Premium compact car; Built in USA, Germany
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door coupe
  • 4-door sedan
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,800 – $7,500*


1992 BMW 325is 2-door coupe


1993 BMW 325i 4-door sedan


1993 BMW 325i interior


1995 BMW 325i 2-door convertible


1995 BMW 325i 2-door convertible interior

Pros:
  • Acceleration
  • Standard antilock brakes and traction control (later models)
  • Ride
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Wet-weather traction
  • Control layout
  • Fuel economy
  • Rear-seat room

Like their bigger brothers, 3-Series BMWs are far from cheap secondhand, but their many fans are willing to lay out the extra bucks for top-notch roadholding and high-quality materials.

Overview

Completely restyled for 1992, the 325i sedan borrowed its rounded lines from the bigger BMWs. Wheelbase grew by 5.1 inches, overall length by 4.3 inches. Interior volume expanded only modestly. Switching from a single overhead camshaft to dual cams, the inline 2.5-liter six-cylinder engine added 21 horsepower. A 4-speed, 3-mode automatic transmission was optional. Standard fittings included a driver-side airbag and antilock brakes. Convertibles, however, stuck with the previous design until 1994.

Yearly Updates

1993 325i/328i/323i
Six-cylinder engines adopted variable valve timing that was claimed to boost low-speed response and increase fuel economy. A sport suspension joined the option list. 3-Series cars also gained body-color bumpers and a fold-down center armrest. Sedans could now be ordered with optional fold-down rear seats.
1994 325i/328i/323i
All 3-Series models gained a passenger-side airbag. BMW’s ASC+T traction control became optional. Starting in summer of 1993, convertibles adopted the smooth design of BMW sedans, abandoning the old profile. Four-passenger convertibles shared the coupe’s lower body styling, but wore unique rear sheetmetal. A power top stows beneath a solid rear cover. A pop-up “Rollover Protection System” was optional on convertibles. A high-performance M3 coupe debuted in spring 1994, packing a 240-horsepower 3.0-liter engine and manual shift, with a firmer suspension and 17-inch tires.
1995 325i/328i/323i
The 325 saw only minor changes for 1995.
1996 325i/328i/323i
A bigger (2.8-liter) engine went into 1996 models soon after the start of production, and the cars were renamed 328i. The M3 high-performance coupe could have an available 5-speed automatic transmission.
1997 325i/328i/323i
All BMWs had traction control in ’97. The high-performance M3 now came as a 4-door sedan as well as a 2-door coupe. BMW’s twin kidney grille was reshaped to match the new 5-Series. Side marker and turn signal lamps were redesigned.
1998 325i/328i/323i
BMW introduced an old engine to the 3-Series lineup for 1998, the 2.5-liter inline-six that had been standard on the 1992-95 models. Called the 323, the new model was available only in coupe and convertible bodystyles. Side airbags are now standard on all models, and the convertible gets a full-automatic power top. The 3-Series was all new for 1999.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

The initial 2.5-liter inline 6-cylinder engine made 189 horsepower (168 in convertibles and in 1998 models). Variable valve timing for 1993 yielded no power increase, but torque was produced at lower rpm. The bigger (2.8-liter) engine installed in 328i models, in 1996, added just 1 horsepower but gained 25 pounds-feet of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission has been standard all along. The optional 4-speed automatic has economy, sport, and manual shift programs.

ohc I61
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/152
Engine HP 168
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 164
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual

17/24

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/152
Engine HP 168-189
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 181
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
19/28
20/28
20.4
17.6
dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.8/170
Engine HP 190
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 206
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
20/29
19/26
19.8
dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/182
Engine HP 240
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 225
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
19/27
19/28

1. Used in carryover-styled 1992-93 convertibles only.

Road Test

Acceleration is swift and smooth at higher engine speeds, but early models suffered a shortage in low-end power, feeling somewhat lethargic until they revved past 3000 rpm or more. Performance in general is adequate with automatic, but these cars are best enjoyed with the highly inviting 5-speed manual gearbox. In town, though, that 5-speed needs to be shifted often. Fuel economy averaged 20.4 mpg in a test of a 1992 model with manual shift.

Swift turns with the base suspension bring more body roll than expected, but the 3-Series feels tight, lithe, and surefooted. Antilock brakes deliver commendable stopping power and excellent sensitivity. Steering is sharp and precise, road manners nicely balanced. A firm, yet absorbent suspension soaks up road flaws while keeping the body stable.

Beware in wet weather, as rear-drivers can get twitchy in rain or snow. Even with the traction control, snow tires are a must in northern climates.

Space up front is adequate, but the rear is sufficient only for two on a narrow seat. Rear head room in coupes is tight, due to their slightly lower roofline, and the center rear occupant must straddle the driveline tunnel. Skimpy door openings on sedans hinder back-seat entry. The trunk floor is flat, with a large opening. Interiors are austere, with hard plastic surfaces. Radio and climate controls are close at hand but feature a confusing array of buttons.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1994 BMW 325i 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 - 6
60%
Fuel Economy - 4
40%
Ride Quality - 6
60%
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 - 6
60%

Total: 49

Specifications

2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
101.2 175.2 64.8 53.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
11.0 16.4 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
NA NA NA NA
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 3-Series 2-door convertible

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 4
80%

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 145
Injury 73
Theft 356

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: Vehicles equipped with variable valve timing system (VANOS) engines may suffer engine valve jamming and varnish buildup if oil changes are extended. (1996-98)
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)
Transmission leak
Description: The oil drain plug on Gegrag transmissions will likely leak if reused. A revised plug is available. (1999)

Recall History

1992
Description: Airbag contact-ring locking tab can break without warning, eventually causing broken wiring; airbag would not deploy in collision, and indicator would illuminate.
1992
Description: Failed to meet safety standard for driver chest injury in crash test.
1992-93
Description: Fuel hoses can harden and “set” over time.
1992-94 325i/iS
Description: Brake lights may fail to operate, or be on continuously.
1992-95 325i/325Ci
Description: Plastic bushing for cruise-control and throttle cables could break, causing throttle valve to remain partially open; car then might not decelerate as expected.
1992-95
Description: Malfunction or failure of cooling system component can result in significantly increased coolant temperature and system pressure.
1993-94 325i/iS
Description: Replace front transmission crossmember support.
1994 325iC
Description: Brake lights may fail to operate, or be on continuously.
1995 M3
Description: Brake lights may fail to operate, or be on continuously.
1995-97 M3
Description: Plastic bushing for cruise-control and throttle cables could break, causing throttle valve to remain partially open; car then might not decelerate as expected.
1997-98 M3
Description: Side airbag system is unduly sensitive to certain noncrash impacts, such as large potholes or curbs; could deploy without actual side crash. Battery Safety Terminal could also activate, so engine could not be restarted.

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.