It's easy to see the new A4 in the Car of the Year top 10.

When the honour roll is called for our Car of the Year judging in December, I will be very surprised if the Audi A4 is not among the 10 contenders for 2016. It's that sort of car.

The new A4 is refined and classy. It's not as sporty as the latest BMW 3 Series, or as rock-solid on the road as the latest C-Class from Mercedes-Benz, but it does everything very well.

It could be a bit cheaper, since the petrol turbo quattro lined up for The Tick is just on $70,000 before options and on-roads, but it's not as costly as many and gives a lot of enjoyment for the money.

Pleasant is a word that can be taken two ways but the A4 is a pleasant place to be and a very pleasant way to cover kilometres. There is little to fault and much to like.

For me, the A4 makes choosing a car at the bottom of the luxury sector even harder. This is where the German brands get earnest about their cars and where the serious shopper is spoiled for choice in Australia.

For as far back as I can remember it was the 3 Series that ruled, then the C-Class spoiled the show for BMW. Now Audi's making the big move with the A4.

When I get to the car I reckon I know what to expect. It's like a Volkswagen Passat, with bling, right?

But that's way wrong because the two cars, although coming from the same extended German family and with similar dimensions, could not be more different. Even their mechanical platforms are different.

There is a lot of hidden gear that makes the car better than I expect.

From the initial settling into the driver's seat, I can see and feel the difference. The top of the dashboard is lower than in the Passat, the shape and finishing of the dash itself is different, even the shape, support and covering of the seats is a big step up.

The reason is that the A4 is built from (pardon the tech-speak) VW's MLB platform. In contrast, the Golf, Passat and nearly two dozen others use the MQB underpinnings.

The obvious difference is that the former is for north-south engine installations but there is much more.

The MLB package is used all the way up to the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne and a bunch of heavyweight luxury cars. That means the basics are over-engineered for the A4, which is the starter car in the MLB range.

So there is a lot of hidden gear that makes the car better than I expect, and better than a Passat, from the sound insulation to the workings of the suspension.

The shape is not hugely different unless you're an A4 follower but the body has been modernised and there is a little more usable space inside.

The boot is big and outward vision, at a time when so many cars are pinched at the back, is good and helpful for easy parking.

The punchier of two petrol turbo engines available for the car is both strong and efficient, which means solid performance and impressive economy.

Audi extracts 185kW with a combination of direct fuel injection and the turbocharger and claims 6.3L/100km. In country touring I got an even better fuel return, still with the excellent overtaking shove that comes with 370Nm.

The real job is done in the cabin, which is a great place to travel.

I'm not a huge believer in quattro drive unless you have big power or very greasy roads. However, the new A4 is well balanced and the suspension package — with 19-inch alloys and sports tuning in this car — combines good grip with solid feel through the steering.

It's not a hot rod in corners but good enough for the job. It will crank up to 100km/h in only 5.8 seconds, which is good for the class.

There is not much to like on the towing front and the spare is only a space-saver.

The real job is done in the cabin, which is a great place to travel. The finishing is first-class, the audio is good and the multimedia package and screen work well.

I love the virtual dashboard, which puts all the information — up to a full-width satnav image — directly ahead of the driver.

Thanks to a big suite of passive safety gear, the new A4 is an easy five-star winner in ANCAP testing. There are active cruise control, blind-spot warning and such breakthroughs as three types of auto safety braking and an "exit warning" to prevent opening a door into the path of a vehicle — or cyclist.