Bought it new. Now 15 years old, 120K on odometer, we'll make 200k easy, the ultimate keeper. Still looks great, inside and out. 20 mpg city - 29 mpg highway, low ratios keep T/E mileage down. Classic lines, never out of style. Lots of bolt-on go fast available. Any BMW over 5 years is a DIY car, dealer rates and parts will kill you.
Handles like a race car with sport shocks, springs and solid bushings aboard. Not blinding fast, but quick, and responsive over 3000 rpms. Interior layout is near perfect. Red beemers with loud pipes draw a race any old time.
Seats, some parts are beyond pricy, typical german freaky electronics from time to time. Still worth the ride.
Excellent balance of performance and economy. A lot quicker than the numbers suggest - because of the 4.10 diff and close ratio gearbox, 3rd and 4th gear acceleration is very good. I also get an average of 30mpg (25 town, 35 motorway). Don't shoot me m3 boys, but the 318iS is the best handling e36 you can get; it comes with proper ///M suspension, but with a lot less weight up front and the whole engine is set behind the front axle, giving excellent turn-in and balance.
Got this fifth BMW used with 98k on it, had the obvious mechanical faults repaired but NOT the radiator, which I learned has an estimated life of 90k miles. Big, costly mistake! In spite of this, I rate this BMW second best out of five. If you maintain the car, it will give good service. Of all the 12 or so cars I have owned, BMWs have been the most satisfying to own & drive. I rate it above Mercedes for a driver's car; highway performance is great, handling can't be beat by any car that I can afford. It's not perfect, but what is? If you do the required maintenance ($$$) it won't let you down, plus it's great fun to drive. The 3 series is easy to park and has good performance and comfort.
Better interior trim & asembly (glove box door trim panel fell off - poor glue job). All-metal radiator (plastic parts don't last). Better water pump. Only BMW short life battery will fit in trunk. Make sport seats available as a stand-alone option.
I purchased this vehicle after an accident. I was hesitant because of the mileage and year of the car. I have had a pleasant surprise in that the car runs SO smoothly. If I did not know the year of the car, I could have sworn it was a late model car in the way that it runs. It is a smooth ride. It runs better than the late model Ford Focus that was rented to me.