You could dismiss the 2016 BMW 430i Gran Coupe as simply being an expensive, if more stylish, hatchback version of the 3 Series.
After all, it has a five-door body – four front doors and a rear liftback lid to access the boot – and it costs a pretty penny more than the equivalent sedan or wagon version of the 3er.
This 430i Gran Coupe, for instance, is listed at $79,855 plus on-road costs – which puts it almost $10,000 above the 330i sedan ($69,900) and more than $ $4000 dearer than the 330i Touring wagon ($75,300). Indeed, the entire 4 Series range comes at a premium over the sedan and wagon 3 Series models. Read the full pricing and specification story here.
So, for argument’s sake, what’s the difference – apart from the body – between this and a 330i sedan, which is the pick of that model range based on testing conducted by our team at CarAdvice? Let’s take a look.
Dimensionally there’s not that much between them. The 430i Gran Coupe is just five millimetres longer than the 330i sedan (at 4638mm), 14mm wider (1824mm) and 40mm shorter (1389mm). It also has a wider track by 14mm at the front (1547mm) and 2mm at the rear (1574mm). Both are on a 2810mm wheelbase.
Both are powered by 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo engines producing 185kW of power and 350Nm of torque, both have the option of a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic with paddleshifters at no extra cost, and both are rear-wheel drive. Both claim fuel use of just 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres, too.
The 430i is about 45 kilograms heavier than the 330i, at 1540kg (kerb mass). That could be why the 430i claims a slightly slower 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.9 seconds (the 330i claims 5.8sec).
For comparative purposes, both – when fitted with the M Sport package, as our 430i vehicle is – have 19-inch wheels with 225/40 tyres up front and 255/35 rubber at the back, but the 430i has wider 9.0-inch rims at the back (the 330i has 8.5-inch rears).
It may also be worth considering that the 3 Series is built in South Africa, where the 4er is a German-made product.
But perhaps the most defining difference between the two is the styling. We don't score cars on their appearance here, but it’s hard to deny that the 4 Series Gran Coupe is a looker. It’s low, it’s sleek, and it’s smart, particularly with the M Sport pack. That pack is a no-cost option, and includes an M body-kit, M chubby leather steering wheel, black head-lining and ambient lighting in the cabin.
Is it worth $10K for the sleek lines of the 4 Series compared with the 3 Series sedan? You’ll have to decide that for yourself, because you aren’t necessarily getting any better equipment for the money.
In fact, the 330i has LED headlights, where the 430i has bi-xenons… But hey, the 430i isn’t scantily equipped, with standard goodies including electric front seats with memory seat settings and comfort access (including keyless entry and electric boot release), electric lumbar support for the driver, a head-up display, front and rear parking sensors, a 270-degree overhead camera display and satellite navigation.
Safety is well considered, too, with lane change warning, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and the aforementioned parking aides. Also, there are six airbags fitted (dual front, front-side, full-length curtain).
Our car also had the Innovations Package, including front seat heating, active cruise control, park assist and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. That box costs $3185 to tick. We probably wouldn’t bother with the sunroof ($2920) or the internet connectivity for the media system ($200).
That iDrive system remains one of the easiest interfaces to use, with cleverly laid-out menus and a high-quality 8.8-inch media screen. Shame, though, that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t supported.
The interior quality is very good – it feels properly luxurious, and while the two-tone finish may not be to everyone’s taste, the cream leather looked the part.
The big fat steering wheel might be a little bit too chunky for some, but the rest of the finishes – including the dark fake wood trim with shadow chrome highlights – make for a very impressive cabin.
The space on offer is fine, but could be better. If you’re truly pragmatic – or have tall children or friends – you may want to test this and the 3 Series sedan back to back, as rear-seat headroom is a bit tight. The knee room and toe room on offer could be better too. It’s probably best for four occupants rather than five, but there is decent door storage, rear air vents with heating and cooling controls, a fold-down armrest with cupholders.
In terms of how the 430i drives, it’s a real sweetheart of a thing.
There’s a beautiful balance to the chassis, with plenty of cornering grip unless you really push it and the rear steps out – but only in Sport Plus mode, which limits the ferocity of the traction control. It won’t bite you, just nibble at your sense of sensibility.
The steering offers good feel to the driver’s hands, but the steering isn't quite as accurate in Sport Plus mode where there's extra weight added to apparently enhance the sportiness. We would suggest leaving it in Sport, or even Comfort, because that steering response is more in line with driver involvement. It’s a shame there’s no Individual mode to set the engine/transmission, steering and suspension to how you’d like to tailor it.
The adaptive suspension – standard on all 4 Series models – in Sport Plus mode is quite firm, as you may expect, while in Sport and Comfort there’s barely any perceivable difference. And while those settings may change the way it behaves in corners, the ride, in general, is very good, particularly over broken surfaces at city speeds. It can be a little floaty over big highway bumps, but better that than jarring, we reckon.
The turbo four-cylinder engine is willing and eager, and while it's not going to set speed records there's enough pulling power to get off the line quickly. It revs freely and happily up towards 6000rpm, and builds pace freely, too. It may not sound overly special to some, but there is a level of appeal to the noise that it makes.
The eight-speed auto is quick thinking and the shifts are smooth and rapid under hard acceleration. In Sport Plus mode you may even notice a solid transmission shunt through the cabin that gives the impression that it is quite sporty, too.
Perhaps our biggest gripe with the drive experience is the amount of road noise. It’s quite loud, even on decent highway surfaces, while on coarse-chip roads it can be annoyingly noisy for a luxury car.
BMW claims the upgraded engine in the 430i has helped its fuel use claim – now 5.8 litres per 100km, down from 6.4L. We saw 8.7L/100km.
The 4 Series is covered under the optional BMW Service Inclusive pack that gives you five-years/80,000km of servicing, plus replacement engine oil, filters, spark plugs, and brake fluid over the tenure, for a flat payment of $1340 when you buy the car. So, it’s not really that pricey to run. The warranty is three years/unlimited kilometres, and you get three years of roadside assist, too.
At the launch we gave the 4 Series range an 8/10 rating. This variant, though, feels better than that score. As was the case with the 330i in that model range, the 430i feels like the pick of the pack for its line-up. There’s not a whole lot wrong with it, and potential purchasers would be well advised to put it on their shopping list.
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