Premium compact car; Built in USA, Germany
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door coupe
  • 4-door sedan
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,200 – $4,400*


1993 BMW 318i 4-door sedan


1994 BMW 318i 2-door convertible


1994 BMW 318i 2-door convertible interior


1996 BMW 318is 2-door coupe


1995 BMW 318ti 2-door hatchback interior

Pros:
  • Antilock brakes
  • Ride
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Wet-weather traction
  • Rear-seat room

Despite high secondhand prices, 4-cylinder BMWs appeal to those who like spirited, high-revving driving enjoyment. For that purpose, they’re hard to beat.

Overview

Not long after BMW redesigned its 3-Series for the 1992 model year with a more rounded profile and greater dimensions, a 4-cylinder 318i (4-door) and 318is (2-door) joined the lineup. Like their 6-cylinder counterparts 325i/is, the 318i/is got a standard driver-side airbag and antilock brakes. Initial models came only with manual shift, but BMW’s 4-speed automatic transmission arrived during 1993 as an option. BMW also issued 4-cylinder convertibles for a short time, but with the older, squared-off body. Not until 1994 would 4-cylinder convertibles adopt the smoothly curved shaping of the sedans.

Yearly Updates

1993 318i
For ’93, all coupes and sedans got increased front seat height adjustments to improve head room. A sport suspension package joined the option list for 4-cylinder models.
1994 318i
All models gained a passenger-side airbag. Convertibles finally got the new styling that had first appeared in ’92, as a 4-cylinder 318i ragtop emerged during this model year.
1995 318i
Late in 1995, BMW launched a low-budget 318ti hatchback with a closely related engine but a completely different appearance.
1996 318i
A bigger (1.9-liter) 4-cylinder engine went into mid-1996 models. Cruise control became standard on all 318-series automobiles, and traction control was an option. All models got a new 10-speaker, 200-watt sound system, plus a console cupholder. A new automatic climate-control system was also standard, while coupe and convertibles sported new alloy wheels.
1997 318i
All models got standard All-Season traction control for ’97. Most other changes were cosmetic, including reshaping of the familiar twin-kidney grille to match the larger 5-Series and the new Z3 roadster. Also, side-marker and turn-signal lamps were redesigned.
1998 318i
The 318 coupe and convertible models were replaced by more-expensive models called the 323. Sedan and hatchback 318is returned mostly unchanged. However, side airbags were now standard on the 318i sedan. The 3-Series was all new for 1999.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

A 1.8-liter engine was used into 1996, when BMW switched to a larger (1.9-liter) version with the same 138 horsepower but a bit more torque. Most major engine components were said to be either new or “significantly improved” as part of the increase in displacement. Engines in previous-style 1992 convertibles had slightly less power than the fours that went into coupes and sedans. BMW’s 4-speed automatic transmission, available since 1993, have economy, sport, and manual shift programs.

dohc I41
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 134
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 127
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual

22/27

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 138
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 129
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
22/32
21/29
25.5

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.9/116
Engine HP 138
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 133
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
23/31
22/31
20.2

1. Used in carryover-styled 1992 convertibles only.

Road Test

Four-cylinder BMWs target driving enthusiasts, who generally prefer manual shift. Because these engines come alive only at high rpm, they function better with manual shift than with automatic, which robs some of the engine’s zest. Around town, though, you can expect to shift the 5-speed frequently.

Installation of the larger engine in 1996 did not boost performance appreciably. Fuel mileage has averaged more than 25 mpg with the manual shift.

All 3-Series BMWs shine brightest in their sporty handling characteristics. They devour twisting roads with ease, helped by sharply precise yet fluid steering. Quick turns produce more body lean than expected, but the cars feel lithe and surefooted. Though the suspension is firm, ride quality beats many cars with softer suspensions, absorbing plenty of road flaws. Brakes are potent, too.

In wet or snowy weather, however, these rear drivers can get difficult to handle, as the tail slips easily sideways. Traction control is not all that effective.

Despite the increased size in this generation, interior space is not much larger than in previous BMWs. Rear space is acceptable only for two small adults, and rear head room is tight in the coupe due to its slightly lower roofline. Cabins are rather austere, with a lot of hard plastic surfaces that seem inappropriate for the car’s price. Lack of a tilt feature means the steering wheel sits a bit high, but analog gauges are unobstructed and radio and climate controls are close at hand. Skimpy rear door openings hinder back seat entry into sedans. The trunk floor is flat, and its opening is large.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1994 BMW 318i sedan

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 4
40%
Fuel Economy - 6
60%
Ride Quality - 4
40%
Steering/Handling - 7
70%
Quietness - 4
40%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Front - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
30%
Cargo Room - 3
30%

Other

Value - 5
50%

Total: 46

Specifications

2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.3 174.5 67.3 53.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
9.0 17.2 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.1 36.3 41.2 28.1
2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.3 174.5 67.3 53.8
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.3 17.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
36.7 35.9 41.2 32.7
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.3 174.5 66.8 54.8
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
15.4 17.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.8 37.3 40.9 34.1
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1998 318ti 2-door coupe

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 119
Injury 100
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: Air conditioners that don’t cool well enough may need to have some of the R-12 (Freon) removed if the system was overcharged. (1992-93)
Automatic transmission
Description: The automatic transmission may suffer from delayed engagement after sitting overnight because the fluid drains out of the torque converter. (1992-95)
Climate control
Description: Small flakes may come from the vents or a foul odor may be present when the A/C is operated. (1992-93)
Dashboard lights
Description: The hazard flashers may begin flashing by themselves and the turn signals may flash at twice the normal speed due to condensation shorting out the circuit board. (1992-94)
Doors
Description: If the central locking system unlocks itself after being locked or locks itself after being unlocked, the actuators could be defective or the trunk lock may need to be adjusted. (1992-93)
Rough idle
Description: The variable valve timing system (VANOS) may jam on the 2.5-liter and 2.8-liter DOHC V6 engines causing a rough idle and check engine light. (1996-99)
Starter
Description: The starter may fail because it keeps running after the engine starts and eventually burns out. The root cause is a sticking ignition switch. The whole lock and switch must be replaced. (1992-94)

Recall History

1992
Description: Airbag contact-ring locking tab can break without warning, eventually causing broken wiring; airbag would then not deploy in collision, and indicator would illuminate.
1992-93
Description: Fuel hoses can harden and “set” over time, allowing seepage that could result in fire.
1992-95
Description: Malfunction or failure of cooling system component can result in significantly increased coolant temperature and system pressure.
1992-97
Description: Plastic bushing for cruise-control and throttle cables could break, causing throttle valve to remain partially open; car might not decelerate as expected.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.