lose ground to the A4 above 30mph.
Bringing up the rear is the V60, although it still feels pleasingly brisk. That running order is maintained when it comes to rolling acceleration – the sort of burst of speed you might need when joining a motorway or overtaking a slower car on a country road. The V60’s performance is also hindered by a gearbox that tends to hesitate when you ask for a burst of acceleration, whereas the other two are more decisive.
There’s far more to separate these cars when it comes to cornering. All of our test cars were fitted with adaptive dampers (optional from new on the A4 and V60 and standard on the Superb) that allow you to soften or stiffen the suspension. Whichever mode you choose, the Superb always feels like a bit of a barge. It grips keenly enough and actually has the most natural-feeling steering, but body lean is pronounced in corners and it wallows heavily during sudden changes of direction.
The A4 and V60 feel like hot hatches in comparison. Even in their Comfort settings, they lean less and are much keener to tuck their noses into corners. Switch to Dynamic mode and you’ll find they scythe along twisty roads accurately and without leaning too much. While they both impress, it’s the A4 that comes out on top, because it has the most outright grip and feels the most balanced.
But unless you want to turn your nice new chest of drawers into a flatpack or make your family carsick, you’re probably more interested in how these estates ride. The V60 takes last place here, dealing with humps and dips in the most abrupt manner and proving the most fidgety over imperfect road surfaces.
Despite its handling prowess, the A4 is far more comfortable, dealing with urban ruts and bumps more adroitly and feeling far more settled at motorway speeds. Indeed, even if you put the suspension in Dynamic, the A4 still has a more composed ride than the V60 does in Comfort mode. Our wider experience of the V60 suggests that you’re better off avoiding the adaptive suspension. You’ll enjoy a cushier ride – especially if you stick with standard 18in wheels.
Meanwhile, the squishy Superb delivers the most pillowy ride, both around town and at motorway speeds. Our only complaint is that it tends to bob up and down a couple of times after dealing with bigger bumps, and this can leave you feeling a bit queasy along undulating B-roads.
It may be comfortable, but the Superb is the noisiest car here, regardless of speed. Its diesel engine is the only one that’s audible at a 70mph cruise, and it generates the most wind and suspension noise. Although the V60 is technically the quietest (according to our decibel meter), its higher-pitched tyre slap at motorway speeds is more annoying than the A4’s lower-frequency road roar.
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