The 2024 BMW i4 xDrive40 is the Best Small BMW

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick

BMW’s approach to electrification is a double-edged sword.

On one hand, building BEV and ICE cars alongside each other, on the same platform, with the same shapes, gives buyers more choice. Unlike a certain Stuttgart-based competitor, BMW isn’t forcing folks to choose between the classics and slightly smaller, more egg-shaped alternatives.

The flip side is that the Bavarian approach invites comparison. The i4 xDrive40— the model I so enjoyed in a recent review—shares floor space with an M440i Gran Coupe. Yet I’m making a bold statement here: the i4 xDrive40 is the single best small BMW car you can buy. Here’s why.

Surprisingly practical

It’s easy to write off the 4 Gran Coupe as a cynical marketing exercise. The four-door version of the two-door version (4 Series) of the four-door car (3 Series)? Pffft.

Except the i4 is a five-door, a distinction the rest of the world makes but that America still has a hard time with. The liftback layout gives the i4 a practicality boost that you simply won’t find elsewhere in the lineup—at least until BMW brings a wagon, sorry Touring, back here. When AutoGuide had the i4 in for review, I was in the process of moving. Between the electrified Bimmer and a gargantuan Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro, it was the German which was easier to load large items or small furniture in and out of.

Better proportions

That’s not to say the i4 is all head, no heart. The swoopy four-door styling finds an ideal middle ground between the conservative 3 Series and the rakish 4 Series coupe. The larger glasshouse accomplishes two feats: it avoids the awkward rear shoulder of the coupe, while exaggerating the classic front-engine, rear-drive proportions of the cab-rearward stance.

I’ll even say this: the grille isn’t that bad these days.

And the 2 Series? There’s a certain rectilinear appeal to the coupe, no doubt. Yet it lacks the grace of the larger 3 or 4 Series, and these are premium products after all. Just skip the 2 Series Gran Coupe—as BMW Canada wisely has for a few years now—which answers the question of “what would happen if a company took the Mazda3, gave it better infotainment but worse looks, and charged nearly double?”

Finding the balance

As mentioned, BMWs are premium products, but they still have a reputation as drivers’ cars. Thankfully, the i4 xDrive40 satisfies both sides of that coin. What’s quieter than an EV? The i4 is a cruiser par excellence in that sense—and I’d reckon it’d be an even smoother operator when running on 18-inch wheels and non-winter rubber.

Find an interesting stretch of road and the i4 is a willing and able partner, too. It’s quick with 396 horsepower, well-balanced, and the brakes are more than up to the task of hauling it down, repeatedly. Since those hefty batteries are low down in the floor, the i4 still has quick reflexes like a sport sedan should, and the xDrive setup still allows for a rear-biased stance. The lower-powered rear-drive models are a little purer, but this i4 is a better proposition for those who live in the snow belt, without having to move up to the high-power (and high-price) i4 M50.

Yes, you’ll miss the sweet song of the classic inline-six. But in all other ways, the i4 excels. In addition, if you stick with the 18-inch alloys, the xDrive40 is the distance champ of the lineup, officially quoted at 307 miles (494 kilometers).

That blend of performance, comfort, everyday range and usability, make the i4 xDrive40 a very appealing proposition. Factor in that this trim is slightly cheaper than the equivalent M440i xDrive Gran Coupe, and it locks in its position for us.

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Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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