Driven: Audi A4 1.8 FSI Avant 2009

Audi's latest (2009) iteration of the A4 is an important model for the company. It is expected to be Audi's biggest selling model, which also means there will be a multitude of versions and spin-offs from it. In Europe, one of the most popular versions will undoubtedly be the Avant - Audi-speak for Wagon. And a fine looking thing it is too - to may eyes, a better resolved design than the more staid looking sedan. It's well balanced and when fitted with the subtle S-Line body kit and large diameter wheels as on the car we tested, looks very sporty indeed.

In addition to the visual items, our car benefited form a few (pricey) options, spanning black leather upholstery to a power operated tailgate. The model supplied by Audi for review had the 1.8-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged motor. While it's a relatively small motor with low power output for its weight, the performance is quite adequate. We took the car on a country run where it proved excellent on highways, with decent reserves for overtaking well beyond the speed limit. Around town the power-to-weight ratio and multitronic CVT automatic transmission don't make the best companions, leaving times when you'd wish for more immediacy in response. I imagine that the extra torque of the diesel version would counter this criticism. Economy leaves little to be desired for a car of its type though.

Inside the car is a model of efficiency - beautifully assembled to an appreciably higher quality than most upmarket brands. The fit and finish are exemplary and it exudes a feeling that the quality will ensure it lasts many years. The controls are sensible, easy to use and operate nicely. Seating is excellent, even for hours on end, with a commendable range of adjustability. Rear seats provide less comfort, but no more so than any of the car's opposition.

The boot space (seats up) is not vast, which may put some people off who need a lot of room, but as an alternative to a hatch, it's spacious. Overall this medium sized Audi shapes up extremely well as a relatively small, luxurious family car that you could confidently buy and know it would be easy to live with day to day and last forever.

Engine type: 1.8-litre 4-cylinder, turbocharged
Power: 118kW
Torque: 250Nm
Transmission: CVT automatic
Performance: 0-100km/h 8.9 seconds
Price: $56,400 at time of review
Photo & text - Paul Blank (copyright)