2021 BMW 430i Review: Looks Aren't Everything

2021 BMW 430i xDrive in Arctic Blue Race Metallic

Price as tested: $66,547

Specs: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder (255hp, 294 lb.-ft. torque),

paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission

0-100kmh as tested: 5.6 seconds

It might not be particularly pleasing to the eyes, but the new BMW 4 Series is one of the most well-rounded luxury sports coupes around, balancing playful handling and performance with impressive comfort and modern amenities. North American buyers get to choose between two different flavours; the 430i we'll be looking at here, and the higher performance-oriented M440i (reviewed separately).

Driving Impressions:

As with most BMWs, handling and performance are excellent. 4 Series definitely leans more toward luxury grand tourer than lightweight sports car, but the taut steering and well-sorted chassis does make this my personal favourite to drive among the German trio (the Audi A5’s steering is too light for my taste, and the Mercedes C300 just isn’t quite as responsive on the throttle or in corners). 430i can definitely handle itself well around bends as any sporty coupe should, but like many GT cars the steering may feel a little numb, though that's a fair trade-off considering the focus on improving on-road refinement this time around. With that said, comfort is pretty much on par with rivals in the 430i, though the sportier M440i's ride quality is noticeably less stiff than its S5 and C43 AMG competitors.

Behind the wheel of the BMW 430i Coupe

Under the hood is the same turbo-4 found in the 330i sedan, packing quite a punch with nearly 300 lb-ft of low end torque. It’s safe to say that BMW’s estimated acceleration figures are on the conservative side, and a quick throttle response with a fairly decent exhaust note should leave most buyers highly satisfied. But at the end of the day, we just couldn’t help but lust for the silky smooth inline-6 in the more expensive M440i, whose power plant remains a shining gem among the world of turbocharged 6 cylinders.

The 255hp turbo-4 managed to hit 100km/h in 5.3 seconds on our best run

Interior Impressions:

4 Series has always felt adequately premium on the inside, but last generation’s cabin never really stood out as anything special, perhaps even feeling a little dated toward the end of its lifecycle. Thankfully this is no longer the case; BMW has taken a massive leap forwards for this generation, giving us the new sleek minimalistic design from the new 3 Series and all the tech goodies that come with it. Build is as solid as ever and the materials are befittingly premium of the class, with most surfaces covered in handsome leather or aluminium trim. I especially enjoy the Aluminium Tetragon trim, which gives the panels a sort of unique 3D metal-weave look, and suits the high-tech cabin far better than piano black or traditional wood options in my opinion.

At night, 4 Series’s customizable cabin lights set the mood with customizable ambient lighting and laser light strips running across the dash and door panels. You’ll also notice a cool puddle light design on the ground when you unlock or approach the car at night.

As you might expect, there isn't much to differentiate this 430i's cabin from the pricier M440i. Unlike Mercedes's approach of including some exclusive AMG styling cues for the C43 AMG, every interior option that's available in the sportier model (not including the upcoming M4) can be specced here too.

Infotainment + Tech:

BMW continues tolead the industry when it comes to intuitive infotainment systems with iDrive 7.0, which now sports a large 10.25 inch touchscreen and a brand new UI. iDrive has always been one of the more easy-to-use infotainment systems in the market, and now it works even better now with the inclusion of a touchscreen, even with its plethora of new features making it a bit more complex and feature-packed than before. All the latest tech is also available provided you're willing to pay for it; highlights include a fully digital 12.3 inch instrument cluster, available wireless Apple CarPlay + wireless charging, a digital keycard, BMW intelligent personal assistant, and an interactive 3D Surround View camera system, and more.

Exterior Impressions:

Unlike past generations, the 2021 4 Series looks properly distinct from the 3 Series sedan

Opt for some of the appearance packages and the 430i and M440i can be specced to look nearly identical, save for some M badging and larger exhaust tips. BMW calls this new design "provocative, independent, edgy", and for once that actually doesn't feel like some marketing hyperbole. The giant "beaver teeth" grille up front seems to be a point of controversy, and while it does look a little ridiculous, it certainly gives it a unique presence. Less talked about however is the side profile; particularly the rear half which has a sloping roof line and body lines that look a too soft for my taste (lending to a rear end that looks a little out of proportion). The 'Hofmeister kink' (a BMW staple) is also much less prominent this time around, only being subtly hinted at with the lower window trim that slopes slightly upward towards the tail.

The 430i (left) and M440i (right) are virtually identical when it comes to styling

Overall I can't say I've warmed up to the radical design yet, but beyond these controversial aspects, 4 Series is quite a sharp looking ride. Chiseled body lines and an aggressively sculpted front bumper give it muscular looks to back up the performance, and the rear angle is undeniably attractive, taking some design cues from the 8 Series flagship coupe. Love it or hate it, at least you can't accuse the new 4 Series of being a 2-door 3 Series anymore.

Final Thoughts:

It's clear that BMW made efforts to further differentiate this new generation 4 Series from the 3 Series sedan, most noticeably in its radical new looks and more refined road manners. Earlier this year we described the M440i as a 'mini 8 Series', and the same thoughts come to mind when describing the 430i. It feels substantially more 'grown up' than its predecessor, offering a kind of heavy solidity to the driving experience that makes it ideal for long distance cruising, while still being relatively engaging in the corners. A great buy, so long as you're not expecting a smaller sportier version of the 3 Series and can get over the new looks.