The current Audi A4 is the eighth-generation model, introduced to the UK in March, and Audi's best-selling model range. The giant share of A4 sales go to company car users in the UK and well over a third of users will choose the 2.0-litre, 134bhp, 112g/km variant.
From the exterior the new A4 Saloon is not drastically different to the previous generation, a tweaked styling for the front and rear and some tactile changes to the cabins. The test car with the SE specification is the most sensible and cost effective model.
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The 2.0 TDIe with its 134bhp, four cylinder turbodiesel engine emits only 112g/km of CO2 emissions, meaning road tax currently costing £0 under the First Year rate and then only £30 per annum for the second year onwards of ownership.
Company car drivers choosing this model with the SE specification are charged 16 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax the lowest level of company car tax of any A4 model. For the record the lower CO2 A4 Saloon officially returns 65.7mpg and the Avant estate 64.2mpg.
The equipment level is not over the top with expensive gadgets, it has all that is required for those business drivers who spend long hours in a car. The only item missing as standard fit that could reasonably be argued for would be a sat/nav system. Worth taking though, and fitted to my test car, was the Drive Select £220 option which allows the driver to select the settings for the suspension and so on.
Driving the Audi A4
Ride quality for many Audi models, other than SE versions usually fitted with 16-inch wheels, is a common complaint from us motoring writers and increasingly I hear from customers that for their second period of ownership are now opting for a softer ride version.
The SE with its 16-inch wheels generally gives a compliant ride and the Drive Select option just fine-tunes that performance if it's put in its Auto setting. It stiffens the suspension control during fast cornering, softens it again for the straight ahead and relaxes still further whilst cruising at higher speeds.
The A4 Saloon felt more agile due to its lighter weight and the steering is less lifeless with regards to feedback than before. The front wheel drive A4 still cannot match the sharpness in handling of the new BMW 3-Series with its rear wheel drive, but for most users it will be very acceptable.
Apart from the extra interior space it is under the bonnets and platform that the real changes have been introduced for this eighth generation line up of Saloon, Avant and Allroad versions.
Audi A4 engines
The models are lighter and engines and transmission gear ratios are now optimised to be less polluting and more fuel efficient throughout with start/ stop as standard.
There is an average 11 per cent economy improvement across the range but it can rise to 21 per cent. The extended options list now includes Google Earth mapping and in-car internet access.
The remapped engine, longer fifth and sixth gear ratios and low rolling resistance tyres all combine to give the 134bhp TDI 112g/km variant its excellent fuel economy potential. True of course is the fact that the car in real-life use will not get near the official 65.7mpg but my test drive period returned an overall 49.5mpg.
This included long motorway journeys and the usual stop and start urban driving. Fortunately for our pockets currently the tax ratings are taken from official laboratory rolling-road figures rather than realistic driving conditions.
The new A4 Saloon, especially the low CO2 version as tested, has lots of appeal and it has to be the best all-round choice from the new range.
It is smart to look at with badge and kerb appeal, it is roomy, the interior is beautifully executed as ever, the controls are well placed and easy to use once you are familiar with them, its fuel efficient, low in taxes and this SE version provides for a comfortable ride.
Audi A4 TDIe SE Saloon
£26,555 (best selling model)
2.0-litre, four cylinder, turbodiesel, with stop/start, 134bhp, 236 lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual
134mph, 0-62mph 9.3 seconds, 65.7mpg (49.5mpg actual), CO2 112g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £30 per annum, BIK company car tax 16%
480 - 962 litres
Revitalised classy exterior styling, lightweight construction, excellent interior for fit and finish, roomy and comfortable, low on taxes and running costs in its class
Real-life fuel economy is good but doesn't get close to the official figure, no spare wheel, functional rather than fun to drive.