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.
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.