1998 BMW 318ti

To round off a week of highlighting basic German transportation here at GCFSB, here is an example of BMW’s attempt to move down market in the 1990s: the 3 series hatchback. Paying homage to the 2002 hatchback with its “ti” moniker, the hatchback 3er was also known as the Compact. Offered here in the US solely as the 318ti with the venerable twin cam, 1.9 liter four cylinder engine, customers abroad could request a bit more power with the 2.5 liter inline six cylinder engine in 323ti. From the A pillar on back this was a completely unique car and featured a semi-trailing arm rear suspension instead of the Z axle multi-link setup found elsewhere in the lineup. With the intro of the E46 3 series in 1999, BMW abolished all four cylinders from its lineup and that along with lackluster sales saw the Compact exit the US market that year. These hatchbacks aren’t a common sight these days, but this low mileage 318ti for sale in North Carolina has the M package and looks relatively well cared for.

1998 BMW 318ti on Cars.com

I’d be all over this car if it weren’t for the 4-speed automatic transmission. The two tone black and red upholstery is especially appealing and helps to break up the austere nature of the standard interior. I know I bang on a lot about how I don’t like slushboxes, but this car certainly needs a 5-speed manual to make the most of its power. Since many of these were commuter cars, I can see why people would opt for the auto, but with the M package, it screams poseur. At close to $7,000, this car is a bit out of its league pricewise, as you can get plenty of faster M material for that kind of money. I’d say $4,000 to $5,000 is a more realistic number for this particular car. Still, it’s nice to know there are a few of these forgotten E36s out there and it will make safe, reliable transportation for someone out there.

-Paul

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2 Comments

  1. You just have to wonder…was this 318ti ordered this way (automatic, sport package) by a specific customer, or for dealer stock? Doesn’t make a lot of sense to us, but it must have made sense to someone…

  2. Confession time. I owned a 318ti automatic. 3 years, 50k miles and one rear-ending. I bought it on impulse from the used car lot (12k on the odometer at the time) of the local BMW dealer when I was fed up with the GMC suv I had been driving.

    I really liked the car, in spite of the automatic. The car was great on the highway, not too bad on things like mountain drives but horrible around town. Why? Because the automatic never really seemed to match up with the power band of the 1.9L engine. Decide to pull out, stab the accelerator pedal, wait for what seemed like an eternity, then get the requested “surge” of power. Build quality was on par with the entry level designation. Better than that of the Z3, but nowhere near that of a 5 series.

    That car is a Sport, not an M package. Sport consisted of 5 spoke, 16″ alloys, 225/50 tires, different front and rear bumper covers with side skirts and sport seats with leather bolsters and cloth centers. Sports also had a stiffer suspension due to different struts, springs and sway bars.

    Price seems about right, but finding the right buyer could prove difficult. These cars are old enough now that they appeal mostly to enthusiasts, who probably won’t want the automatic.

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