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 this 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

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Audi range

Driven this week

  • Honda Civic
    Car review
    21 April 2017
    Honda’s 10th-generation Civic hatchback goes global — but is that good news?
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in
    First Drive
    21 April 2017
    Second-generation Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid gets a bigger battery with new 39-mile electric range, more tech and styling updates, but it's expensive
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 EcoTSI 150 DSG
    First Drive
    20 April 2017
    Addition of DSG automatic gearbox in this top-spec model doesn't show the Ateca small SUV in its best light
  • Isuzu D-Max Blade
    First Drive
    20 April 2017
    Isuzu treats its rough-and-ready D-Max pick-up truck to a new engine, revised looks, better hauling ability and more equipment
  • MG ZS
    First Drive
    19 April 2017
    We drive MG’s upcoming Ford Ecosport rival in China-spec; good looks and a smart interior bode well for the UK version