Bought mine a month ago with 178,000 miles on it. Other then missing a few trim pieces the car is perfect. After market performance suspension is the only thing that has been done. I have owned some very fun cars in the past (2006 gto) and those cars are great in a straight line. But i have learned to appreciate corners with this little car. What the 1.8 ltr m42 lacks in off the line power it makes up for in high rpms and the ability to take corners at rediculous speeds. And still feel in control.
The first drive, I discovered the main problem: it seemed to run out of gas after travelling at a consistent speed of 105 Km/h for long periods. The car would begin to tremble and would eventually stall. Rev the engine to 4,000 Rpm and the problem would go away. Others: 1) slit in manifold hose caused -35C starting problems 2) antenna didn't retract fully 3) driver's window would often break a fuse. In May, 2003, a speeding drunk driver hit the car. My only words: Crumple zones work! My precious BMW was destroyed but I survived unscathed.
I got the car with 95k miles. It now has 110k on it. I have replaced the 1 of the 2 fuel pumps, the lower ball joint on the passenger side, and a new front passenger door. I hopped a curb and hit a tree in the winter, the front wheel was barely pushed back, so now the car drifts to the right. The ABS still works! :). It needs brakes, which im neglecting to do, regardless this car stops and turns on a dime. The engine however makes a funny "buzzing" noise which i havent had looked at yet. The oil smells gasy as well.
I bought this car at 140,000 miles almost five years ago. I now have 225,000 miles on it after daily commutes and a trip from Texas to NY. I have changed the fuel pump and a few rotted hoses, but this car is super reliable. I was hit from behind by an accord last summer, and while it crushed in the entire front end of their car, I just suffered a small dent, and a slightly crumpled exhaust. The car still drives great after the accident and even after the big flood in Houston which left me with water over my seats. If I ever replace it it will only be for another BMW!