Zippy fun to drive car! handling is excellent. pick up is decent for a 4 speed automatic, 4cyl car. In my opinion you can hang with any other sports sedan on the freeway with this car. One thing about BMWs that the owner must stay on top of is the maintenace. these are VERY sensitive cars and if you ignore the maintenance the end result will hit you in your wallet hard!
The sport mode. Love it just pop it into 3rd gear and its faster with shifts at higher RPMs and if you give it full throttle it will up shift when it hits its red line of about 6500 RPMs.
I purchased the car while living in Germany, although it was a U.S. made car. I now have 205,000 miles and I have always had it serviced at authorized BMW dealers. No engine or transmission repairs ever. It is a really fun car to drive, and overall I would say economical. The first five years of my ownership were in Germany, and the car really did well at high speeds. On the Autobahn I usually drove 85-95 MPH, but I have driven it as fast as 140 MPH with no problems. Although the car has 205,000 miles on it I think it will be good for at least another 50,000 or more.
Reliability. I have only had one breakdown, which was a throttle cable disconnecting, just last week. It was fixed by a bystander. Other favorite feature is range - I often drive 500 miles on one fillup.
It would be hard for me to find anything they could improve upon. Some of BMW's recent improvements, such as no oil dipstick and the runflat tires make me think I will keep the car a have for a few thousand more miles.
I just recently (may 2005) got hold of a 1996 318 automatic. Owner before me had taken good care of it. I haven't had any major problems (other than normal wear parts) with it so far (crosses fingers) and i just passed 100K. Check engine light came on for a "low pressure cat. converter" code, but i had that code cleared at a shop and it hasn't come on again. Gas mileage is great, i use 92 or higher, 94 if i can find it... (owners manual recommends 91 but gas cap says minimum is 89) I've taken a 393 mile trip 3 times in this car and I can drive straight through and still have a quarter tank left...with the AC running full blast going up hills...which is even better mpg than my 97 accord
MPG, sporty performance, speed sensing steering, quiet interior, power/automatic everything...lots of gadgets for a small car
I wish mine was a 5 speed, and had the sport suspension, ride is kinda soft with normal suspension. It wouldn't hurt to have a bit more HP & low end torque (maybe 150~160 instead of the 138Hp stock)
I recently purchased this car during the summer, and it was the best money I ever spent. The car itself has a sporty and sleek design. Although it is a 96' it still gives other cars of that year a run for their money. Over all the 1.9L doch engine gives it a fairy quick acceleration which can be put to the test with the 4 speed tiptronic. This car will respond with elequence and grace toward any turn you put in fornt of it. Due to the German sport tuned suspention. The boston green with a metalic flake compliments the light tan interior very well. Instumentation and acessories inside the car are of excellent quality and are easily viewed. Overall it is the best car I've ever owned.
My favorite features of this car is the tiptronic transmission, optional traction control,1.9l instead of the 1.8l,sports car feel in a sedan,mechanical reliability,great gas mileage,large sedan ride in a small compact,all power acessories.