Audi A4 1.9 Tdi 130 long term report*

Worthy but dull, that's the Audi A4 1.9Tdi.

By Tim Kendall | 12th November 2011

What? Audi A4 diesel? Why?

What is there to say about my current wheels? Not a great deal to be honest. Audi. Rhymes with dowdy. To be frank, I’d expected better from myself than to buy a diesel A4, but I needed a stop-gap replacement for the sadly departed C43 AMG, and the accident which killed the rumbly Merc may have compromised the part of my brain associated with choosing appropriately petrolhead-ish cars.

Hence there I stood 8 months ago at BCA Blackbushe, casually nodding to the auctioneer with all the enthusiasm of a sulky teenager, whilst WN52UUL rattled past the rostrum and choked fellow punters on its smokey idle. £3k on the nose, and the hammer went down – the frugal beast was mine. And here I am again, some 8 months later, writing my first blog post about it. It’s probably a sound barometer of how attached to the car I am that a) I couldn’t bring myself to put fingers to keyboard until now, and b) I haven’t shown it a sponge in all that time. I’d like to say I’ve deliberately furnished the alloys with a de-rigeur motorsport-look, but it’s more to do with the fact they’re caked in 8 months-worth of accumulated brake dust and road cack.

Unassuming and frugal

So why did I buy it? Well apart from accident-induced insanity, it seemed like a sensible financial move. V8 AMG to VAG diesel is a difficult transition – the contrast between Dee-troit rumble and taxi-rank clatter being particularly marked. However, I briefly owned a similar ’03 plated A4 Tdi about six years back, and found it to be a worthy, if unengaging companion. In fairness, I never really expected fireworks from a car named after a popular paper size. But on the plus side, 55mpg is very welcome in this cash-strapped age of austerity. And yes, the agricultural-sounding 1.9 diesel may pack just 130 noisy ponies, but in the mid-range where it counts, the torquey old knacker responds obediently to a heavy right foot.

So what’s it like this time around? A bit like Ronseal, in that it does what it says on the tin. And what it says to me on it’s four-door saloon-shaped tin is: ‘I’m going to take you from A to B with reasonable levels of practicality, reliability, a soupçon of gently decaying German prestige and a tastefully-appointed interior’. Nothing more, nothing less, it goes about its business comfortably and economically, it just doesn’t put a smile on your face.

The only nod to decadence and joy are the crisp ‘concert’ stereo and a slightly apologetic lip spoiler on the boot. To my knowledge, the SE model never came with such a blatantly sporty and provocative flourish as standard, so one of its two previous custodians must have retrospectively specced it as such. They gave up half way through the job though, because WN52 rolls on standard ’16s, which undermine the spoiler’s sporty pretensions. The overall ensemble is as convincing as a Murdoch testimony at a Commons Select Committee.

Ambassador, with this spoiler you are really….

Costs

Purchase

In sheepskin coat parlance, the car cost me three bags. Add the buyer’s fee and the keys were mine in exchange for a smidgen under £3,200. WN52 had covered around 104k in the hands of two owners at the time of purchase, and for the spicier 130bhp model that seemed like reasonable value to me. Doing my best impression of a seasoned motor trader, I’d fondled the brake discs and fingered the bodywork before the car went through the auction hall, which revealed it to be in reasonable fettle for the age and mileage. And cunningly, I’d noticed the catalogue said this was a lowly 100bhp model, whereas my intimate knowledge of Ingolstadt repmobiles told me it was actually the full-fat 130bhp ‘red eye’ model. As Alan Partridge might have said, had he been party to this small but significant detail: ‘cashback’. The alternative school of thought might say that the professional traders had spotted something off-putting about the car and steered clear – bidding was, like the car, a bit plodding.

Running costs & servicing

Mercifully, not much to report on that front, yet. It drinks parsimoniously from the black pump and is giving an indicated long-term average of 51.3MPG, which is a lot nicer than the 17MPG my C43 averaged.

51.3 MPG average isn’t bad. Volcano eruption warning system also pretty handy.

It’s got a full ‘long-life’ service history, which means it’s seen a spanner roughly half as frequently as cars used to before variable servicing intervals were invented to make running costs appear cheaper to fleet managers. That explains why the dipstick looks as if it’s been marinated in treacle, two years and 22,000 miles having passed since it was last treated to an oil change. Next week sees it go under the spanner for a service and MOT, which might be interesting. There’s a creaking noise from the front suspension on full lock, which leads me to suspect it may be fitted with Audi’s patented bio-degradable front suspension components. All three Audis I’ve owned have had distinctly fragile front suspension arms, so I’ll wager WN52 is thus afflicted.

Overall

Effortless and easy to live with. But then so’s a goldfish.

By Tim Kendall
12th November 2011

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