2002 BMW 3 Series 320iA 2.2 liter six cylinder from Finland
Comfortable tourer for two people
One word: sound. The cabin is filled with an incredibly sporty sound of the straight six which is quite unlike the sound of a V6. Makes me grin everyone I make a decent acceleration. The noise level (of annoying noise) is very low. Tires (205/55/16) hum somewhat and wind noise comes into play in speeds in excess of 130 km/h.
The car is equipped with OEM sport suspension. It is 15mm lower than the standard, but ground clearance is still better than in most other German marques. The suspension is decently firm and becomes excellent when traveling in speeds above 150 km/h. Doesn't make your teeth clatter in the city either.
Automatic transmission takes some performance out of the small six. The transmission is better in 325 or 330 as they have loads more usable torque. It is still a decently quick car in normal traffic conditions, but you do need to use the throttle. I use the Steptronic hardly ever as it isn't like in a manual; even if you have the second gear engaged the throttle response is as slow as in D or SD-positions. The revs climb up to the allowed ~6300 rpm in all modes (kick-down) and the next gear is engaged despite manual mode. Very handy for overtaking.
The cabin is not very spacious. There is a huge difference between a 5-series and a 3-series especially in the width of the cabin. The former owner of the car only had the car for a few months as his bottom never really became comfortable with the seats (a 62-year old man). My bottom got used to the seats after three days. These are standard seats with cloth. Word of advice for people buying a 3-series; get the sport seats. They are at least as comfortable, but they have more adjustments to make you feel really, really good...
The ergonomics of the car are otherwise excellent for the driver. My previous car was an E36 Compact so I felt instantly comfortable with the layout of the "cockpit". Everything works like someone really thought about it and tested it afterwards. The ambiance in the cabin is different than in any other car. That's probably one reason BMW owners are so loyal to the brand. Not everyone likes the BMW cabin, mind you.
The back seats are comfortable, but the space is limited. My SO and I are not very tall so the rear leg space is ample, but not so behind someone taller than 180 cm.
The boot has ample space for the stuff of two people on holiday, but not for mom's, dad's, two kids' and granny's. For that you would buy a 5-series Touring anyway.
The running costs are somewhat high because of the six cylinder engine, but mostly due to the automatic. I get a mileage of around 10l/100 km (~28mls/gallon UK). This goes up about 20% in the city traffic and down about 20% in the longer journeys. The cost of insurance is not much different than that of my previous car (1.6l engine). The tires do cost somewhat more because they are 16" instead of the 15" in the 316i.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 18th October, 2003
Informative, useful and helpful review. I agree with all the comments made.
People who buy a BMW and appreciate the character of the brand don't seem to stop after the first one.
I've had five so far. Wouldn't buy any of the news ones as the 5, 6, 7 series are too big and the last good 3 series was the one this poster is writing about (E46 I believe).
Hoping some variation of the 1 series comes to America as that seems to represent what BMW was always about - small, light, and amazingly agile.
I agree, just cannot seem to get my head around the styling of the new E90 3 Series. I think BMW got it spot on with the E46.
Update after 59 000 kilometers (37 000 miles) :
What has gone wrong with the car:
- boot lid handle was completely corroded inside and replaced at a cost on 180 euros (of which half was the paint job). You might want to check yours to see if there is rust beneath the handle, early versions will scrape the paint and rust eventually follows
- brake pads replaced at 25 000 kms, front & rear
- AC gives out foul smell at times, disinfecting the system works only for a while; if AC is kept on at all times the smells are not noticeable
- steering column rattles infrequently, only heard because the car is very quiet otherwise...
The servicing has been done according to the maintenance indicator at 25 000, 43 000 and now at 59 000 kms. The maintenance comes basically every two years because of the low mileage.
As for winter tires we've been using Continental CVC3s and they make for a comfortable yet safe ride in the Nordic conditions. The summer tires need replacing and as the Goodyears have been lately rather harsh I'm looking for other brands.
All in all we've been very happy with the car. As the family grows we're adding roof racks and Thule box as the boot space is limited. No need to replace the car as the overall condition is still superb and trade-in values do not reflect the value of the car to us.