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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 £27,277*
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 £22,178*
Available from 2015-present
Unbeatable if you just want as much space as possible.
Volvo V60 D4 Inscription
List price when new £37,860
Price today £23,963*
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 according to the What Car? Valuation service, correct at time of writing
Logic would dictate that the best used estate car choice has to be the one with the largest boot for the least amount of money, ergo, this week's winner is the Skoda Superb Estate. That's that sorted, and now you may go back to relaxing on your sofa.
Trouble is, not everyone needs all that space all of the time, and a few would rather have an estate that's a little bit posher - something a bit like the Audi A4 Avant. True, it's not as well equipped as the Superb, but the Audi promises greater refinement and an interior finished in finer materials.
Splitting the difference between these two is the Volvo V60, tested here in near enough top-tier Inscription form. It comes with a diesel engine that has an identical power output to the rest, but it has a greater level of complimentary safety equipment than the A4 and a specification list that's not far shy of the Superb's. Plus, greater depreciation when compared with the Audi means this two-year old Volvo's value isn't far off what you'd pay for our lavishly equipped Laurin & Klemet Skoda, either. This should be quite a closely fought contest.
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
V60 runs the A4 close for handling, but its ride, on adaptive dampers, can be fidgety when joining a motorway or overtaking a caravanner. The V60’s performance is also hindered by a gearbox that tends to hesitate during kickdown, 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 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 roll less and are much keener to tuck their noses into corners. Stick their suspension in 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 its softest Comfort mode. Our wider experience of the V60 suggests that you’re better off avoiding the adaptive dampers. 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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