The Driving team is testing the three key types of family car over the coming months: a people carrier (Renault Grand Scénic), an SUV (Honda CR-V) and an estate (Audi A4 Avant, below). Which will prove the most useful for parents?
- Model 2017 Audi A4 Avant 3.0 V6 TDI quattro tiptronic S line
- Price (with options) £41,550 (£50,245)
- Delivery date April 5, 2017
- Starting mileage 101
- Options fitted Daytona grey paint (£645); 19in 10-V-spoke alloy wheels (£900); matrix LED front and rear lights with dynamic indicators (£650); extended LED interior lights pack (£100); S line seats with leather/Alcantara (£450); heated front seats (£300); electrically adjustable front seats with memory function for driver (£800); Technology Pack (£1,450); Parking Assistance Pack Advanced (£1350); folding door mirrors with memory function (£225); Audi Virtual Cockpit (£450); advanced key with hands-free boot opening (£525); folding tow bar (£850). Total cost of options: £8,695
May 4, 2017: All about first impressions
The Audi is easily the priciest of the three family cars we are testing at the moment. The A4 Avant (estate) with a large V6 diesel under the bonnet and the top-spec S line trim starts at over £41,000, and Audi has sent us a car with nearly £9,000-worth of options. So, what do you get for the money?
Lots of tech, for a start. Such as: keyless entry and start, parking sensors and reversing camera, automatic parking, heated electric seats with memory function, three-zone climate control, hands-free boot opening and the very cool Virtual Cockpit (or fully digital instrument panel). But which gadgets do you need, and which are a little frivolous?
We’d assumed one immediate drawback would be poor fuel economy: that the 3-litre V6 diesel engine would drink a lot more juice than the four-cylinder motors of the Honda and Renault. It is said to return 52.3mpg on the combined cycle, which is promising, but we’ve had the car for a month and so far have been averaging less than 40mpg. A proper fuel efficiency report will follow. It appears to be a peach of an engine, though: so smooth and refined, it could be mistaken for a punchy petrol.
The look of the car is conservative but classy. With its V6 motor underneath the everyday load-lugging estate body shape, it could be a stealth sprinter: we’ll check out its performance over the coming months, too.
The ride is superb. We recently tested the new A4 saloon on hilly German terrain and found it to be the first Audi in living memory that was a match for the BMW 3-series in ride and handling. First impressions suggest the estate is no different.
We’ll find out more about that, and how well the estate handles the demands of a young family, in our next report.
Got a question about the Audi A4 Avant? Keep an eye on this page and contact me via my Twitter feed, @wdron.
May 19, 2017: Space, the final frontier
Let’s be honest for a moment: although car buyers have numerous individual requirements when choosing a model, the badge on the front is one of the most important considerations. An Audi won’t appeal to everyone, but the brand does have cachet among the majority of motorists, so out of the three family cars on test it is undoubtedly the most desirable.
And while many might not be willing or able to stretch to £50,000 for a shiny new model, the entry-level Avant 1.4 TFSI 150PS SE costs £28,700.
For family car buyers, space is hugely important, particularly in the boot. Pushchairs, baby bags, footballs, bicycles, hockey sticks and a host of other paraphernalia will at some point need to be carted around.
It’s often said that although SUVs look big, for interior space you’re better off with an estate car, whereas an MPV has a more versatile load space. Is that true?
Let’s look at boot capacity first. The Audi can take 505 litres of luggage with the rear seats in place, or 1,510 litres with them folded down. It just bests its chief rivals, the BMW 3-series Touring (495 litres and 1,500 litres) and Mercedes C-class estate (490 litres and 1,510 litres).
But how does it fare against the Renault Grand Scénic and Honda CR-V? Not so well. With the third row of seats in the Renault folded down, leaving spaces for five passengers, it can swallow 596 litres; folding the second row as well provides 1,737 litres. The Honda is nearly as roomy, yielding 589 litres and 1,627 litres.
The larger Audi A6 Avant does fare better: 565 litres and 1,680 litres are its vital statistics.
But size isn’t everything. There are other factors to consider, such as the shape of the cargo area, the shape of the boot opening and how high off the ground the boot sill is.
The Audi scores well here: its sill is the lowest of the three (2.4cm lower than the Honda’s and 5cm lower than the Renault’s), so parents won’t have to hoist heavy buggies too far off the ground, and it’s a fairly deep boot, so most buggies slide in easily (the one shown in the picture above is particularly long; a Phil and Ted’s double buggy slots in easily lengthways). With the rear seats up, there’s 1,050mm of load length, which beats the CR-V by 90mm.
The Renault has the deepest boot, with a load length of 1,074mm. It also has the squarest boot aperture, and the roofline doesn’t slope down, as it does in the Audi, cutting vertical space. However, there are aerodynamic and handling gains from not being brick-shaped.
All of this, plus long-distance comfort, will be tested soon on a family holiday in the UK. With my wife and two small children, the boot is sure to be piled high with luggage, so we’ve taken the precaution of ordering a roofbox. We’re also taking a couple of bicycles, which will sit on a bike rack mounted to the optional tow bar, which neatly tucks away under the rear bumper when not needed.
May 24, 2017: Ding it
Heathrow’s meet and greet service allows you to drop your car off with a parking company in the short-stay car park, near the terminal, and pick it up there when you get back. While you are away, the car is taken off site. It’s less expensive than the short-stay car park but a bit pricier than using the long-stay and taking the airport bus to Departures.
The risk is that the person to whom you hand over your keys will ding the car, kerb the alloys or worse — there have been horror stories, such as valets borrowing cars for their own use, and this shocking affair at Gatwick. I took a leap of faith with the Avant last week.
Just in case, I filmed a walkaround of the car, paying particular attention to the alloys,and noted the mileage. When I returned, I checked the car again. To my horror, there was a small ding to the driver’s door.
The parking company staff told me the car had not been moved; they suspected a trolley had been pushed into it by another traveller. For this reason I had little hope they’d accept responsibility, so I took photos and informed Audi.
The company accepted full responsibility and offered to repair the damage at its expense. It was a reassuring denouement, but I was left wondering whether it might have turned out differently if I hadn’t documented the condition of the car so thoroughly before I handed it over.
If you’ve had a similar experience but feel you have not been dealt with fairly, here’s some advice from the motoring legal expert Nick Freeman (aka Mr Loophole).