The words BMW and cheap have never really sat comfortably side-by-side in Australia. Theis out to change that.
Sure, a sticker price in the mid-$80,000 range before on-road costs, means it won’t cater to all Australians, but it’s a handy $17,000 cheaper than the previous entry point to the range.
Once upon a time that would have meant it came with blank buttons, an engine that couldn’t pull the skin off custard, and the ugliest wheels imaginable in a bid to bully you into spending more on the next model up in the range – but in 2024, that isn’t the case.
Rather than an undercooked price leader designed to lure unsuspecting buyers into BMW showrooms, the base i4 on test sneaks in below the Federal Government threshold for a Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) exemption, designed to make it more appealing to opt for an electric car on a novated lease.
Regardless of how you plan to pay for it, the base i4 might just be the one to buy.
- BMW i4 eDrive35: $85,900
- BMW i4 eDrive40: $102,900
- BMW i4 M50: $133,900
Prices exclude on-road costs
The BMW i4 lines up with a number of electric sedans, lift backs, and SUVs. To see how it stacks up, use our.
Once upon a time, you’d have been able to identify a base BMW by its blank buttons. In 2024 though, no BMW has buttons – which means the base i4 looks like pretty much all of its siblings inside.
The two concessions to the fact it’s a base model are the steering wheel, which is a slim-rimmed unit rather than a fat BMW M unit, and the cheaper leather on the seats. It all still feels high quality, but it’s not lavish like the models above it in the range.
There’s heaps of space up front, with a more conventional driving position and view out than in a, and more headroom than in the streamliner.
The seats are excellent, accomodating very tall or very short drivers, and vision is decent save for the over-the-shoulder blind spot that comes with a sloping roofline.
The technology here is identical to what’s offered elsewhere in the range. The curved, dual-screen display is ultra sharp, and BMW has already taken steps to make its latest software easier to use.
When we first used it, the tech had too many layers. Turning on the heated seats used to take three button presses – now it takes two. It’s a step in the right direction; although, using buttons in the last, for example, was easier again.
Once you’re dialled into how the touchscreen is set up, the tech in this BMW is excellent. All the animations look lifted from the silver screen, and the fundamentals like the wireless Apple CarPlay connection work as they should.
Hey BMW voice prompts work well, allowing you to fiddle with everything from the sunroof to the air conditioning, but there’s still something odd about talking to your car with others on board as passengers.
Storage spaces abound, and a wireless phone charger slots in beneath the dashboard. It’s worth noting; though, the combination of this wireless charger and particular wireless CarPlay made my iPhone 15 Pro so hot it shut down at one point. BMW and iOS have been in the news for software bugs lately, and a recent update seemed to solve the problem.
Rear seat space puts a Model 3 in the shade, with plenty of legroom for adults sitting behind adults, and enough headroom for average-sized people. It falls down a bit when it comes to headroom alongside a conventional sedan; although, it’s still accommodating enough for normal passengers.
With air vents, dual USB-C ports, a fold-down central armrest, and proper climate controls back there, those passengers have plenty of things to fiddle with.
It’s worth noting, this car’s internal-combustion origins shine through in the awkward middle seat and raised floor – due to a transmission tunnel. This is a car best enjoyed by four people, not five.
ISOFIX points feature on the outboard rear seats, and there’s a trio of top tethers for car seats. The rear door aperture is smaller than in a conventional 3 Series; although, it’s on a similar level to what you get in a Model 3 or Ioniq 6 if you’re loading kids constantly.
Boot space is a claimed 470 litres with the rear seats in place, expanding to 1290 litres with them folded flat. The massive liftback makes it easy to load awkward items, and the load floor is nice and flat.
There’s also space beneath the floor for your charging cables; although, that comes at the cost of a spare wheel.
|BMW i4 eDrive35
|Energy efficiency (as tested)
|Max DC charge rate
BMW hasn’t tried to make the base i4 sporty – there are no M badges or pretend engine noises here, and the payoff is a car perfectly suited to the daily grind.
i4 eDrive40 shown
Quiet, comfortable, and quick enough, the eDrive35 is just nice.
It does a great job smoothing out potholes, expansion joints and speed bumps, especially relative to sportier BMWs on bigger wheels with M-fettled suspension, and the light steering makes it an easy car to thread through tight city streets.
Also making life easier is the silky smooth electric powertrain. Although it’s the least powerful option in the range, all 400Nm is on tap from standstill. That means you put your foot down and it just goes, with no messing around.
