There is still only one winner in the battle for supremacy in the compact premium saloon class and that’s BMW, whose 3-series outsells Audi’s A4 and the Mercedes-Benz’s C-class. But the A4 has gradually made up ground on the 3-series, and Audi believes the current version, codenamed B8, is good enough to take another bite out of BMW’s lead.

This time Audi has the increased firepower with a platform shared the A5 coupé, and whose running gear has been revised to improve the car’s dynamic performance – and there’s now an arsenal of optional features not previously seen on the A4.

These include adjustable settings for steering, throttle and suspension, lane assistance, a blind spot monitor, comfort-cooled front seats, active steering, Bang and Olufsen sound systems and three-zone climate control, as well as other Audi perennials such as quattro all-wheel drive.

This A4 saloon and estate models are also bigger, roomier, more aerodynamic and cleaner.

The engine range's centre of gravity is the 2.0-litre TDI, nowadays with common-rail injection instead of the VW Group's old pumpe düse system, plus balancer shafts. It comes in several guises ranging from 134bhp up to 175. There are 1.8 and 2.0-litre TFSI petrol units, with 168 or 208bhp or, shorn of a turbo (but not the 'T'), 118bhp for the entry 1.8.The feisty 3.0-litre V6 for the S4 makes 328bhp, while 3.0-litre diesel V6s produce either 201 or 237bhp.

Higher-spec engines either can or must be had with quattro four-wheel drive, while Multitronic CVT/eight-speed autos go with lower-power diesels of either capacity. Otherwise it's dual-clutchers or six-speed manuals.

Top 5 Compact saloons

  • The Jaguar XE - the big cat's new compact exec
    Jaguar's new four cylinder 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine comes with either 161bhp or 178bhp outputs

    Jaguar XE

    1
  • BMW 3 Series saloon
    BMW 3 Series is priced from £24,975

    BMW 3 Series

    2
  • Ford Mondeo Titanium 180PS

    Ford Mondeo

    3
  • The 2015 Audi A4

    Audi A4

    4
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class
    The C-Class shares a lot of its looks with the new S-Class, furthering its desirability

    Mercedes-Benz C-Class

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Seat Leon 1.4 EcoTSI FR Titanium
    First Drive
    27 May 2016
    High-spec new Titanium FR trim is temptingly good value, particularly on the semi-enthusiastic 1.4 EcoTSI petrol
  • Kia Niro
    First Drive
    27 May 2016
    The Kia Niro will be one of the greenest cars in the compact crossover class when it goes on sale later this year. We drive it to see what else it has to offer
  • Car review
    27 May 2016
    Can the turbocharged successor to the 458 raise the bar again?
  • Car review
    27 May 2016
    The big-in-every-way Bentley SUV lands. We assess the impact
  • Volkswagen Touran 2.0 TDI R-Line
    First Drive
    27 May 2016
    The Volkswagen Touran R-Line offers a sporty twist on the ever-sensible MPV formula. We’ve sampled the punchy 2.0-litre diesel