2023 Best Compact Luxury Car: BMW i4

Until this point, it has been relatively easy for fans of BMW’s traditional gasoline-powered machines to ignore the company’s occasional dabbling in electrification, paying no mind to the quirky-looking i3 and exotic i8.

Not anymore. The Bavarian car company has cannonballed into electrification this year with the posh and oddly futuristic iX, 7 Series-based i7, forthcoming XM, and a handful of really good plug-in hybrid models complemented by this car, the compact and fully electric i4. The results of BMW’s electric splash have left those who’ve had the good fortune to drive them utterly gobsmacked. And it looks like the effort has paid off because the BMW i4 has been voted by our jury of more than 20 automotive experts as the Best Compact Luxury Car in the 2023 AutoTrader Awards.

Understandably, traditional driving enthusiasts have approached the new, all-electric i4 with some skepticism, presuming the new model would be soulless and focused entirely on efficiency. The i4 may look like a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, but is it still fun to drive? You bet!

The entry-level i4 e35 starts at less than $60,000, before the federal EV rebate is applied. It’s a rear-wheel drive, single motor EV with 281 hp. The mid-level i4 e40 starts just over $60,000, while the range-topping i4 M50 adds an additional motor up front, creating an all-wheel drive platform and upping the power output considerably to 536 hp. All three models have ranges greater than 400 km, and when utilizing aggressive regenerative braking, the rear-drive models should be able to exceed 500 km of range in the real world.

The i4’s efficiency is among the best in its class, but the driving dynamics are what set this EV apart from its primary competitors and make it worthy of BMW’s reputation for building engaging performance cars. Although the i4 is significantly heavier than the 4 Series Gran Coupe on which it’s based, its mass is carried low and is well balanced within the chassis, giving the car a solid, planted feel when driven swiftly. The steering, too, although lacking in overall feel, is quick and precise, and the brakes are strong and easily modulated, lending to very capable performance.

But it’s the power of the i4 M50 that will really excite buyers. With more than 580 lb-ft of instantaneous torque on tap, this sportiest i4 can rocket to 100 km/h in less than four seconds.

The i4 isn’t just a sports sedan, but a luxurious one as well. The fit and finish throughout the cabin is first rate, typical of BMW, and because it’s so closely based on its 4 Series cousin, the controls are familiar and easy to use, making it a wonderful transition point for someone apprehensive about making the leap to an electrified car and re-learning how to use it. It also looks like a proper BMW and not a bar of soap the way so many other EVs are styled, prioritizing aerodynamics above all else.

When voting on the winners for the AutoTrader Awards, every car available for sale in Canada is considered. In the Compact Luxury Car category, the competition is fierce with BMW’s own 3 and 4 Series cars considered, along with the formidable new Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and venerable Lexus IS. But it was BMW’s outstanding new electrified entry in the class that managed to earn it a win over the three-time champion, Genesis G70. Congratulations BMW, you’ve earned it.