This car was my faithful companion for six years. I acquired it in early 2003 with very low mileage and then drove it regularly through the following six years until it was destroyed in a freak accide...
This car was my faithful companion for six years. I acquired it in early 2003 with very low mileage and then drove it regularly through the following six years until it was destroyed in a freak accident (tree fell on it during a storm). By the end, I was very satisfied with it for what it was, and would still be driving it today had fate not intervened.
Fuel economy could be considered fairly good, even today, though power is somewhat underwhelming. Nevertheless, the engine is smooth and responsive, and I never felt as though the car truly wanted for power as a daily driver (you will have much better results with the five speed manual transmission). The sport suspension is ideal, as the standard suspension is too soft for extremely aggressive driving.
The car was essentially reliable, though there were a few (typically minor) issues here and there. The manual transmission is much more durable than the automatic, particularly as the car ages. I also recommend overhauling the engine's cooling system (water pump, expansion tank, thermostat) before the car reaches 100,000 miles.
The styling is conventionally handsome, inside and out - if perhaps a bit dated today. Though some might find it spartan and under-appointed, I'm one who appreciates the purposeful interior, particularly the driver-oriented ergonomics. Some of the controls are not particularly intuitive (if only because they differ so much from the norm), but make plenty of sense once you're accustomed to them.
One final issue to note: early (1999-2001) base model (323/325) 3 series cars like these are not usually well appointed in terms of gadgets/features/interior amenities. Drive-centric items like four wheel disc brakes, electronic stability control and ABS are standard, as well as a few other niceties (one touch power windows). However, don't be surprised to find a car that lacks items such as map lights, seat-back storage nets, auto-dimming mirrors, auto-sensing wipers or headlights, or even cruise control. A good number don't have CD players, either. If you're willing to overlook this, you can expect to get a nice looking, fuel efficient car that's cheap to insure and a lot fun to drive. Just make sure the car you're buying has a well documented history, stay on top of maintenance, and you'll be fine. Good luck.