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BMW i4 review

The BMW i4 promises 4 Series Gran Coupe-like practicality in an all-electric package. And, surprise surprise, it duly delivers on that front, providing great practicality and good looks, as well as sporty handling and performance. With BMW's fifth-generation electric car tech aboard, it can also eke out 380 miles to a charge, and in mid-spec i4 eDrive40 guise, it even comes with rear-wheel drive. It feels authentically BMW.

Design

It's clearly by no accident that the i4 looks like its petrol sibling, the 4 Series Gran Coupe. BMW's designers have long since stopped penning their electrified cars to look different from the rest of the range, and the similarities are more than skin deep here. The i4 shares much of its underlying technical platform with the 4 Series model, hence the familiar face, roofline and even boot. Once you're used to those big front grilles, the look is - dare we say it - pretty smart.

It's also pleasingly discreet, despite the i4 coming with as much as 544hp in top-of-the-range M50 guise. The eDrive40 model to sit below that is especially low-key, which will be a good thing in the eyes of those who just want a handsome car that's surprisingly capable. There's little to signal the i4's use of battery power, other than the lack of exhaust pipe, and that'll be a good thing to many. There's no need to show off.

Once you're used to those big front grilles, the i4's look is - dare we say it - pretty smart.

What's it like to drive?

If you're looking for an authentically BMW experience from behind the wheel, albeit with battery power instead of an engine, the i4 nails the brief. It feels like a BMW from the moment you slip into its low-set, sporty seat, with a driving position that's near-identical to that of the 4 Series and an on-road character that maintains the feeling. Ignore the lack of engine noise and you could be forgiven for thinking you're in the i4's petrol sibling. For fans of BMW handling - us included - that's a very good thing indeed.

The M50 model, tuned by BMW's M department, is ferociously quick, and it has enormous amounts of grip thanks to all-wheel drive. It hits 62mph in under four seconds. The eDrive40 that sits below it - and costs from just over £50k new - uses rear-wheel drive, so the grip is a little lower when you drive enthusiastically. But those of us who enjoy the sensation of a well-balanced, rear-drive BMW will find plenty to love here. Aside from in the slipperiest of road conditions, we might even suggest that the i4 eDrive40 is the more fun car...

Whatever guise you go for, the i4 rides well and handles sweetly, and it's easy to drive in town thanks to the elasticity of that electric powertrain. Whether you're new to EVs or not, jumping into an i4 will be a satisfying experience.

The M50 model, tuned by BMW's M department, is ferociously quick.

Interior

Inside, the i4 is a mix of old and new. While the lower sections of the dash - and what would normally be referred to as the transmission tunnel, were this electric car to have a gearbox - feature the same buttons and dials as BMWs from the past five years, the top is all-new. It features the brand's new and very impressive curved screen, which stretches from behind the steering wheel across to the middle of the car. It's a great new infotainment system that works as well as it looks.

The cabin feels well put together with soft materials and great ergonomics, in that typically well-polished BMW way. For those who aren't fully ready to switch to the tech-fest interiors of rivals, BMW's i4 cabin feels like an optimal blend of tradition and the future.

Practicality

The i4 is a proper five-door, five-seater Gran Coupe, so there are decent amounts of room in the back, although you'd probably want to carry no more than four adults on longer journeys. That's sort of obvious. The boot is also fairly generous, offering almost identical amounts of room to the spacious 4 Series Gran Coupe, allowing us to get three medium-sized suitcases in without a fuss.

The large, hatched tailgate makes loading the boot a doddle, too, and there's even some under-floor storage space, but it's fairly thin. That's inevitable in a car with such a taut backside.

Reliability and running costs

The i4 is brand new so we can't comment on its reliability yet, but when it comes to running costs, an electric car with a 380-mile range is liable to be cheap to be pretty cheap to run. Especially if you charge it on a domestic plug, where the i4 can be taken from empty to full in 13 hours. The i4 can also be fast-charged from 10% to 80% in 31 minutes, according to BMW, when using a 200kW station. Or, alternatively, it can gain 101 miles of range in about 10 minutes. Not bad.

The i4 can be fast-charged from 10% to 80% in 31 minutes.

What cinch loves

The BMW i4 uses the company's fifth-generation electric car technology, so it's packing lots of cutting-edge hardware. But it feels authentically BMW, with the mannerisms and characteristics of a typical 4 Series, albeit without an engine or exhaust pipe. That's a good thing - especially if you're a fan of BMW's portfolio, as we are at cinch. And it's a good thing for new adopters of electric cars, who don't want to be in a brash, statement-making EV.

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Verdict

Great!

Traditional BMW character meets cutting-edge electric car technology in BMW's Tesla Model 3-rivalling i4. It's ultra-quick in M50 guise, and wonderfully balanced in eDrive40 form. So much so, that we'd be tempted to suggest the former unless you need all-wheel drive. In fact, we do in our video review...

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