It’s faster than a 330i in the real world, not to mention countless hot hatches – even if it wouldn’t see which way a Model 3 Performance went off the line.
It’s not all-wheel drive, but traction is not really an issue. For one, the throttle is beautifully calibrated, which makes it easy to feed in exactly as much power as you want smoothly. But there’s also plenty of grip from the Pirelli tyres, and the traction control cuts in smartly in the wet.
This is the first electric car I’ve driven where the adaptive regenerative braking really worked.
It uses the front-facing radar to maintain a gap to the car in front in traffic using the regenerative braking – which harvests energy usually lost during braking back into the battery by using the electric motor as a dynamo – allowing drivers to barely touch the brake pedal.
At higher speeds the i4 settles down nicely. The ride remains excellent, filtering out messy country highway surfaces without making the big BMW feel like a floaty, uncontrolled barge.
Where some German cars struggle to keep noise from coarse chip Australian highways out at 100km/h, the i4 on its modest tyres is nice and quiet inside.
There’s no engine noise of course; although, you can toggle some funky Hans Zimmer-designed sounds on if you want your mid-sized electric car to feel like an extra from Dune.
Provided you’re within its shorter range envelope, the adaptive cruise control system in the i4 combines with a smooth, smart lane centring system to make long highway drives easier.
It’s even fun when the road gets twisty; although, it won’t squeeze you back in the seats like the fire-breathing M50.
i4 eDrive35 highlights:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Tyre repair kit
- LED headlights
- High Beam Assistant
- Driving Assistant
- Active Cruise Control incl. Stop&Go
- BMW Iconic Sounds Electric
- Acoustic pedestrian protection
- BMW Live Cockpit Professional
- 12.3-inch instrument cluster
- 14.0-inch infotainment system
- BMW Operating System 8.0
- Connected Package Professional
- Wireless Smartphone Integration
- Apple CarPlay
- Android Auto
- Wireless smartphone charger
- DAB+ radio
- HiFi Loudspeaker system
- BMW Head-Up Display
- Parking Assistant
- Accent highlights in Frozen Grey
- Automatic climate control, 3-zone
- Electric seat adjustment, front
- Sport seats, front
- Sensatec leatherette upholstery
- Comfort Access system
- Ambient interior lighting
- Galvanic embellishers for controls
- Automatic tailgate
- M headliner Anthracite
- Storage compartment package
- Flexible Fast Charger
- Public charging cable, Mode 3
- 1yr Chargefox subscription
Enhancement Package: $3000 (eDrive35)
- Metallic paint
- Electric sunroof
- Seat heating, front
The i4 wears a, making it the only model in BMW’s line-up without a five-star rating.
It scored 87 per cent for adult occupant protection, 89 per cent for child occupant protection and 71 per cent for vulnerable road user protection – all against 2022 ANCAP and Euro NCAP test criteria. However, its 62 per cent safety assist score fell below the five-star threshold.
Standard safety features include:
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Vulnerable road users
- Junction assist
- Driving Assistant Professional
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Steering and Lane Control Assistant
- Evasion Aid
- Front cross-traffic alert
- Forward collision warning
- High-beam assist
- Lane departure warning
- Lane keep assist
- Speed limit recognition
BMW’s local line-up is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
The high-voltage battery in electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids is warranted for eight years or 160,000km – whichever comes first.
The i4 is available with a six-year Service Inclusive Basic plan, which is priced at $1980.
The i4 eDrive35 is more than a rolling tax break for corporate buyers looking to cash in on electric car incentives, it’s a pretty compelling alternative to the Tesla Model 3, Hyundai Ioniq 6, and top-end versions of the BYD Seal.
It’s also a compelling alternative to a conventional BMW 330i, with one major caveat.
With plenty of space inside, a generous equipment list, and more than enough performance to embarrass plenty of drivers in the traffic light grand prix, it doesn’t really want for much… provided 400km of range is enough.
Although BMW hasn’t cut back on the luxuries, nor too heavily on the performance of the i4, it’s managed to hit its sharper price point by fitting a smaller and cheaper lithium-ion battery pack.
For a city commuter, for the school run and your daily work commute, that likely doesn’t matter. But if you’re planning to replace the existing long-haul road trip car with something electric, this particular i4 isn’t it.
With its smaller battery comes a shorter range that means you’ll need to be good at planning (and lucky, given the present state of our public charging infrastructure) to replace a diesel or petrol 3 Series for all family duties.
Click the images for the full gallery