£30,260 - £45,745 Price range
36 - 70 MPG
In days gone by, this would have been the BMW 3 Series Coupe. Now it’s called the 4 Series. That’s something we’re just going to have to deal with, but luckily BMW has made this easy by churning out another highly competent car.
By and large, critics are very impressed with the 4 Series and it receives some glowing reviews as a result. It’s competent in pretty much every area – but if there’s one underlying criticism of the new car, it’s that it’s never truly exciting to drive. It’s a coupe for grown-ups.
Anyone familiar with the BMW 3 Series will feel right at home in here, since it’s largely identical. Testers call it “simple and smart” as well as “comfortable, solid and wholly pleasant”. The last compliment is diminished somewhat by the line that follows though as it’s also called “entirely predictable”, and misses the ambience of its Audi or BMW rivals.
It does get comfortable seats though, even in the rear where only headroom will be an issue for those over six feet tall. There’s a 445-litre boot (35 litres down on the saloon) and plenty of kit, though lower-end models miss out on electrically adjustable seats. Ergonomics are apparently “excellent” even so, and BMW’s new iDrive setup “foolproof”.
This is traditionally where 3-Series and their ilk have scored well, and the 4-Series is no exception. All testers rate it highly, particularly with regard to its ride and handling balance. No longer is this a car where the ride is compromised, even when M Sport models with stiffer suspension are chosen. Optional adaptive suspension helps though – without it, it “doesn’t have the taut body control” of AMG-specified C-Class Coupes.
It’s a more engaging car than the 3-Series saloon though, with “lovely rear-wheel-drive handling balance” and precise, “meaty” steering. A word for drivers who truly care about how their cars drive though: BMW’s optional Variable Sport Steering may mean a quicker rack, but it’s lighter and offers less feedback.
By BMW standards the engine range is fairly simple to wade through: there are 420d, 430d and 435d diesels, and 420i, 428i and 435i petrols. The smallest diesel and the biggest petrol are the only ones reviewed so far, and each scores highly in most areas. Best of the pair is the 435i, as its 302-horsepower six-cylinder engine offers up more fun than the diesel.
The 420d will be a prime choice for company buyers and private customers looking to cut down on tax bills, and at 7.5 to 60 mph and nearly 150 mph flat out, it’s hardly slow. It also does over 60 mpg, manual-equipped M Sport aside. That manual is a bit notchy for some. If there is one main problem with the small diesel, it’s that it’s surprisingly vocal and clattery at idle – though once warmed up it does settle down a little.
In manual form the 420d manages 60.1 mpg combined and that rises to 61.4 mpg with the swift-changing auto. Unfortunately the manual is "far from the slickest" according to one reviewer, and has a long clutch pedal travel - so it's not really for the sporty driver.
The engine itself is better - in addition to that economy, the 182-horsepower four-cylinder "offers huge flexibility". It's surprisingly clattery though - mentioned in all reviews and a few advise waiting for the smoother six-cylinder diesel to arrive.
It uses a 3-litre, twin-turbocharged petrol engine that develops 302 horsepower - almost enough to shame M3s of a few generations back. It delivers "frenetic pace" with a "silky and sonorous" engine note, according to the critics - on the way to a 5.1-second 0-62 mph time. It's smooth, it's largely quiet (some would like a little more howl from the exhaust), and at 39.2 mpg, it's acceptably frugal - it's a good all-rounder.
The almost identical (save for a couple of doors) 3 Series was awarded the maximum five-star crash test rating by Euro NCAP, so although the 4 series has not yet been tested, it will be highly likely that it can achieve the same.
As with most cars in this sector, you’ll find the usual glut of airbags and stability controls. Beyond that, the 4 has added extras such as lane departure warnings and a system that senses when the driver is feeling fatigued, and will politely suggest that they take a break.
Steer clear of the options list and you can get into a 4-Series 420i or 420d for under £32,000. Prices escalate rapidly from there but by and large you’ll pay similar for a Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe or Audi A5 of similar output. Economy is similar in each too, with the BMW and Audi edging out the Mercedes.
Equipment levels are generally high in the 4-Series, residual value should be good and the decent economy should minimise trips to the pumps. The 420d will likely be the best longer-term purchase, with its lower list price and higher economy figures.
If a common-or-garden 4-Series Coupe is a little too dull for you, BMW’s rampant niche-filling might cater to your tastes in the form of a convertible version and a Gran Coupe. The latter is similar to the 3-Series saloon but features a sleeker roofline and hatchback tailgate… but it’s different to the otherwise-similar 3-Series Gran Turismo. Confused? We’re not surprised. The former has a metal folding roof, which matches open top thrills with the security of a coupe. You can read about it here.
You’ll pretty much know what to expect from the 4-Series coupe, particularly if you’ve owned a 3-Series equivalent in the past. It’s a little more desirable than the saloon but more expensive and a little less practical. Some critics had hoped the 4-Series would also be a great deal more fun, but the M4 goes a good way towards satisfying that need. Regardless, the 4-Series is a highly respectable, highly competent choice.