My wife and I bought a brand new bmw 318 se in 2007. It is metalic black which is great to look at but very hard to keep clean. optional extras were added when purchased which were not cheap but worth the extra cost such as leather seats and heated front seats. The car is one of the best cars have ever owned and have only a few things I would like to change such as the run flat tyres as these can be expensive to replace and the lack of standard equipment. The car itself runs like a dream and we have had no problems with it except in the snow. At 17000 miles the car has only needed one service which was very reaonably priced and the next is due will be when the car is four years old. Because of the cost of a new one a better option would be to buy a second hand one.
I took delivery of my basic 318i SE auto in July, having waited 14 weeks from ordering. It is a company car and was chosen because of the combination of lowish CO2 emission for a 2l auto saloon and, extra bells and whistles of the SE edition, and desire to drive a BMW. I also looked at the Honda Accord (lots of bells and whilstle, but too ordinary and sluggish), the Audi A4 (too big) and the basic X type Jag (unbelieveabley sluggish as an auto, and awful CO2 emission). The car has no sunroof, no cd player, no collapsing rear seats, no leather seats. It is very basic.
The good news is that the basic bits that are supplied are good. A very good radio/tape player, an effective cruise control and helpful reversing distance sensors.
As of November 2002 (4 months) I have driven about 7000 miles of mixed driving. My only need to seek the help of BMW service has been to adjust a rear door which did not seem to close easily enough. Petrol consumption is better than my previous Laguna. I am getting about 35 to the gallon on mixed commuting and it can go up to just under 40 on a long trip if I dont push it hard. Handling is precise and you get a good feel for what is happening, even through the power steering. Braking is predictable if a little abrupt, and so far I have not suffered any issues relating to slip from the rear wheel drive, but winter is yet to bite.
In north London, the 3 series BMW fades into the bacground: there are so many around, it is just part of the furniture, but I still have concerns that other drivers perceive drivers of new BMW's as smart arses with more money than sense. I am too old to be put in that category, and for me the car was chosen for its suitability to do a job. I am still in the paranoid phase about aquiring marks and bumps, and even though I don't have to worry about such things, my employers should feel pleased that I am trying my best to keep out of trouble.
Why should you not buy one:
1. You c
an get a lot more car for you money with other marques
2. The boot is too small for a serious adult car. It can hold holiday luggage for two, but no more.
3. It is stupidly basic. These days, it is unrealistic to not put a cd player in as part of the entertainment. You can't put your own in becase controls and fascia are separate, and the dedicated BMW one is poor value for money that is not recouped.
4. Some of the controls are un-ergonomic. The steering wheel controls of the SE are not as easy as the stalk controls of the laguna, and are laid out so that you sometimes have to take your eye off the road, defeating the object of the execise. The air conditioning needs a lot of playing with to get things working optimally, and does not switch on the cooling automatically as you lower the temperature (BMW told me that it is something to do with economy).
5. It will be a problem to choose another make next time.
Why you should buy one:
1. It is a great drivers car, and is a pleasure to be in control.
2. It is something to look forward to each morning.
3. If something does go wrong, the BMW customer service is magic for a 3 year warranty period.
Post Script Feb 03
Nothing has really gone wrong with the car since new. I have driven about 11000 miles .
Getting about 31 mpg overall around suburban london.
Boot is proving to be too small for family use, and failed to take in two big cases for main holiday.
Minor niggle is that there appears to be something wrong with the climate control, and the heating does not seem stable. I get the odd whiff of hot wax in the car, and suspect that there may be a thermostat problem. Routine service is indicated in about 4500 miles, so will get if fixed then.
Post Script July 2003 - first anniversary
minor faults turned out to be my fault, owing to incorrect settings on heating and cooling.
No significant faults at one year. Have now done 21000 miles.
First oil change cost almost £100 at BMW dealer.
Only gripes are still the boot size and lack of CD player on basic model.
Getting about 34mpg overall. A/C has coped well in hot weather.
Post Script: November 2004
I have now had the car for 43,000 miles and have burned through two ignition coils through not fault of my own. The last one was over a weekend, and the BMW emergency service was called. They were absolutely appalling, and even sent a recovery vehicle to the wrong address. There are also intermittent faults on the radio and warning light sensors. I was given a Vauxhall Vectra 1.9 turbo diesel as a hire car. Made me gratefull that I was not expected to drive one of those.