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Car reviews - BMW - 3 Series - 318i sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Sheer dynamic depth, great styling
Room for improvement
Disappointing 1.8-litre engine, interior quality not up to marque's usual high standards

7 May 2003

BMW's entry level 318i appears to be expensive for a small, sub- 2.0 litre car. But in return for your money there are the spinning propeller image, top level quality and engineering excellence which is second to none.

The last two points almost guarantee the 318i will be a durable car, which makes it a popular buy on the used car market.

The E36 model was a significant improvement over the earlier model with much more attractive styling and bigger external dimensions. It is 110mm longer and 50mm wider so there is quite a bit more interior space.

With the 318i sedan the entry level into the BMW range before the Compact came along, there is a short equipment list - its only weak point.

Air-conditioning and central locking are standard but just about everything else is optional including alloy wheels, electric sunroof, power windows and anti-lock brakes. Regular equipment upgrades with minimal price increases made the 318i better value for money as each year passed.

Anti-lock brakes became standard across the range in 1992 with a driver's airbag added the next year. A passenger's airbag became standard equipment in 1994, an upgraded anti-theft system in 1995 and body-coloured bumpers the following year.

BMW released two limited editions of the 318i. The Signature was released in 1995 with alloy wheels, a body kit and remote central locking. The interior has leather trim and height-adjustable steering.

The following year the Limited was released with alloy wheels and leather interior.

The 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine carried over from the previous model 318i with a single overhead camshaft, eight-valve cylinder head producing 83kW at 5500rpm.

It does not sound very exciting on paper but in the real world it has good, useable mid-range power and is light on fuel. The same goes for the suspension and steering.

The basic design is not that much different from lots of other cars but a combination of rear-wheel drive, optimum weight distribution, good quality tyres and painstaking development make the 318i one of the best handling and nicest small cars to drive on the road.

BMW options are expensive and can hike up the asking price. For example, genuine BMW alloy wheels can add $1500 to $1800 to the price and an electric sunroof $1700 to $2200.

Like a lot of things in life, you get what you pay for. In the case of the BMW 318I sedan, your money gets one of the best small cars there is.

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