I bought this car when I needed a cheap set of wheels, but I couldn’t stand the thought of a boring, front wheel drive, 4 cylinder, Japper, devoid of any character. The BMW only cost me NZ$1,200 and it still feels like a quality car which has never let me down. It’s quite different to my last car to drive (a 1993 Honda Accord VTEC) and is a bit heavier in the brakes and steering. However it has fantastic feel back through the wheel and is a delight to punt over a twisty road with its great handling. The brakes are OK and with it’s high gearing and lock-up auto it will easily return 36 mpg on the open road with 100 kph at only 2,200 rpm. With constant 50 – 60 kph round town running it returns 28 – 30 mpg, which I reckon is good for a 6 cylinder automatic of this age.
My only criticism is the high gearing and chronic lack of torque from the engine. The gearing kills the acceleration unless you’re over 4,000 rpm. To get reasonable performance you must learn to flatten the accelerator all the time, which takes the edge off its usual relaxed feel. 0-100 kph in 12 seconds sounds OK (just!) but on light throttle openings the car is a slug! Some hills require dropping back to 2nd gear and lots of revs to keep the speed up and overtaking takes some planning. Whilst this isn’t a problem in normal driving (and the engine does sound nice and the auto gearbox is very smooth) it can get frustrating when accelerating onto motorways or across intersections. I think the 5 speed manual would be a lot quicker.
It’s fine for two people, but four is a bit of a squeeze. The 4 speaker tape deck was probably top of the line when new and is still OK today. The seats are very adjustable and at 6’ 1” (1.84 m) tall I can happily drive it all day. It has a sun roof, but no air con or electric glass. Very reliable and people often comment when they see that I drive a BMW and are amazed when they learn how cheap it was.
For the price it’s a great car and cheap to run, just don’t plan on being in a hurry!