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Ever since i was a young boy growing up the BMW name was synonyms with quality, reliability and of course the " Statues" symbol for hey look at me i'm doing well! Eventually i was lucky enough to fall into that bracket many years on, so i headed to the BMW garage to purchase my first BMW, I remember as i entered the forecourt thinking to myself wow i'm really here and i'm going to leaving with one of these fine machines, the excitement gripped me as i felt the butterflies build from within like going on a first date. As i gingerly perused the outside cars my eye was taken by a gorgeously exquisite 6 month old 2003 model 318 CI SE in a wonderful dark blue as i approached it i had of course attracted the attention of the resident BMW "Hawk" Sales man, who had no hesitation in pouncing on me awaiting for his notch on his quota! He began his sales pitch to which of course i had no real interest in for i was mesmerized by the beauty of this machine, It was holding a price tag of at the time £19,950 and i was a little hesitant even though i could very easily afford it, for someone like me who had worked hard and saved hard it was a huge expenditure and even though i had gone to purchase one the lump in my throat at the cost prevented me from diving in too soon, Thankfully for as we all know negotiation is part of the fun of purchasing a car.
I was handed the keys and as i opened the door and felt the weight i knew that this was a well built machine the hinge action was so smooth for such a large door and i had no issue in opening or shutting without slamming the door, the leather seats were comfortable and easy to adjust having 3 levers to the right and i felt very relaxed as i adjusted to my requirements, as i put the keys into the ignition the dashboard came to life the lights began to flash and the on-board computer started indicating all sorts of numbers to me, i could no longer hold back the child in me as i fired up the 2.0i 147 bhp 16 cylinder machine i felt at ease as though i was meant to be there. (0-60, 8.9 secs and a top speed est 136mph), I asked about fuel consumption which the sales man informed me i would avg 38mpg, and of course the insurance bracket for the vehicle which I believe was 14.
Interior was plastic however well molded and built giving the feel as though it wasn't the best interior but it wasn't the worst in the range, and the stereo bog standard CD player of which i was highly disappointed with sound quality, everything was intuitive what ever i needed to get to was well with in my natural reach, fitted with A/C, Cruise Control, CD skip/Search/volume on the wheel, Visibility was good having only a minor blind spot but over all i felt in control, for a coupe the riding position was low but you were not seated on the floor as in some other coupes (Read my review of Toyota Celica). Comfortable and relaxed but felt as though you were protected by the beast that I was now sat in.
As i depressed the clutch which to be honest i found a little stiff and placed the vehicle into 1st gear i allowed it to bite and depressed the accelerator slowly the (pedal itself i found strange more like a pivot point at the base rather than the top but well placed for a man to drive unlike some smaller cars with the pedals on top of each other!) i pulled off out of the car park, once on the road the ride was extremely comfortable the precision of movement was incredible and i felt as well as being in the ultimate driving machine people were noticing me and i felt more confident within myself as strange as that may sound! The pick up of the vehicle was good although i felt a little sluggish due to the on board computer limiting you, and that i think was one of my issues, i want to drive a car, i want to feel as though its me that's controlling the car unfortunately with CBC (Cornering Brake Control) and DSC (Dynamic Stability Control, which can be switched off) i felt as though some of me had been taken away however even though i felt as though my masculinity was being taken away by a computer i was not to worried hey its a Beemer, (and from first hand experience be warned i had an issue with my coil packs which i had to replace!)
The exterior styling i loved it bold brassy but not over stated you know its a bmw and i think that 1999 - 2006 were quite probably the sexiest model 3 Series to be made, and in my opinion one to own or at least drive once in this lifetime. And to be honest the price that you can pick one of these beauty's for now less than £3000 i think its a fantastic price for a fantastic car.
About a year ago I decided to opt for an import, the process wasn't too messy and the saving was around £4500 on the list price even with all the hidden costs. However I think you can probably get a pretty competitive deal through a UK dealer these days. Mine was fitted with the German 2000 spec, i.e. Cruise Control, Parking Distance Control, Elec Front Seats, White Indicator Lenses and some other bits which I forget. As usual the build quality is superb and backed up by excellent dealer service, you pay the price but its definately worth it. BMW have since changed the range and I think if I was to choose now I may have stretched my budget and gone for the 6cyl 320Ci. The 318Ci is smooth and quiet and the lowered sports suspension makes for a solid but not uncomfortable ride. The traction control is a welcome addition this winter. The power on the new 1900cc 8V engine matches that of the old 318iS 16V, however I would like a bit more for overtaking. Thats as much criticism as I can level. Space wise it can comfortably seat 4 adults although you may have trouble packing all their luggage, i.e. boot space is fair but not overly generous. Top of the Coupe's in my opinion and I'm sure it will hold its value well.