1990 BMW 3 Series 318is 1.8 M42 DOHC 4 cylinder from UK and Ireland
A small, light, well built, great handling car which costs peanuts these days
Required a tune-up when purchased, but fine thereafter, until recently; Economy has gone from 34-35mpg to 30-31mpg under same (hard) country driving conditions, and despite another recent tune-up, where no faults were discovered. Performance is unaltered in every way, but economy is down... Very frustrating.
Required a new timing chain and sprockets when I bought it - £300 parts alone.
Had a broken rear coil spring when I got it - £140 from BMW for the pair... Had to go to BMW as it's relatively rare and after-market places don't do many parts.
Otherwise, exceptionally reliable.
I had an '85 Audi 80 Sport for 13 years and 250K miles, and could not replace it, it was such a great car; light, quick, economical, stiff, good handling, cheap to run and utterly reliable. Finally though, it started to get rusty and I cast around for a replacement. After a recommendation I looked at a few and bought one of these little BMWs.
Initially, and still even now to be honest, I miss the torque and driveability of my old 1800 Golf GTI engine in the Audi. Conversely, the BMW has great throttle response, especially on heel-and-toe downchanges, and it's a willing engine with reasonable economy (32mpg).
The chassis however, is great - very well balanced in dry and wet assuming you have the right tyres on the car. I put Koni shocks on it with standard springs and ride height, and though the ride is a little jiggly, the handling is really rewarding, so well balanced compared with a front-drive car - even something like a Pug 205.
The brakes were renewed before I bought the car and they are very good as standard - good bias and plenty of stopping power.
The driving position lets the car down a little for me - not a patch on most Audis. I had to make brackets to allow the BMW Sports seats to go further backwards, for my legs, but then am too far from the wheel for my liking (too many years rallying and racing...)
I find the car OK, but not brilliantly comfortable for long distances beyond about 2hrs.
The best bit though, is returning to the car after a while like say a holiday, or having driven something else, especially a more modern car.
It feels so alive, lithe, responsive and informative, with no rubbish like ABS, traction control and other electronics to stop you having fun, that it never fails to impress me.
And despite 155k miles, it still has many more left in it, and looks tidy to boot. A pity that the E30s have a bad reputation as a 'chavs' car, because they got softer and less communicative after that.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 5th March, 2005
17th Dec 2005, 15:29
I recently bought a 318iS and I agree with what you say about them. Truly wonderful cars to drive and are a complete package.
18th Feb 2008, 05:23
I have just bought a 318is also and I am making the move from FWD to RWD now for the first time.
Immediate difference in the way I drive, and will soon learn to drive... The car behaves so differently to a FWD and it feels right.
I need to take it down some country roads to learn it, and maybe even hit some track days once I've got the car 110% solid!
They are gorgeous to look at too and after seeing mine (with rare Zender kit), then walking off and coming across an E36 and E46, nothing compared.
12th Feb 2009, 18:25
Original poster here...
Now 2009 and I still have my E30, now with 190,000 miles on the clock. Still utterly reliable, at least in that it hasn't let me down except once in France when the alternator packed up. But a couple of batteries got me home and a £25 unit from a scrapper is still working fine 3 years later.
The car has also done 2 trackdays round Cadwell Park circuit, ragged mercilessly for 90 laps on each occasion. Again, no problems, and drove home on each occasion.
I have replaced a few bits such as repairing the leaking fuel tank, replaced suspension bushes, new brake lines, exhaust, brakes etc but these are mostly all service items, and you can't complain at that.
New brakes and a move to the 15" BBS rims from the original 14" sharpened the handling and improved grip quite a bit.
Handling is still the best bit. Engine seems a little slower these days, but burns no oil and compression is still fine. Maybe I'm getting used to also driving more modern cars which are so damn quick these days, but so much less rewarding...
As a footnote, my sister has a paranoia about unreliability nowadays with her car, but when it goes wrong I fix it and lend her my BMW instead - she always sleeps easily when she has my car... No more needs to be said!