The car we're testing this week is something of a modern-day head turner, and as such has caused quite the controversy. The commotion has all been sparked by one feature that has been given a boost. And by boost, I mean it has grown a lot bigger and according to some, is 'kind of odd-looking'.
I'm referring to the all-important front grille (and the styling in general) of the 2021 BMW 430i.
So, let’s acknowledge the ‘kidney’ in the room. This grille is a bold move by the manufacturer and whether you love it or hate it, BMW is heading down a road that sets it apart in a design sense. So yes, while BMW is well aware that this look may not be for everyone, you have to ask just how big a deterrent it is, come purchase time for buyers.
For me, after spending a week driving the 430i coupe, I can say that I am yet to settle on how I feel about the nose. At first, it was overwhelming, and I found myself stopping and wanting to take it in every time I was near the car. I really wanted to like it and while it did grow on me, I do remain on the fence.
The 2021 BMW 430i Coupe starts at $88,900 plus on-road costs, while our test car with options, takes that to $97,280 plus on-roads. The Audi A5 Coupe 45 TFSI Quattro S Line presents a more affordable option at $79,990 plus on roads, whereas the BMW's pricing is pretty much on par with the $89,200 Mercedes Benz C300 coupe.
So, while the BMW isn't the most affordable, don’t let the price deter you from having a closer look as there is so much to like about the 430i coupe.
Perhaps the big reason I want to like it so much is that the overall appearance of the new 4 Series is sublime, and one eccentricity of the car simply cannot take any of that equity away. BMW has produced a distinctive, sporty and edgy coupe. Its side profile slopes neatly to meet the rear end, and the overall design is neatly proportioned.
The rear retains just enough of the 3 Series sedan's look but has a bit more attitude helped by its sharper lines and unique LED taillights. One win for buyers is that all models come standard with the M Sport package, therefore, you’ll get the body-kit which includes extra large air intakes up front, sport suspension and 19-inch alloy wheels.
Our test vehicle goes further with the addition of a glass sunroof and laser headlights (plus metallic paint and interior ambient lighting) as part of the $6300 Visibility Package. As you'd expect at this price point, BMW's keyless Comfort Access System included as standard, and once inside you’re greeted with luxury.
Material use, like the leather with décor stitching, are high quality and present a premium feel. Components such as the sports seats and newly designed M leather steering wheel are just enough to give it that sporty finish.
You may be alarmed by the thickness of the steering wheel though. It’s not my cup of tea and the bulkiness takes some getting used to. I can understand that it’s in keeping with their bold direction of the sporty styling in general and thankfully doesn’t affect the overall driving experience, so I’ll let that one slide.
Under the bonnet, there's a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine, delivering 190kW and 400Nm which is paired with an eight-speed Steptronic automatic. On the road, the 430i is quick off the line and feels responsive no matter whether you’re in Sport or Comfort mode. Peak torque is available in a wide band between 1550 and 4400rpm, which gives the engine excellent flexibility.
The eight-speed ZF transmission is always impressive, but as a way of distracting myself through stop-start Melbourne traffic, I spent most of my trips in the most aggressive Sport-Plus setting and opted to use the steering wheel paddle shifters to change gear. In this mode, the changes are sharp enough, despite not having the near-instant shift speed of a dual-clutch box.
The German manufacturer has paid serious attention to the tuning of the suspension, giving the 4 Series a smooth ride in the default Comfort setting. The 430i features standard electronically-controlled dampers as part of the adaptive M suspension package (stepping up from the 420i's fixed rate damping), which tighten up somewhat in the Sport setting.
On the open road and manoeuvring around tight corners, the handling is light and the car feels balanced. With enough power and dynamic ability, from behind the wheel at least, the new 430i remains true to the 'Ultimate Driving Machine' mantra and is a pleasure to drive.
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo|
|Power and torque||190kW @ 6500rpm, 400Nm @ 1550-4400rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed automatic transmission|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (litres)||59|
|Boot volume (litres)||440|
|Turning circle (metres)||11.4|
|ANCAP safety rating||Not tested|
|Warranty||3 years/unlimited km|
|Tare Mass (kg)||1508|
|Main competitors||Audi A5, Mercedes Benz C300|
|Price as tested (excluding on-road costs)||$97,280|
There’s plenty of tech to get excited about inside this BMW too. It’s fitted with a crisp 12.3-inch instrument display and the 10.25-inch iDrive touch-control display. The touchscreen interface is mostly user friendly but as we've noted in other reviews, the depth of menus makes the BMW OS7 system more complex and less intuitive than it was under the old iDrive moniker.
You can interact via touch or by using voice commands, and if that’s not enough there’s always the option of the BMW iDrive controller. You can also access various features via the steering wheel, which continues to be ergonomically designed and intuitive.
One pretty nifty feature for someone like me, who tends to get lost fairly easily is the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. It is a standard equipment highlight which enables you to check your destination, or even take you home. All you need to do is say, 'hey BMW' and provide your command. You can issue various other instructions such as noting your fuel range or setting the temperature in the car. It's a great way of keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
A head-up display, wireless charging for smartphones, and wireless smartphone integration for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also on that list of standard features, making the 430i that much more convenient to live with on a day-to-day basis. Sadly, you still have to pay for additional comfort like powered lumbar support, an automatic boot and seat heating for driver and front passenger. This will set you back an additional $2080 as part of the Comfort Package.
While I really appreciate the look and ambience of the cabin, it's fair to also acknowledge the clever use of space in the interior. There’s plenty of storage up front, with generous door bins, ample space in the centre console, two cup holders and two seats in the back that often get overlooked altogether.
I did the leg room test, being the long-legged girl that I am, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. The rear seats are simple and easy to access and it’s pretty comfortable as a back seat passenger. The boot is useful too, offering a total of 440 litres.
Safety is well catered for, with a raft of standard tech including: rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot detection with active assist (prevents you from changing lanes if the blind-spot warning is triggered), and lane departure warning with passive steer assistant. While the new 4 Series hasn't been tested by ANCAP, the 'sister' BMW 3 Series received a five-star rating when tested in 2019.
The 430i also comes with a three-year warranty, three-year roadside assistance and a claimed fuel consumption of 6.6 litres per 100kms. It's worth reiterating the fact that the warranty is disappointing, considering the majority of brands are now offering a five-year warranty.
BMW has managed to create an enjoyable performance offering that ticks both the luxury and features boxes. However the question remains, is there too much attitude in the front end styling that might be a deterrent for buyers?
Only time will tell. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.