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The BMW 318iS was available in the older E30 shape from approximately 1989-91 and then the E36 shape until around 1999. The earlier car was based on a 2 door saloon body and the later car came as 2 door coupe or 4 door saloon. Good E30 models are now fairly rare, as are the later E36 Saloon models as they were built in quite small numbers. The E36 Coupe was the most popular and there are still many around. My review is based on the E36 Coupe as I owned a late '96 (P-reg) model for 5 years from 2003 to 2008.
My '96 318iS was actually one of the first 'facelift' models. The E36 didn't change shape much but around '96 it got slightly wider kidney grilles on the front, and a 1.9 litre engine. I looked for one with the M-Sport pack too, this consisted of 16" twin-spoke alloys, M-Sport bumpers, skirts and side-strips (just like the M3), leather steering wheel, handbrake and gearknob, half-leather (the other half being anthracite cloth) seats and black headlining. Mine also had a boot spoiler, another optional extra. It also had remote central locking, electric windows, mirrors and sunroof, and original BMW radio-cassette with 6 disk multichanger in the boot. I loved the was the car looked, and in five years the only modifications I made was a chrome tailpipe, a white indicator kit as fitted on later M3s, and some lowered uprated springs, although that modification was borne out of necessity as one of my rear springs broke (a common problem apparently) and so I replaced the lot.
The car was great to drive, with 143bhp it was fairly quick, it handled extremely well (especially with the uprated springs), it was comfortable and surprisingly good on fuel, I often calculated my miles per gallon on various trips and this would average around 38mpg, which really isn't bad. I also enjoyed the car being rear wheel drive, but I was used to it having previously owned another BMW (E30 316i). I also found the car really practical, it would seat 4 in comfort, 5 at a push, and whilst the boot opening wasn't that big, the boot itself was very spacious, the rear seats even folded down (most don't in a coupe) so longer items could be carried easily. Maintenance costs were minimal, my car was very reliable and apart from routine services, tyres, brake pads etc. the only issues I had were the broken rear spring, and having to replace the rear trailing arm bushes for an MOT (again, a fairly common wear & tear issue and not expensive to fix). I did all the servicing and maintenance myself, using parts from 'Euro Car Parts', keeping all the receipts as service history. Parts were cheap but good quality from ECP, and the 318iS not difficult to work on for anyone with basic mechanical skills or a have-a-go attitude :o)
I still miss my 318iS, I only sold it as I'd had it for five years and wanted a change and fancied a BMW touring to carry my drums, bikes etc. (the coupe could carry most things, but you'd have to dismantle bigger things to get them in the boot). It was my second BMW, and I now have a third, an E46 318i Touring. I'd highly recommend a 318iS to anyone, as they can now be had for £1000 upwards. I would recommend spending as much as you can on the best car you can find though, a late one, with few owners, a lower mileage, plenty of history, and as standard as possible. And, if you can find it, one with the M-sport pack. You'll love it!
Please note: My rating is based on MY experiences with MY old 318iS. If you don't do your homework, and buy a thrashed/dodgy/unreliable/rusty one, then your opinion may differ. Buy a good one though and I hope you'll have the same experience as me :o)
I own a BMW 318IS 1999. It has the newer M44 1.9 engine, which I would recommend.
Although its an exact replica to a M3 on the outside the engine is also very good. Standard your looking at 150bhp and if you spend and additional £300 you could easily get that to 185bhp. I bought a new 1/2 exhaust system for £170 and a K+N Induction Kit (57-0276) and also some HKS Iridium spark plugs, £40.
My car is now flying and Im so happy with it.
Overall, if your lucky enough to get your hands on a 1.9 thats in good nick, you wont be dissapointed. M3 looks, near M3 performance and a heck of a lot cheaper on the insurance and tax.
Make sure when buying one that it doesnt have too many miles on the clock (around 80-100 thousand is good). Make sure that its original. Make sure theres service history with it and finally have a set budget for improvements and obviously any repairs.
SUPERB CAR! SUPERB PERFORMANCE!
ITS JUST A 2L M3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The BMW 318is - Sporty yet Affordable.
I have owned my BMW 318is for around a month now, and going from a Renault Clio 1.2 i am finding the differences really vast.
The car pulls very well, i'm sure it feels gutless in light of bigger models such as the 325i or 328i, but for a heavy set 1.8 i feel it has some go in it!
The M42 engine runs smoothly, uses a sensible ammount of fuel (I drive 37 miles per day and use just 5 pounds of fuel) And it isn't overly noisy and revvy.
The M42 is the largest of the 4 cylinder engines put into the 3 series (Unless you count the revised M44 which was a 1.9 and replaces the M42 in later models)
The interior is smart, comfortable and pleasant. I remember sitting in the driving seat and feeling immediately in control, The stereo is placed high up so you can access it easily which i liked, electric windows and mirrors make things simple to set up.
Although the dash is made largely of shiny black plastic i don't think it feels cheap, it is nicely formed and is very functional.
Higher Spec Models would have climate control in place of the standard heater controls, and underneath would be an on board computer (OBC) which calculates MPG, Temperature etc.
I found immediately that rear wheel drive is something you have to treat with respect, i frequently used to drive with my foot resting above the clutch pedal, i found that if i take a corner too quickly and dip the clutch slightly the car can fishtail, which i found scary, it is easy to lose the back end in the wet also if you pull away sharply or wheelspin (boy racers) of course this could be used to enjoy the odd drift as well if you have the room to do so.
Averaging around 37 mpg on fairly quick runs around bendy country roads means i think if you were clocking up motorway and A road miles you could push more like 40 mpg out of this car, possibly more.
The cars come with fairly high mileage nowadays it would seem, engines are readily available (as well as larger engines if you planned to upgrade) but rest assured that the engines are well built, come with a cam chain rather than a cam belt so less danger of it snapping and destroying your engine.
I feel that the car is affordable (i work at mcdonalds and i can afford to run it!) fun, good looking and smart, a pleasure to drive at all times, and overall very eye catching, you could easily upgrade the looks to M3 spec with small outlay.