Sometimes, base models exist almost as filler, meant to whet appetites on the path to better-equipped (and, for the automaker, higher-margin) variants. But not the 2021 BMW 430i Convertible. Despite being the low rung on the ladder, this four-seat drop-top is a fully fleshed-out summer machine that’s mighty rewarding on both road trips and unnecessarily quick blasts down twisty forest roads.
- Punchy turbo four
- Attractive silhouette
- Rewarding drive in any situation
- Polarizing nostrils
- No adaptive cruise
- Don’t go HAM on the options.
A looker, up and down
Let’s just get this out of the way early so we can move on: Yes, it has a weird grille, and no, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. This is my third tester with such a schnoz, and I’ve grown used to it. It’s a lot more palatable in person than in pictures. Don’t like it? Cool, there are other convertibles on sale. On we go.
Nose aside, I think BMW did a great job shaping the 430i Convertible. The soft top looks pretty close to the coupe’s fixed roof when it’s up, so it’s still a sharp little thing, even in the rain. Once it’s nice out, hold down the button on the center console, let the automatic folding bits do their thing, and the result is quite the shapely silhouette. The $3,800 M Sport Package zhushes up the looks with different 18-inch alloy wheels, dark exterior trim and a more aggressive bumper, but there’s still plenty to like without needing to shell out this added dough.
The interior doesn’t need much in the way of frippery, either. Sure, the red leather is a $1,450 option, and you get a different steering wheel with the M Sport Package, but it looks fabulous and is not at all necessary to feel like a million bucks. I’m a little bored with the dashboard design, which is pretty much the same across BMW’s entire lineup, but it’s still mighty functional and everything is laid out sensibly. The back seat is a little tight for full-size adults, but it’ll work for trips around town, even with the top up. There’s even a solid amount of junk storage in here, with sufficiently deep door pockets, but I still don’t like how the wireless charger ($500) access requires you to remove whatever’s in the cup holders.
Flip open the trunk and you’ll find enough storage for a couple weekender bags and backpacks, even with the top stowed. A thick black barrier makes sure you don’t overfill the trunk and cause issues, and yes, a golf bag should still fit just fine back there.
Solid driver in any condition
Everybody loves to heap praise on BMW’s more powerful models, but there’s plenty of spiciness hidden inside the 430i Convertible. The 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 under the hood produces 255 horsepower and 294 pound-feet of torque, sent to the rear wheels (AWD is available) via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The four-pot produces that twist nice and low in the rev range, making it quite the potent stoplight shuffler, and the engine sounds pretty good with the top down, to boot. But it’s also content to chill and stay in a more efficient position for long slogs on the highway.
Thanks to some well-thought-out vehicle modes, you really can have your cake in the 430i Convertible and eat it, too. In its default Comfort mode, the transmission errs on the efficient side, while the steering and suspension aim for softness, provided you pay for the right addons (the $3,800 M Sport Package and the $2,450 Dynamic Handling Package, respectively). With all those bits mixed together in my tester, the ride is compliant and comfortable across all manner of roads, making for some easy-breezy top-down fun.
Throw the 430i Convertible’s mode switch into Sport and the car feels surprisingly different. The powertrain perks up and the transmission keeps itself in the right gear at the right time, connecting tree-lined Michigan switchbacks with oodles of torque. Body roll damn near disappears entirely, and the steering firms up to a nearly comical heft. The result is something that feels just as fun as sprightlier BMW variants without the commensurate cash hemorrhage. Sure, you can glom on more power if you want to, but by no means should you feel a need to. The 430i is very much a blast in its own right. But it’s also pretty damn efficient, with the RWD 430i being more than capable of meeting the EPA-estimated fuel economy of 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.
Let’s talk convertible-specific stuff. The top itself is a breeze to operate, working at up to 31 mph in case I get caught in a flash drizzle, although having the top switch right next to the parking brake switch seems like a recipe for a no-look disaster. With the top up, sound isolation is pretty solid, and obviously it’s just a cacophony of wind when the top is dropped at higher speeds. Taking the 430i Convertible on a brief trip from Detroit to Chicago and back, rolling up the windows keeps my hat on my head and the breeze mostly at bay. The $500 neck warmer upgrade is a must-have, as it keeps the parts of me warm that the seat and steering wheel heaters cannot.
Tech aplenty, if you pay for it
The standard tech in the 2021 BMW 430i Convertible is pretty good, but odds are that you’ll want to pay at least a bit more money for some of the upgraded stuff. Every 430i comes with an analog gauge cluster and an 8.8-inch touchscreen running BMW’s iDrive infotainment software, but the $2,300 Premium Package upgrades that to a 12.3-inch gauge display and a 10.3-inch dash screen. iDrive is the same as usual, offering up plenty of information with density that’s not overwhelming, but it does take some time to get used to swapping between various corners of the software. If you don’t like using touchscreens, there’s a dial on the center console. Wirelessand are blissfully standard.
There is a surprising amount of standard safety in the 430i Convertible, too. Every one that rolls off the dealership floor comes with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and parking sensors. My tester’s $700 Parking Assistance Package adds automatic parking assist, as well as a surround-view camera. The only notable omission is adaptive cruise control, which at the time of this writing is only available on M440i variants, skipping the 430i and 430i xDrive entirely. That’s dumb. Really dumb.
Down to brass tacks
While I mentioned a number of options and packages through the course of my review, I wouldn’t call any of them truly necessary. The 2021 BMW 430i Convertible’s starting price of $54,095 (including $995 for destination) isn’t too shabby, but going heavy on the options can send the window sticker north of my tester’s already lofty $67,220 price tag. Throw in a couple good ones like the M Sport Package and the Premium Package and you can walk away with a damned solid and efficient sporty convertible for under $60,000.
With updates pending for its two largest competitors, the Audi A5 Cabriolet and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet, the Bimmer is the freshest compact drop-top on the block at the moment. Throw in a great blend of driving dynamics and comfortable cruising, and you’ve got quite the compelling package just in time for summer.