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

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