The community thinks...
By far the best workhorse econobox hatchback ever by Silverstreak on 07/03/2012. Trim: 1997 BMW 318ti, Owned 7 years.
Pros: Economical (25 mpg in town, up to 36 on the road if I don't lead-foot it). Got 40mpg on a daylong country drive. Perfect city car, easy to park even in San Francisco where it fits between the driveways. Cavernous hatchback -- I've used it to move furniture and give rides to two large happy dogs. Can cruise at 100 all day., plenty of torque. Nice big sunroof. Decent factory sound system. High enough clearance that it will not scrape pavement on driveways. Goes up dirt roads quite well without bottoming out. Parts are not very expensive; the 318ti was the simplest car BMW ever imported so indie shops will work on it and there are plenty of aftermarket parts. Looks great when cleaned up.
Cons: It's a sporty car, not a living room sofa so the ride's a little harsh and the seats could be a bit softer, which doesn't matter in town.. BMW economized on sound insulation in the doors. Does require a little downshifting in the high Sierra. Tinny window regulators bend and go out periodically. Getting into the back seat is for agile, skinny people only. Once in there, two can sit fairly comfortably. Horn could be louder. Theft alarm has gone off randomly in cold and damp, so I disconnect it in winter.
Overall review: The car has served me amazingly well for the past seven years and 70,000 miles. I replaced my 750il with this 318ti and still think I got the better car.. Aside from normal maintenance, the largest piece to go was the transmission, which lost the synchros to 4th gear. I replaced it with a junkyard transmission for $1200 including labor and new clutch. Driver door window regulator has failed twice. I had the radio rebuilt and recently had some cosmetic bodywork done and the headliner replaced. The 4-cylinder engine is bullet-proof, designed for 89 octane.I used to change cars every couple of years, but can't find a reason to replace this one. Just took a 1,000 mile road trip through back country, desert and mountains, and it ran just fine. Mountain passes required a little downshifting, but cruise control handled the freeway well. Too bad they stopped importing these cars and brought in the Mini instead.
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