The 2021 BMW 430i Is A Good Coupe Once You Get Past The Looks.
BMW rolled the dice on its new design, but the rest of the 4 Series is good.
Taking risks in the styling department is not new to BMW. From the then-infamous Bangled models of the 2000s to even more recent offerings, BMW has not shyed away from an opportunity to polarize drivers with its looks. When the Munich-based marque decided to take a stab at redesigning its 3 Series sedans and 4 Series coupes, the results were not well-received.
Despite the initial shock of glancing at its face, BMW still provides a well-equipped and sporty luxury coupe in the 4 Series. While plenty of reviewers have had a go in the M variants recently, I took a week to check out a more entry level setup that you'll see more of on the road, in the form of the 430i.
The Useful Figures
Naming conventions are confusing, as the "30" part of the 430i no longer has anything to do with the engine's displacement. Under the 430i's hood is BMW's Twin-Power turbocharged inline four that pumps out 255 horsepower from 5,000 - 6,500 RPMs and 295 lb-ft (400Nm) of torque across a smooth range from 1,550 - 4,400 RPMs. Through an eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel-drive, the 430i can shoot from 0-60 MPH in 5.5 seconds and hit a limited top speed 130 MPH. The top speed can be raised to 155 if you opt for performance tires and increased top speed limiter. Not bad for a base engine.
Rear-wheel-drive is standard, but if you need more grip in wintery regions, BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive is also available. Dimensions for the BMW 430i are 188 inches long, 73 wide, and 55 tall, with a 62-inch track and 112-inch wheelbase. Weight distribution is a nice 51.7 front / 48.3 rear, and this 4 Series tips the scales at 3,578 pounds (1,623 kg).
Base price for the 2021 BMW 430i is $45,600, but my tester was loaded. After ticking several option boxes including the $2,450 dynamic handling package (M Sport brakes and M Sport differential), $3,800 M Sport package (variable sport steering and SensaTec dashboard), premium package (heated steering wheel, comfort access keyless entry, lumbar support, heated front seats, ambient lighting, head-up display, and live cockpit pro), and $700 adaptive M suspension, the total MSRP for this "base" model 430i was $59,220.
Blue calipers are cool.
Practical Where It Counts
BMW isn't cutting corners when it comes to a usable yet fun coupe, in the form of the 430i. The G22 chassis is calibrated to be a driver's car, but is still quite refined. Thanks to the adaptive suspension and customizable drive modes, the 4 Series can be as sharp or soft as you want, even by setting up each of the comfort, sport, and eco pro modes to your liking. I like that BMW allows tweaking within each mode.
Ride quality is smooth with just enough feedback on city roads, thanks to the long wheelbase and the adaptive suspension option. BMW's variable assisted electric power steering doesn't feel artificial while it makes light of any steering inputs, and can have as much or as little weight as you prefer in the individual modes. While the base engine in the 430i isn't exactly fast, the Twin-Power turbo setup provides sharp throttle response, and provides smooth torque for days. If you employ the eco pro drive mode, you'll definitely notice the go pedal's delayed delivery, but you'll more easily hit the 26/34/29 (city/highway/combined) EPA fuel economy estimates. My somewhat heavier foot still averaged 28 MPGs during my test week.
Inside, BMW gives the 430i a nicely appointed cabin, with all the tech it spreads throughout the lineup. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are installed to supplement iDrive, should you want to use your phone's apps for music and navigation, and for an additional $500 you can have a wireless mobile charging spot neatly installed in the storage area in front of the cupholders. As part of BMW's premium package, the Live Cockpit Pro feature makes the instrument cluster much more engaging, and adds in color themes based on the drive mode you've chosen.
