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I have owned a 318i touring for about 9 months and have found it to be little more than a practical workhorse. The engine, although sounds like a Buick with a hole in the exhaust, has the acceleration of a hard boiled egg being pushed down a slight incline. The handling is poor, with a very twitchy back end and the touring 'estate' makes very little difference due to the narrow boot. Although I found the cost of spares and repairs suprisingly competitive, and the car just seems to continue to go regardless of the abuse given, it can at best be described as workmanlike. Go for the 2.5 instead unless you want a slow reliable family car.
Well, I never really thought of myself as a BMW driver, but when this creature presented itself at our local garage I was smitten. Our old car having given up the ghost I was touring the area in hope, and saw what is now my very own BMW 320i D reg, metallic blue four door manual. It's a super car. The salesman said coyly, 'Once driven, sold.' and I smirked knowingly, but drove and then, indeed, bought. These cars drive like dreams, and look better. Although 13 years old it shone like the sun. Chrome bumpers, not tacky plastic accessories, give it a look of the past hard to find on modern cars. Not a speck of rust could be located, even underneath. The interior was a bit worn, I'll grant, but, hey, why not? It's nice to sit in. Feels good. However, if you want to sit in the back, you'll need little legs. I can, however, recommend the boot which appears to have the capacity to swallow an elephant. It certainly managed to do the equivalent to a screaming two-year old who had his nappy changed in it in a busy high street without a problem - now that's a test I never saw on 'Top Gear'. So now it's mine. A car to delight the senses, but not horrify the bank manager. What's more, people love it. They look. Colleagues at work ask for 'a lift' all of a sudden. And, yes, it does go fast. Very fast. Those wide wheels hold the road in a scary way. But I'll let you find out about that for yourself. >>>>>>> After two years, I return to update you. Yes, it's still mine. A few new bits later, and some cost, but it still goes like a dream. Let me suggest with hindsight that the pricy parts issue is not as bad as it seems. As it is an older car, many small independent garages are able to source parts quite cheaply, and 'recycled' bits are actually fairly easy to come by. For example, I had to get the interior driver's door pillar trim replaced, and it cost only £27 for the who le bit, plus plasitc shields for the seatbelt entry point. These cars are now getting quite hard to come by, especially the four-door ones. Two door ones tend to be had by 'boy racers', so look out for loose clutch and smoky exhausts. Big speakers (or holes) set into the parcel shelf are the easiest way to spot this problem in advance!
I have once had the pleasure of owning an early B reg 323i coupe. I have had 6 cars since i passed my test and this has to be the car i would buy again. To start with the looks of the car are amazing. The smooth lines that BMW have always put into their cars are still there and it always turned heads no matter if i was in a busy high street or a motor way. The interior of the car is by far the comfiest i have sat in. The seats just seem to hug you and the dash keeps everything within your reach. The built in fuel computer tells you everything you need to know about any part of the car, brakes, fuel, oil, temp, miles to gallon, etc. The road holding is amazing, before i got the car i thought rear wheel drive would be hard to control but in the time i had the car it never so much screeched at a corner no matter what speed. i left the best to last. The engine on these cars run forever. the one i had was sitting at 160,000 miles and there was never a day when i had any problems. Not a puff of oil smoke in sight. The power of these cars is immense. The 323 had 178hp and it could eat any other car on the road for breakfast. On the track 145mph wasnt even breaking a sweat. I have yet to see a car built like that sinc e i owned the BMW.
I have had the pleasure of owning 2 320i models, one a B reg manual and the other a G reg auto. They were both fine vehicles. I maintained them myself and by buying service kits from the main agents, never had a moments trouble with either of them. They are not for the Hammer and Spanner brigade mind. If you buy one, get a workshop manual and follow it's instructions to the letter. The main factor in maintenance is to do it when required, on time and only neglect one of these machines at your peril. Take your time and it will be easy. Properly maintained they do not go wrong! These vehicles are engineered, not thrown together like some makes. They are a pleasure to drive with perhaps the only real disappointment being more road/tyre noise than you would expect. Mechanically however they are a dream. Fuel economy was usually in the high 20's around town with the manual version with 36mpg and over, attainable on a decent run. The problem is that it is very tempting (and easy) to exercise the right foot a bit too much and this obviously affects consumption quite a bit. Overall though a brilliant piece of engineering.