It’s a car that has a few shortcomings that I’ll look at later, but its positives far, far outweigh them and everybody that ran the car during the year came away impressed. We’re not a shallow bunch here when it comes to appraising cars and are monastic in our pious following of the teaching of wholelife costs, tax costs and reliability. But with the A4, our objectivity was cast aside. It’s so pretty!
There was an early problem when a split coolant hose caused it to run dry on two occasions in two days. The local Audi dealer didn’t manage to fix the problem the first time, but on its first visit the car got a full valet, we were offered a courtesy car (which we didn’t need), and the chap dealing with the problem was profusely apologetic. Good dealer service softened the blow. It’s a fact of life that cars do go wrong, but it’s often what happens once you’ve switched the hazard lights on that forms your opinion of a brand – and in this case, this blip was soon forgotten.
The A4 never put a foot wrong after that. True, the bootspace isn’t great but that’s plain to see from the outset. If drivers really need more volume, they will probably look elsewhere.
The Avant did the hard yards while here, with editor John Maslen and news editor Mike Roberts, both family men, using the car as regular transport for young children (with all the perils this entails).
Then production editor Trevor Gelken seemingly visited every boggy part of Ireland while on a driving holiday, giving the car a week-long mudbath, inside and out. By this point the Avant was looking pretty tired, but a thorough clean-up inside and out before it returned to Audi revealed a 15,000-mile car that, thanks to its top quality materials and superb build, was in near-pristine condition.
If your drivers are handing A4s back in less than CAP Clean condition, their treatment of company cars should seriously be looked at.
The one area we are still unconvinced about is the 2.0-litre FSI engine.
It seems a bit moody, running beautifully some days and then awfully on others. This was more pronounced if you put cheaper fuel in. The expensive 90p per litre-plus low-sulphur stuff really improved the way it ran.
As for fuel consumption, the editor claimed he was getting a remarkable 40mpg out of it, although most others settled around the 35mpg mark, which is a decent return.
However, many of our drivers, who are used to the beefy low-down grunt of diesels, found the 2.0-litre engine a touch underpowered at times. Drivers would have to try the 1.9-litre TDI to be assured they had made the right choice.
But whatever the engine, the A4 Avant is an excellent corporate weapon – especially with the upcoming meaner facelift. It has bags of style, is comfortable on long distance journeys and has dependable, consistent running costs. It’ll be sorely missed.
How Fleet News’ staff rated the Audi
UNDERSTATED and stylish, the only area that let this car down for me was the lacklustre performance of its engine. Despite this the A4 was a welcome addition to our long-term fleet that proved a comfortable and reliable companion on either a long motorway journey or while nipping through town.
IF I was going to choose an A4 as a company car I would go for one of the excellent diesel engines on offer. However, I was impressed with the fuel economy of the FSI on test here. It returned an average of 37mpg during the three months I drove it.
The car was everything you’d expect from an Audi and I would have no trouble in recommending it. The only drawback was that those massive 235 width tyres tended to follow the grooves in the road whether I wanted them to or not.
DESPITE its load-carrying limitations, the Audi estate managed to lug my family and all its luggage on a beach holiday.
You couldn’t squeeze a pencil into the boot space when it was full of the essentials needed, but it drove and handled well and was extremely comfortable, which made up for the lack of space.
Audi A4 Avant 2.0 FSI Sport
Price (OTR): £23,030
Final mileage: 15,112
CO2 emissions (g/km): 170
Company car tax bill (2004/5) 40% tax-payer: £152 per month
Insurance group: 14
Combined mpg: 37.7
Test mpg: 37.5
CAP Monitor residual value: £8,150/36%
HSBC contract hire rate: £430 per month
Final expenditure: Nil