Like the M535i from the other day, the 318ti continued BMW’s expansion of M branding to pedestrian models. That plan included inclusion of a new down-market economy model; the 318ti Compact. The new hatchback platform brought the pricing of the small executive into the teens (just), but the only engine available – the 138 horsepower M44 1.8 liter 4-cylinder – proved just adequate motivation. Though big brother power wouldn’t come to the chassis, the Sport, Club Sport and later M-Sport packages added BMW Motorsport DNA into the E36/5. Subtle styling revisions included M3 front bumper cover, revised rocker panels and a diffusor-inspired rear cover. The Club Sport and M-Sport received special mirror covers and integrated fog lights, as well, along with the M-Sport suspension. Inside, special sport seats with Millpoint fabric (red in the case of the Club Sport), along with an M branded wheel and shift knob, helped to remind the driver that they were in the sportiest of economy BMWs. And the basic package was fairly good to begin with, in spite of the power shortfall; Car and Driver rated the 318ti Sport second in its handling competition, though it should be noted that it lost to a front-wheel drive Honda.
These 318ti M-Sports have developed a bit of a cult following as a result, offering economy car sensibility and cheap repairs with M3 looks – and, for many, a great basis for motor swaps down the line:
You don’t have to cast a very wide net to find a modified E30 BMW. Though they’ve been out of production for the U.S. market for some 25 years, they’re still a massively popular choice for enthusiasts – so much so, that they’re a bit ubiquitous and border on cliché.
As a result, we’ve seen our share of modified E30s on these pages with varying results. But today’s example really is something special. It’s not the first time I’ve heard an E30 be referred to as the cleanest, best built car in the country. I clicked the link with my normal base-level of E30 skepticism.
“It’ll be way, way overpriced for what it is. Lipstick on a pig. I’d prefer a stock one” rolled through my head.
You see, if I told you the value on a 318iS was such that it justified a full disassembly and restoration, you’d likely laugh. There could not possibly be a return on that investment, right? And on top of that, a resto-mod in a non-original color in a market which has highly prized only completely original, low mileage and stock examples to date?
Naysayers, bear witness.
Just the other day, Paul looked at a 1998 BMW 318ti in Oxford Green. An offbeat commuter, the condition of that car was great, but not so much was the near $7,000 price. Today I have another 318ti to look at, but this one ups the ante a bit. Again it is an original M44 car in great shape with well below average miles. The color is a little less 90s spectacular, but still looks nice in Alpine White. However, it’s the addition of the California roof and the M-Sport package which really helps this hatch stand out. Let’s take a look:
BMW’s introduction of the 1 series baffled me a bit. Sure, the idea of a rear-drive hot-hatch is enticing, but then two things happened. First, BMW made the version of the hot-hatch that was actually hot very, very expensive. Then, they didn’t bring it to the U.S., instead sending the 2-door sedan version over. In 1M form it certainly wasn’t bad, but the normal 128i and 135i versions look a bit like E46s that were left in the sun a bit too long after being sandwiched in front and rear collisions. Sound harsh? It is, I know, but I can’t help but see an English bulldog every time I see one of the 1 series cruising towards me. I much prefer the looks of BMW’s second attempt at a hatchback, the 318ti. It was funky, spunky and – especially in M-sport trim – looks exactly like what I’d want in a BMW hatchback. Okay, so there wasn’t the massive performance of the M-versions of the new 1 series or 2 series here, but then there isn’t the massive price, either. For a daily driver with good economy, it’s nice to couple that with good looks in a package that is very different than the norm:
One of the great unsung heros of the E36 lineup was the compact three-door hatchback, sold in the U.S. as the 318ti. Journalists decried the E30-based rear suspension and oversteering tendency of the 318. Enthusiasts were grumpy that it only came here with the 4-cylinder. And practical folks were happy to pass up the rear-drive amusement for a cheaper and better equipped Golf. But in my mind, the proportions of the 318ti were just right – like a rear drive Corrado, this car screamed of the potential for fun and practicality in one little package. The best looking of the bunch were the M-Sport models – though the changes were only cosmetic, they made the hot hatch look great!
Before the introduction of the MINI Cooper and the 1 series, BMW gave the small car segment a shot back in the mid 1990s with the introduction of the hatchback version of the E36, otherwise known as the ti. Clean, low mileage examples are rare these days, but here’s a clean, original example with the desirable sport package for sale on eBay:
The seller states:
Super clean real nice. Comes complete with all Book’s,Manuals,service records and two sets of remote key’s. This BMW is in excellent condition inside and out! Serviced and 100% road ready. Timing chain. All tuned up. Motor and transmission run 100%. Rotors and pads are new, tires, exhaust, hoses, belts, fluids all good. Front end and rear all good. air condition blows ice cold. There are no engine indicator lights on. I would drive this BMW anywhere! This vehicle is immaculate! always pampered and detailed! Never abused! The engine runs 100% with no problems detected. The under carriage is dry with no visible leaks. The 5-speed manual transmission shifts smoothly through all gears and performs as it should. The suspension is good and the vehicle is responsive to all driving conditions. This vehicle provides precise handling, effortless performance, and an excellent and comfortable ride. The cockpit is well designed with all controls at your finger tips. The acceleration is spirited and fuel economy respectable up to 29 mpg. The previous owner took pride in maintaining the absolute beautiful condition of this affordable BMW 318Ti Sport package hatchback coupe. The paint is glossy with No major blemishes. see pictures! The interior is in excellent condition. The Leather seats are like new and show little wear. The carpets are clean and fresh. Non smoke . No odors. No pets. Two sets of floor mats for winter and summer. The leather steering wheel, Door panels and Dash are in great shape. The carpets are clean and fresh. Do Not let the highway miles fool you this unit runs and looks great! Please do not hesitate to bid. This vehicle runs and looks great!
With 170k miles, anything over $5,000 would be a bit much for this car. $3,500 to $4,000 is probably a solid bet for what would be a good, most likely hassle free and efficient commuter vehicle that would stand out from the herd.