Used test: Audi A4 vs BMW 3 Series

A used executive saloon brings a sharp suit and superb quality at a sensible price. But which of these two old rivals should you choose?

Words By Alex Robbins

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What are they like inside?

Historically, Audi is the master of the well-appointed interior, but rather than rest on its laurels, it really pushed the boat out with the A4. The finish is exquisite and the switches feel almost aviation-grade in quality; the rotary heater controls, for example, have a particularly satisfying precision. Mind you, after BMW’s 2015 upgrades, there’s little wrong with the 3 Series’ interior, beyond Audi setting the bar higher.

Both cars have decent driving positions, although the pedals are offset slightly to the right. Otherwise, the ergonomics are sound and forward visibility is good. The view behind in both cars is more limited because of thick rear pillars, but they both come with rear parking sensors.

The 3 Series’ front seats have larger side bolsters that grip you tighter in corners, while the A4’s standard lumbar adjustment offers better lower back support. There’s plenty of head and leg room in both, but the A4’s cabin is slightly wider and feels more airy.

Audi and BMW make the best infotainment systems on the market today. Both have crystal-clear screens with excellent graphics, navigated via a simple rotary controller by the gear selectors. However, the BMW’s system just edges it thanks to snappier responses and slightly more intuitive menus.

Despite Audi emphasising the extra space on offer in the latest A4, the saloon still can’t quite match the rear leg room in the 3 Series – although it’s still fine by class standards. Both have adequate rear head room, but if you’re much more than six feet tall, you’ll find your head brushing the ceiling. You wouldn’t want to be three abreast for long in the back of either, though; there’s a distinct dearth of shoulder room, and the middle passenger has to straddle a high central tunnel and sit on a firmer raised seat.

Both boots have a 480-litre capacity; that’s good enough to fit a large suitcase with room to spare. However, the A4’s boot is squarer, with a very usable one-metre width throughout, while the 3 Series’ boot narrows towards the rear seats. You also have to pay extra for split-folding rear seats in the 3 Series; Audi gives you these as standard.

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