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1998 BMW 318ti

I’ve never understood why the word hatchback is a dirty word in the United States. Having grown up in a family that drove a 1983 Honda Accord hatchback for 13 years, I can appreciate the practicality cars like these provide while confining themselves to a relatively small footprint. Now, with the resurgence of the MINI Cooper and Fiat 500, it seems some Americans are willing to look past the third door.

One of my favorite hatchbacks in recent memory was the E36 318ti hatchback. I found it to be much better proportioned than the Mercedes-Benz C230 Sport Coupe that followed it a few years later and some enthusiasts have gone ahead with tasteful M3 modifications which make these quite formidable little beasts.

Here is a late model version with, thankfully, a 5 speed manual transmission for sale in Connecticut.

1998 BMW 318ti on eBay

1998 BMW 318ti finished in fern green with dove gray leatherette. A very rare model in excellent condition. This 318ti was produced toward the end of the model being offered in the U.S. and it is much more generously equipped than earlier models (production date was 7/98, delivered 8/28/98). The car has a 5 speed manual transmission which makes it fun to drive and very economical. It is optioned with heated seats, 6 disk CD changer, sunroof, fog lights, and factory remote entry. The car has been well taken care of; having been garaged, carefully driven, and extremely well maintained. It was never used as an everyday car, but for weekly trips to the city as it is easy to park, therefore most of the miles were highway driven. The car is in excellent condition, has very low miles, and is well optioned, making it a hard to find excellent example of the 318ti.

The exterior of the car is in great shape. The paint is very deep and holds a strong shine. Because it was an extra car and was seldom used in the winter, it has no rust. The car has not been in an accident and only has minor blemishes, but far fewer than would be expected on a car of this age. It has a handful of nicks, touch-ups, and a scratch or ding or two but nothing excessive. The wheels are also in good condition with only minor scratching. The glass and rubber trim are free from blemishes.

The interior of the car is close to perfect. The seats are in amazing condition, particularly considering the fact that they are basically white. The material is very durable and had regularly been cleaned to avoid any discoloration that is typical with light interiors. The seats have no unusual wear and are firm and supportive with no sag. The carpets are very clean, there has been no smoking, pets, eating etc. in the car. There is the beginning of some separation on the rear corners of the headliner as it is freeing from the backing; however, it cannot be detected unless you are looking for it and it does not interfere with vision so I had not bothered with it. All pixels on the dash, radio and clock displays are present and bright. Every button in the car works as it should: AC is cold and heat is hot; all windows and sunroof open and close swiftly; and all other controls are working properly.

Mechanically the car is also in great shape. It has been extremely well maintained and I have all service receipts from the last 5 years, including: recent services; tires and rear brakes were new at 79k miles; new catalytic converter, struts, right control arm, drive belts, a/c pulley, alt belt tensioner etc., and major tune up at 73k miles; and previously had new radiator, water pump, valve and timing cover gaskets. The only issues that I am aware of is that the air bag light is on and the hood support shocks are in need of replacement (I had used a golf club to hold the hood open in the photo). The car has been meticulously maintained over the years and drives and operates as it should.

The 318ti is a very unique car that combines the efficiency of a compact car with the safety and appeal of a BMW. I have averaged around 32mpg on the highway, which is the only type of driving I do with it. In addition to being very efficient, the car is extremely useful being a hatchback, the trunk is large and the capacity is enormous when the seats are folded down. These cars are very durable and, given the low miles, there is a lot of life left in this one. The combination of low miles, excellent condition, and meticulous maintenance makes this car a very rare find.

These are great little cars and besides the E30, the E36 is, in my opinion, one of the best looking 3 series. The proportions are a little skewed given the shorter length, but this would be a fantastic car to commute with or for the first time driver, as it is not too overpowered, but includes the safety features common in new vehicles.



  1. Kevin
    Kevin September 21, 2011

    I used to own one of these. Trunk Impaired, Terrible Idea… I’ve heard them all. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. These are great cars and very practical.

  2. AlwaysFixing
    AlwaysFixing September 21, 2011

    I so wanted one of these back in the 90’s.

  3. Harrison
    Harrison September 21, 2011

    When space is at a premium hatches are perfect. I never liked the looks of this model but its lighter weight must make it handle nicely.

  4. jered
    jered September 21, 2011

    my brother has a 318th clubsport with a turner supercharger, the car is flat out scary. I drive a E30 M3 and the 318 is in the same spirit, twitchier, which with the extra power in my brothers car makes for “exciting” driving… Fun car for sure. And there is something sexy about the car, which is strange because I also think it is ugly…

  5. Larry
    Larry September 22, 2011

    Both inside and out, Audi’s 1st-gen A3 design seemed much more attractive than either BMW or Mercedes. Unfortunately, it wasn’t offered here.

    If you don’t mind the rear-end treatment and slightly downscale interior, the 318ti provided a rather entertaining alternative to a GTI.

    Unfortunately, many Americans see hatchbacks as lesser alternatives to sedans, and the manufacturers market their cars accordingly.

    BMW pitched the 318ti more as a cheap entry-level BMW, and less like competitive sports hatch. Materials and equipment levels reflected that positioning.

    Mercedes did the same thing with the C230 Sport Coupe (which really wasn’t all that sporty to begin with). Audi didn’t even bother showing up to the party, and VW focused on the Jetta.

    Too bad…these are fun cars.

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