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?...

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Alex Robbins
05 August 2017

Our verdict

This is one of the closest used car group tests we’ve ever produced here at What Car?. Frankly, whichever of these two you choose, you’ll end up with a fine executive saloon that’ll be a pleasure to own.

The Audi A4 is a bastion of class and discretion – a car that swaddles you in its magnificent interior and isolates you from the world outside. It’s also a delight to drive – precise and controlled in every way, and powered by a smooth, punchy engine. And there’s as much space inside as any saloon car of this type can offer.

The only area in which it really loses out, in fact, is its cost. But even then, it isn’t an awful lot more to buy than the BMW 3 Series, in the grand scheme of things. And while the A4 is more expensive to run, we’re again dealing in small differences.

But given how hard these two cars are to split, small differences are all it takes. True, the 3 Series’ interior lacks the final layer of polish that the A4’s offers. And yes, if you floor the throttle, its engine doesn’t respond quite as swiftly. But the 3 Series is easier to drive at manoeuvring speeds, thanks to a smoother automatic gearbox, and its rear-wheel drive chassis is more entertaining than the A4’s. Throw in its ubiquity – which makes it easier to find than the A4 – plus the cost advantages we’ve detailed above and the 3 Series takes the narrowest of victories.

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Also consider:

1st – BMW 3 Series

Used test: Audi A4 vs BMW 3 Series

For Fun handling; excellent infotainment; slick gearbox; great value

Against Road noise; poor brake feel

Verdict Great to drive, efficient, and feels extremely high-quality for the price

Rated 5 out of 5

Read the full used BMW 3 Series review

Find a used BMW 3 Series in the What Car? Classifieds

2nd – Audi A4

Used test: Audi A4 vs BMW 3 Series

For Exceptionally refined; high-quality interior; strong performance

Against Inferior real-world economy; less rear leg room; fewer available

Verdict Still a terrific used executive car, but shaded here by the BMW’s value

Rated 4 out of 5

Read the full used Audi A4 review

Find a used Audi A4 in the What Car? Classifieds

Specifications: BMW 320d M Sport sport auto

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

List price when new £33,775

Price today £18,500

Power 188bhp

Torque 295lb ft

0-60mph 8.0sec

Top speed 143mph

Fuel economy 64.2mpg (official average)

CO2 emissions 116g/km

Specifications: Audi A4 2.0 TDI S Line auto

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

List price when new £34,030

Price today £19,500

Power 188bhp

Torque 295lb ft

0-60mph 7.9sec

Top speed 147mph

Fuel economy 67.3mpg (official average)

CO2 emissions 110g/km

Price today is based on a 2016 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing