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My wife bought this vehicle when she had to commute up and down to Newcastle every week. She covered at least 1000 miles per week. They are great cars to drive but have to be serviced regularly and correctly. Unfortunately, the car is now in the garage awaiting a replacement engine. It is a 1995 N reg 318i (1796 cc). It was only purchased because it was black and she had always wanted a black BMW. At the time I thought she should have bought the nice diesel version but that was dark green and a bit of a no starter. The colour not the car.
The acceleration and the performance are second to none. The breaking is excellent but be careful not to over do it. The main concern to new users is the fact it is rear wheel drive so they can be a little hard to handle at first. The local mechanic recommended putting a bag of sand in the boot to stabilise it and the extra ballast helped.
The fuel consumptionfor such a performance vehicle is excellent and at normal motorway speeds it must give 30+ mpg. From Plymouth to Newcastle and tootling around Newcastle was a tank of fuel!!
BMW's being performance cars need to be driven with precision. I told this to my wife and didn't realise how true it was until she let me have a go. The steering is excellent but more like a racing car than most standard cars.
These baby's are more for a couple or a smaller family. The front seats are comfortable and spacious but the rear area is more limited. The boot too is spacious.
I cannot reinforce the importance of servicing. The cylinder head gasket went once and was rebuilt with the head crack tested. Then it went again and a whole new head is now required. I've been told by many that the straight 8 1.8 version is the most susceptible to this kind of problem especially high mileage ones. It was bought at 146k on the clock the first problems were at 178000 then again at 196000. The poor thing took a lot of stick so probably had enough. Until then the only other problem was the water pump needed replacing and quite a few tyres were used.
Parts for BMW's and main dealer servicing repairs aren't cheap but there are a number of specialist independent garages around the country plus quite a few breakers specialising in BM parts. E-bay is quite a good source for things but is a little hit and miss.
All in all I would highly recommend the 3 series but have again through experience been told the 323 is probably the best version especially for the mid 1990 vehicles.
I noticed on what vehicles report that BMW's were not the most reliable new car but that could well relate to the over enthusiasm of the users rather than the cars themselves.