Ask the Expert: Which car will provide a hushed environment to help with my hearing difficulties?

The BMW 5-Series Touring is the best quiet petrol model
The BMW 5-Series Touring is the best quiet petrol model

Dear Alex,

I’m 69 and one of the growing number of people with hearing problems. I drive a 2005 petrol Audi A4 estate, which is my workhorse for carrying tools. As I will be retiring soon I wondered which estate cars are best for sound insulation. I prefer estates to SUVs but may consider a change. What do you suggest for up to £15,000?


Dear CB,

The Audi A4 in petrol form is pretty quiet, so you won’t achieve a significant reduction in noise levels. Having said that, of course, the extra budget will allow you to upgrade to a newer version.

For £15,000, you can get one of the earliest examples of the current, outgoing generation. Aim for Sport or Technik models to get smaller wheels, which will reduce the size of the tyre contact patch and therefore road noise at higher speeds; a petrol model will be quieter than a diesel, while the 2.0-litre will sound less strained than a 1.4 engine. I found a 2.0 TFSI Sport S Tronic from 2016, with 37,000 miles, for £14,995.

Bigger is often better when it comes to peace and quiet. I’m sticking with petrol for my next choice, which rather rules out the larger Audi A6 for your budget – while petrol examples do exist, they’re vanishingly rare. Instead try a BMW 5-Series Touring, which should be similarly isolating and much easier to find in petrol form.

Again, though, be careful to choose the model with the smallest wheels and the softest suspension – an SE should do it. The 2013 520i I found with 53,000 miles is three years older than the A4 above – but, at £11,674, it’s also considerably cheaper. Or if you fancy more power, you’ll get 241bhp in the 2014 528i SE I found with 60,000 miles for £13,990 – a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Generally speaking, an estate will suit you better than an SUV because their lower profile means smoother aerodynamics and therefore less wind noise at speed, while they generally have smaller wheels, which keeps that tyre size down.

The one exception to the rule is the Lexus RX, which is renowned as one of the quietest and smoothest SUVs.

Your budget buys you a 2015 RX 450h Advance with 65,000 miles. Because it’s a hybrid, fuel economy shouldn’t be heinous; around town, in fact, the RX might be more efficient than a purely petrol-powered estate. And, of course, given Lexus’s impeccable reliability record, it should continue much longer than any of the other cars here without requiring repairs.

Finally, a left-field choice: it doesn’t get quieter than an electric car. For your budget, you can easily buy a tidy Kia e-Niro. This isn’t as compromised a choice as many other EVs at this price, because it provides a solid 250-odd miles of real-world range. A 2019 First Edition with 45,000 miles and a full history is yours for £15,000.

Naturally, an EV might not be suitable if you can’t charge it at home. Which is why I’d choose one of the BMWs instead and enjoy my retirement in a bit of style.

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