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BMW 3 Series (1997-2006) Buying Guide

BMW 3 Series (1997-2006)
BMW 3 Series (1997-2006)BMW 3 Series (1997-2006)BMW 3 Series (1997-2006)BMW 3 Series (1997-2006)BMW 3 Series (1997-2006)BMW 3 Series (1997-2006)BMW 3 Series (1997-2006)BMW 3 Series (1997-2006)Pictures shown may not represent exact model specified

by Richard Dredge

BMW has achieved the apparently impossible, maintaining an exclusive image while outselling the Mondeo with its 3-Series. Build quality is first-rate, dynamics are superb and even four-cylinder cars are great to drive. Plenty of engines and bodystyles to choose from, but make sure you buy a car with a full BMW service history.

We LikeWe Don't Like
Great to drive
Brilliantly engineered
Cast-iron image
Early 316 and 318s need more power
Expensive to buy
Can be poorly equipped
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Key Dates 
11/973-Series saloon on sale
2/98320d introduced
3/99316i launched
7/99Coupé on sale
5/99Touring debuts
9/99330d on sale
6//00330i arrives
6/00Convertible and 330d on sale
9/00325Ci replaces 323Ci, Touring and M3 arrive
9/01M3 gets SMG II, M3 Convertible and new Compact launched
10/01318ti and 320td Compacts arrive, plus 3-Series range is facelifted
1/02SMG for 325i and 330i
4/02330Ci Clubsport introduced
3/03Compact facelifted
10/03330Cd launched
3/04318d on sale
12/04320Cd appears
  • Pre-September 2001 316 and pre-April 2002 318 have gutless engines
  • Check for overheating as engine fan often packs up
  • Check the head gasket hasn't blown from failed engine cooling
  • Balljoints and wishbone bushes in front suspension wear, causing clonks
  • Air mass sensor causes flat spots on diesel
  • Misfires on diesels are usually down to a cracked inlet manifold
  • Engine management light illuminating is probably a faulty throttle housing plug - a new engine wiring loom is needed.
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