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Audi A4 TDIe SE

Click to view picture gallery“Audi’s new A4 saloon range
  includes a lower-CO2 version —
  the 134bhp 2.0 TDIe with tax-busting
  emissions of just 112g/km. And it
  good news for drivers keen to
  minimise how much they pay the
  greedy Government

UK MOTORISTS PAY ALMOST 1 BILLION a week in motoring taxes! Not surprisingly, road users remain the Government's cash cow as they struggle to balance their budgets.

And it will soon become even worse for motorists because the Treasury has recently seen a fall in the amount of money it collects due to new cars being cleaner (so road tax and company car taxation is lower), cars doing more miles to the gallon and motorists buying less (only essential) fuel.

Not to be the financial losers, the Government are about to restructure the CO2 band ratings (again!) which you can guarantee will mean increases in road tax and BIK charges.

“The TDIe attracts
the lowest level of
company car tax
of any A4 model.
Adding to the savings,
the four-door saloon
officially returns
So choosing and buying, or leasing, a new car now needs some careful thought about what might happen in the mid-term future. Generally, we keep our new cars for three years. However, while the car we choose today might be low in taxes now, will it still be affordable in two to three years time?

Drive forward the new Audi A4 range (saloon and Avant estate) because within its extensive array of engines is one ideally suited for minimising your tax bills: the 2.0 TDIe with its 134bhp, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine emits just 112g/km of CO2, the basis for road tax and BIK tax calculations.

This 112g/km turbodiesel is currently exempt from road tax in the first year and then only a low 30 per annum for the second year onwards. Company car drivers choosing this model with the SE specification are charged 16% Benefit-in-Kind tax — the lowest level of company car tax of any A4 model. Adding to the savings, the lower-CO2 A4 saloon officially returns 65.7mpg and the Avant estate 64.2mpg.

Of course, there is the small matter of the car's substantial purchase price, which now carries a 20% VAT surcharge: 26,655 for the four-door and 27,755 for the five-door estate version, both in SE specification.

BMW, Audi's premium brand rival, already has a low-CO2 model in their new saloon range in the shape of the 320d Efficient Dynamics model. This 161bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel emits 109g/km of CO2, does an official 68.9mpg, has 0 first year road tax rising to 20 per annum thereafter and BIK company car tax of 15%. It costs 28,080.

Mercedes-Benz also have a similar offering: their C220 CDI BlueEfficiency SE model runs a 168bhp turbodiesel emitting 117g/km (first year road tax of 0 then 30 per year), BIK company car tax of 17% and, officially, 64.2mpg. This costs 28,270. So, clearly the Audi wins on price although the BMW edges it with lower taxes and marginally better fuel economy.

“In SE spec, with 16-inch
wheels, it generally
delivers a compliant ride
and the Drive Select
option, if it’s put in its
Auto setting, fine-tunes
that performance
Back to the eighth generation A4, introduced to the UK earlier this year. It's Audi's best selling model range and well over a third of buyers choose the 134bhp 2.0-litre 112g/km variant. And, as the Government's 'tax bandits' pillage motorists' pockets, this take-up is likely to increase.

From the outside the new A4 saloon is not — apart from tweaked front and rear styling and some tactile changes to the cabin — drastically different to the previous generation.

My SE spec test car is the most sensible and cost-effective model — the equipment level is not over the top with expensive gadgets, but it does have all that's required for those business drivers who spend long hours in a car. And, for the record, the A4's extended options list now includes Google Earth mapping and in-car internet access.

The only item missing as standard-fit would be a SatNav. Worth having, and fitted to my test car, was Audi's Drive Select, a 220 option which allows the driver to select the settings for the suspension and so on.

The ride quality of many Audi models (other than the SE versions which are usually fitted with 16-inch wheels) is a common cause for complaint from us motoring writers and, increasingly, I hear from customers who for their second period of Audi ownership are now opting for a softer ride version.

The SE, with its 16-inch wheels, generally delivers a compliant ride and the Drive Select option, if it's put in its Auto setting, fine-tunes that performance — stiffening the suspension control during fast cornering, softening it again for the straight ahead, and relaxing it still further whilst cruising at higher speeds.

Apart from the extra interior space it's under the bonnet and bodywork that the real changes have been made to this latest generation A4 line-up of saloon, Avant estate and Allroad versions.

“On the road, due to its
lighter weight, the saloon
feels more agile; and the
steering is less lifeless
with regards to feedback
than before
The models are lighter; and engines and transmission gear ratios are now optimised to be less polluting and more fuel-efficient with start/stop as standard (there's an average 11% economy improvement across the range, but it can be a much as 21%).

On the road, due to its lighter weight, the saloon feels more agile; and the steering is less lifeless with regards to feedback than before. The front-wheel drive A4 still cannot match the sharpness in handling of the new rear-wheel drive BMW 3-Series, but for most users it will be very acceptable.

The remapped engine, longer fifth and sixth gear ratios and low rolling resistance tyres all combine to give the 134bhp TDIe excellent fuel economy potential. Of course, in real-life you will not get near the official 65.7mpg; even so, my test drive saw an overall 49.5mpg. This included long motorway journeys and the usual stop-start urban driving.

Apart from real-world fuel economy that doesn't get close to the official figure, no spare wheel, and being functional rather than fun to drive, the new A4 still has a lot to offer.

These new A4 saloons, particularly the low-CO2 TDIe, has lots of appeal and it has to be the best all-round choice from the new range. Smart to look at with badge and kerb appeal, it's roomy (both for people as well as their luggage: 480/962 litres of boot/load space), the interior is beautifully executed and the controls are well placed and easy to use once you're familiar with them. It's also fuel efficient, low in taxes and this SE version serves up a comfortable ride. — David Miles

Audi A4 TDIe SE | 26,555
Maximum speed: 134mph | 0-62mph: 9.3 seconds | Overall test MPG: 49.5mpg
Power: 134bhp | Torque: 236lb ft | CO2 112g/km