Engine / Transmission: 2.0 litre – 8 speed automatic
Manufacturer Claimed Fuel Economy: 7.6L/100km combined.
Price: From $96,831 drive away
In a Nutshell: Don’t be put off by the real estate agent down the road, this is a great car.
BMW’s 4 Series range kicks off with the little 420i coupe, sporting a 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, before moving upwards and onwards to the deceptively quick 440i Xdrive (with a turbo six-cylinder, mild-hybrid technology and all-wheel-drive). The range culminates in the devastatingly fast M4 Competition Coupe. Visiting the EFTM garage though is the mid-spec 430i; powered by tasty a turbo-four with standard M-Sport package.
Time with the 430i reminds me that BMWs aren’t just for real estate agents, but are bloody great cars. I owned a 1980 E12 5-Series a while back – the first of the 5-Series – and it was so much fun. What made it so good was its chassis balance.
Note how I say ‘balance’ and not 50:50 weight distribution, like BMW marketing may have you believe. I never weighed my 528i (and given that it had a hot rodded 3.5-litre and five-speed manual from a 635i, God only knows what its weight distribution was), but it had mighty fine chassis balance. Crank that concept up to eleven and you have the 430i.
Not an especially powerful car (190kw) or an especially fast one (5.8 seconds 0-100kph/250kph limited top speed), the 430i has the kind of chassis balance other manufacturers would kill for. Time in this car reminds me of how high BMW is on the list for my next purchase! The 430i is that sort of car.
As you would expect in an offering by a premium German brand, the 430i is loaded with interesting tech. Driving Assistant Professional is BMW speak for steering and lane keep assist, autonomous braking and emergency braking assist and blind-spot assist.
You really need to go out of your way to crash this car. Active cruise control is supported with Stop&Go function within a speed range of 30 to 160 km/h – perfect for freeway commuting. Parking Assistant Plus uses the 360-degree camera to make parking a breeze.
Meanwhile, Reversing Assistant is a cool trick. The system saves the last 50 metres of the path travelled forwards and can then, later, travel that same 50 metres backwards (up to 35kph) automatically, including any tight turns you have made along the way. Say, you normally park in a really tight spot. Drive in forwards and Reversing Assistant will back it out for you when you want to leave again.
You just need to control throttle and brake inputs. The Assisted Driving View is a little less cool. Using real-time information on the vehicle surroundings collected by various cameras, the system creates an animated 3D display of the 430i’s surroundings in the dashboard display.
I used it for a day or two and then got bored by it, preferring instead the crystal clear bird’s eye 360 degree display.
The most impressive thing about the 430i though is not it’s technology. The most impressive thing is the way it drives. Chassis balance is one of those intangible qualities that is difficult to achieve and even more difficult to market. It is much easier to throw in even more wizz-bang technology or more luxury features than it is to produce a masterful chassis, but this is the route BMW have chosen and I applaud them for it.
On paper, for the price, the 430i is a little under-done. On the road though, the 430i rewards every single time with an exquisite balance of handling, grip, ride quality and engine responsiveness. I love how this car drives.
Not So Impressive:
I like the new grill treatment, but many despise it. I admit it looks best on the M3 and M4, with their deep front spoilers and blacked out finishes, but I think it will continue to grow on us and before long it will be something you don’t notice.
The other difficulty for the 430i is it’s siblings. If purchasing the 430i new, I would be tempted to instead find a neat M4 or M3 with a few miles under it’s belt. Otherwise every time I was passed by an M4 I would feel pangs of regret. Alternatively, the simplicity of the 420i (and subsequent savings) is very tempting. Grab a 420i and enjoy the peace of mind of buying new and enjoy a type of purity that just doesn’t exist in the 430i with its obligatory M Sport Package.
WHEN ON A TEST DRIVE:
When ducking in to check out the 430i, do not decide to ‘sample’ an M4 “just for fun”. You will walk out another $70k or so in the hole on top of the 430i you went in to look at.