As a two-door variant of the BMW 3 Series, the 430i is has sharp exterior packaging. The new headlights and taillights are much shallower and swept around the belt line, and overall the 4 Series poses with more attitude. From the side or rear 3/4 perspective, the 4 Series looks great, and the proportions are spot-on. Because of a wheelbase and track that are as long and wide as the BMW 6 Series, cabin volume is downright huge, and your friends will be happy to have 34 inches of rear legroom. If you're loading up a long trip's luggage or tons of shopping bags, the 430i boasts a healthy 12 cubic feet of cargo space in its spacious trunk.
Sporty Enough To Uphold The BMW Image?
Thanks to several options boxes being ticked, the 430i I tested was given lots of performance upgrades after raiding the M division's parts department. With a sportier differential, beefier brakes with stunning blue calipers, 19-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber, and variable sport steering, the 430i gets proper sports car handling.
Engage the 430i's sport mode, and you're delighted with noticeably heavier steering feel through an almost too thick leather-trimmed wheel, punchier throttle response, and an overall behavior of a car that weighs much less than 3,500 pounds. The chassis feedback isn't overly stiff, like you get in the true M models. Instead, the 430i is smooth and composed. The eight-speed automatic transmission is lightning fast, and never feels disturbed or jittery whether you're taking it easy on the 4 Series or trying to thrash it about.
Despite having electronic assistance in the 430i's the braking system, the pedal feel is good, and those blue monoblock calipers bite down effectively. Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber is some of the best stuff you can get for any car, and that compound pairs nicely with a sport differential that allows the right amount of slip angle while still getting a clean rotation as you stab the gas out of a corner.
Some Good Points
BMW is nailing the seat game the past few years, and the 430i's buckets are fantastic. They're big and plush in the right way, and still provide exceptional lateral support for flogging the 4 Series. The Mocha Vernasca leather is supple, and my tester was treated with a damn cool shade of brown. The driving position and touch points in the BMW 430i are fantastic too.
The 4 Series has a usable cockpit, full of good places to stick anything you'd typically tote around in your car, and nothing seems like an afterthought. Cupholders are functional for Texas-sized beverages, without getting in the way of anything else you have tucked away. Storage in the armrest is big, and the door pockets can hold reusable water bottles in addition to snacks.
What I definitely appreciate in the 430i is how connected the car feels with the road at any time. You won't forget that there's a ton of software and electric assistance underneath, but any driver will enjoy the sensations in the new 4 Series. Unlike the M235i Gran Coupe I reviewed last summer, the old "Ultimate Driving Machine" tagline is maintained in the 430i.
Less Than Great Things
Let's get to the elephant in the room. BMW's new design language has gone wild in the grille department, and it is impossible to overlook the buck-toothed look of the new 4 Series. I have no idea how so many responsible parties signed off on this front end, but they all need to be fired. The rest of the car looks great, so it pains me to say that the front blows it all.
While it's a cool idea, I don't love the digital instrument cluster in new BMWs. It tries too hard to be multifunctional, but really it's not great to look at, and the important numbers--like speed and revs--are dwarfed by so many other data points and design features. Get a lightly-equipped 4 Series, and you can avoid that upgrade with more conventional gauges.
Momentum is the key to having fun in the 430i, as the 2.0-liter turbo four just doesn't provide enough oomph to really make it fast. It's by no means slow, but the 430i is no M4. If you care about having a sufficient amount of power in your 4 Series, but don't want to drop proper M money, spend a little more to get the M440i.
A Good Overall Package Can't Conceal That Face
BMW still provides a good car in the 430i. It's pretty quick, nicely appointed, has some great build quality inside and out, and handles like a BMW should. The trouble is that the front end will always stare you down and remind you that people are giving you second looks in a less than favorable way as you drive past.
At nearly $60,000 as tested, this 430i is not much less expensive than a reasonably equipped M440i coupe or M340i sedan, which have loads more horsepower. In the M340i you, get four doors, and it keeps the old kidney grille styling up front. If I'm dropping this sort of cash, I'm taking the M340i instead. Now I just have to wait to get my hands on the badass--and way more pricey--M3 or M4, to give those a real test.