All the car you'll ever need
Nothing has gone wrong (touch wood)
It's easy to understand why these cars are so commonplace on the road, as they do pretty much everything you could ever want.
Performance: Superb. 0-60 in around 6 seconds and pulls like a jumbo past the ton. Sounds fabulous, totally smooth and astonishingly frugal. My best average on a tankful was 33 mpg, although average is more like 28-30. For the performance on tap, that is amazing. The engine's metallic rasp ad induction howl at high revs makes the hairs stand up on my neck.
Handling: Again, brilliant. Near zero body roll, sharp steering, great brakes and lovely controllable oversteer at the limit if you disable the electronics. Can feel a little large and cumbersome in the really twisty stuff, but for most A and B roads it's entertaining enough to warrant turning around and doing it all again (and I've done so)
Build quality: Peerless. Tiny, millimetre precise panel gaps, deep lustrous paint, quality plastics and a precise, machined feel to all the controls. Still looks, feels and drives like a brand new car.
Practicality: Okay for what it is, although adults complain about the lack of rear space. Comfortable for whole tanks of fuel at a time, hard wearing materials and low noise levels.
Equipment: Everything I need. A cracking Harmon Kardon hi-fi, electric windows, electric mirrors, climate control and a set of gorgeous 18" alloys.
Costs: Becoming more affordable now. Had a budget of UKP 15,000 and this came in just under it. There was a huge choice too. Good economy for what it is. BMW servicing a rip off, but independents charge less and in my experience do a better job (more personalised service). Insurance very reasonable - UKP 600 for a 30 yr old doing 30k PA with business use, car not garaged in low/mid risk area.
Unless you transport adults in the back regularly or need acres of boot space, this car does pretty much everything. Above all that however it's great fun to drive, searingly quick, well made and it looks utterly gorgeous. The E46 is the first 3 series to my mind that hasn't dated the instant its replacement arrived. The only thing I don't like is the naff image and the lack of exclusivity, but I can live with both.
Buy one. You won't regret it.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 16th December, 2005