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BMW hatches a coupe of grand proportions

What’s in a name? Shakespeare once wondered.

Quite a bit, as it turns out, at least according to BMW.

Known for its precision and finely-honed tolerances, the Bavarian marque seems to have taken temporary leave of its senses when naming this car – the 430i Gran Coupe.

And yes, it is Gran (not grand).

But it’s not a coupe. It’s a hatchback.

Confusion continues. The “4” at the beginning of its name signifies it’s a member of the vaunted 4 Series – a model so named because it’s more or less identical to the iconic 3 Series sedan, except it has two doors instead of four.

Except this 4 Series doesn’t have two doors, it has five.

So now it’s a hatchback that just happens to be a member of the exclusive two-door club.

Confused yet? Well there’s more to come.

The “30” in its name did, for a decade or more, signify the size of the engine. In this case the brilliant, iconic BMW in-line six-cylinder that propelled such notably sharp devices as the 330i (more recently known as the 335i when two turbochargers were added and, of course, various iterations of the sublime M3).

Except this engine only has four cylinders.

Don’t blame BMW – it seems the same misfortune has also befuddled drivers of Audis and Benzes, all of whom have to forget everything they’ve ever learned about German naming conventions as engines continue to become smaller yet more powerful and less thirsty.

This is primarily to do with the growing prevalence of turbocharged engines, which in most variants of the 4 Series and 3 Series are now force-fed four-cylinders.

Back to the 430i Gran Coupe.

This new Beemer is a cracking machine – one that’s quick enough to be sporty, plush enough to be luxurious and big enough to be practical. Doubly so because of that big hatchback design. Sorry, Gran Coupe design.

For the record, BMW also has Gran Coupe versions of the smaller 2 Series and the flagship 8 Series – both variants which started as two-door coupes and mysteriously added three new entry points.

What hasn’t changed is the engaging, razor sharp handling of the 4 Series, supported in no small part by the sharpish performance of its two-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine (delivering a very adequate and accessible 190kW and 400nm) which is revvy and torquey all at the same time. The result is a car that is effortless when it needs to be and athletic when asked.

Tested here is the 430i which sits about middle of the 4-Series range with an asking price of $83,900 plus on-road costs. That’s about two grand more expensive than its prime rival, Audi’s A5 Sportback (yes, another name to remember). Mercedes doesn’t offer a hatchback/Sportback/Gran Coupe in this compact luxury class, although its C300 offers a sedan, coupe and cabriolet.

The 430’s asking price in the mid 80s not only provides more doors, but a lengthy list of tech and vanity inclusions. Think adaptive M suspension, Driving Assistant (navigation and lane departure) Professional, leather trim electric seats (heated) and a first-class audio system.

It’s also dynamically sound – 0-100km/h takes a sharpish 6.2 seconds, while that turbo four is modest on the fuel (a godsend at today’s prices) with an official average of 6.6L/100km.

This engine brings the grunt of a six with the modest thirst of a four.

And the Gran Coupe’s swoopy looks don’t have a negative impact on its practicality, with generous room for four adults (or two plus three) as well as almost 500 litres in boot space.

Where it doesn’t lack is in the looks department. Along with the elegantly sloped C-pillar that sets it apart from its 3-Series siblings the Gran Coupe enjoys the added practicality and easy-loading space that the big hatchback delivers.

It might not quite match the silent running of its electric stablemates like the new iX3, but the 430i is an accomplished freeway cruiser, with startlingly little wind or road noise entering the plush cabin.

Passengers feel special thanks to a thoroughly modern, thoroughly opulent cabin finish – an area of substantial improvement for BMW over the past few years.

And, of course one thing that didn’t need any improvement was the car’s road manners which, like virtually every model to wear the famous 3-Series or 4-Seres badge, is beyond reproach. Regardless of what it’s called.


* HOW BIG? It’s built on the same platform as the 3-Series sedan and 4-Series coupe, giving it generous interior space and almost 500L of cargo.

* HOW FAST? The 100km/h sprint takes just over six seconds, which is slick. If you want more performance, there’s the 440i, with a turbo six beneath the bonnet.

* HOW THIRSTY? Officially 6.6L/100km – but expect that to plunge on the open road.

* HOW MUCH? Prices for the Gran Coupe start at $75,900 for the 420i. The 430i costs $83,900.

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