Premium compact car; Built in Germany
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door coupe
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $4,200 – $19,000*


2000 BMW 323Ci 2-door coupe


2001 BMW 323i 4-door wagon


1999 BMW 3-Series interior


2001 BMW 330 Ci 2-door convertible


2000 BMW 323i 2-door convertible

Pros:
  • Acceleration
  • Head-protection system
  • Build quality
  • Exterior finish
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Cargo room (convertible)
  • Rear-seat entry/exit (coupe/convertible)
  • Rear-seat room (coupe/convertible)
  • Ride (M3)

Unchallenged in sporting character, these are the true “driver’s cars” of the near-luxury class. Some rivals offer more interior room, but none are more refined or as sporty. Price is the main drawback, because resale values are strong.

Overview

BMW redesigned its best-selling line, the near-luxury 3-Series, for 1999. In addition to gaining a new profile and plenty of new features, the 3-Series got roomier back seats. Weights and exterior dimensions went up only marginally. Four-door sedans debuted in fall 1998, in new 323i and 328i form, with two different six-cylinder engine sizes. The 323i used a 2.5-liter engine, replacing the four-cylinder 318i as BMW’s entry-level sedan. The 328i retained its 2.8-liter engine. Manual shift was standard, with a five-speed automatic transmission optional.

Traction control was standard, along with Cornering Brake Control, designed to stabilize the car under hard braking in turns. Front passengers got six airbags to cushion front and side impacts. Rear side-impact airbags were newly optional. So was Park Distance Control, which beeped to signal the presence of objects to the rear when backing up.

Yearly Updates

2000 3-Series
Coupes with the new design debuted in summer 1999, but restyled convertibles did not appear until the first quarter of 2000. Coupes and convertibles were a bit lower, longer and wider than 3-Series sedans, wearing different body panels. Convertibles had roll bars behind the rear seat, designed to deploy automatically if the car was about to flip over.
BMW’s optional five-speed automatic transmission incorporated a Steptronic manual-shift provision. Antiskid Dynamic Stability Control was standard. A sport wagon also joined the lineup during 2000, with a one-piece tailgate and separate-opening window.
2001 3-Series
Permanent all-wheel drive became available in summer 2000, in 325xi and 330xi sedans and wagons. AWD hardware added about 200 pounds, but only 0.7 inch to the ride height.
All models got revised designations. The former 323i sedan, 323Ci coupe/convertible and 323i sport wagon were now called 325i/325Ci, to signal their new 2.5-liter six-cylinder engines, which had 14 more horsepower. At the same time, 328i sedans and 328Ci coupes/convertibles became the 330 series, via a 3.0-liter six that produced 32 more horsepower than the previous 2.8-liter. All 330 models had 17-inch tires.
A power top with glass back window was standard on the 330Ci convertible, optional for the 325Ci. An aluminum hardtop was available, too.
After a two-year absence, the high-performance M3 coupe was revived in the new style, packing a 330-horsepower engine and suspension modifications to match. The M3 also had a six-speed manual transmission, unique front/rear spoilers, 18-inch wheels and sport front seats.
2002 3-Series
The top-line M3 coupe and convertible got a new sequential manual transmission (SMT) for 2002. The computer-controlled 6-speed SMT didn’t have a clutch pedal, shifted via steering-wheel “paddles,” and could be set to shift like an automatic. Across-the-board changes included recalibrated steering, reshaped headrests, standard in-dash CD player, titanium-color interior trim, and revised automatic climate controls. Rear side airbags were now available for 2-dr as well as 4-dr models. Newly optional were high/low-beam xenon headlights. Sedans and wagons got a minor facelift, and the optional navigation system had a wider dashboard screen.
2003 3-Series
A new 330i sedan Performance Package option included a 10 hp increase, 6-speed manual, 18-inch wheels, exclusive trim, and sport suspension and exhaust tuning. Other model-year ’03 additions included a standard sunroof for 325i wagons and an optional tire-pressure monitor for 330s.
2004 3-Series
A new sequential manual transmission is available on all 3-series models except the 330Ci for ’04. Also new for ’04 are standard rain-sensing windshield wipers and optional BMW assist emergency service.
2005 3-Series
The coupe, convertible, and wagon continue with the current design, while sedans get a makeover for 2006. In 2005, coupes (except M3) get a standard sunroof, and coupes and convertibles join the M3 in getting a standard tire-pressure monitor.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive

Two distinct inline six-cylinder engines were used in regular 3-Series models: a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter in the 323i, and a 2.8-liter that made 193 horsepower in the 328i. A five-speed manual transmission was standard, with five-speed automatic optional. For 2001, engines in the upper series grew to 3.0-liter displacement, and the new 2.5-liter six gained 14 horsepower (but lost a bit of torque output). A 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine, rated at 330 horsepower, drove a six-speed manual gearbox in the high-performance M3 coupe. For 2002, the M3 got an available 6-speed sequential manual transmission (SMT). In ’03 330i sedans with the Performance Package got a 10 horsepower boost and a 6-speed manual transmission. Offered on all models except the 330i in ’04 was the SMT.

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/152
Engine HP 170
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 181
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
20/29
19/28
dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/152
Engine HP 184
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 175
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
20/29
19/27
23.5
19.7
dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.8/170
Engine HP 193
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 206
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
20/29
19/27
dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/182
Engine HP 225-235
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 211-222
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
6-speed manual
5-speed automatic
21/30
20/30
19/27
25.4

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/192
Engine HP 330
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 225
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
SMT manual
16/24
NA/NA
18.7

Road Test

Spirited performance, great handling, high refinement, and terrific workmanship mark BMW’s compact models, which mimic the feel of the German automaker’s larger 5-Series cars. All versions shine for silky engines; solid on-road feel; modest noise levels; and athletic, class-leading rear-drive handling. The 2.5-liter six is a model of smoothness and performs nearly as swiftly as the 328i–which is among the segment’s best-accelerating cars. A 328i accelerated to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, and BMW claimed that the later 330i could do it in 6.4 seconds with manual shift, or 7.0 with automatic. All engines demand premium fuel, but economy is laudable. A 328i averaged 23.5 mpg. Automatic transmissions provide quick, velvety gear changes in normal mode. The sequential manual transmission that became available on M3 models in 2002 offers lightning-quick shifts, but isn’t as smooth as traditional automatic or manual transmissions. BMW’s forte is ride control and comfort, along with handling balance. Sport suspensions (standard on coupes) and bigger tires produce noticeably sharper grip and steering response, but don’t absorb bumps as well as the base tire/suspension setups. They also yield some jiggle on rough pavement and lack grip in snow–despite traction control and antiskid systems. Interiors are cozy, with a rather narrow cabin feel. Head room is plentiful in front and adequate in back. Rear knee and foot room are tight with front seats moved fully aft. Coupe front seats automatically slide forward to ease entry to the rear, but it’s still tricky.

Large climate and audio panels are easy to use. Visibility is good, except in top-up convertibles–which are impressively solid, but suffer mild body shake on rough, broken pavement. Trunk volume is unexceptional, but space is usable and the opening is large.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2001 BMW 325i automatic

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 - 6
60%
Ride Quality - 7
70%
Steering/Handling - 7
70%
Quietness - 7
70%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Front - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
30%
Cargo Room - 2
20%

Other

Value - 5
50%

Total: 56

Specifications

2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
107.3 176.7 69.2 54.0
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
7.7 16.6 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.3 36.9 41.7 32.0
2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
107.3 176.7 69.2 53.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
9.5 16.6 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.5 36.5 41.7 33.2
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
107.3 176.0 68.5 55.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
10.7 16.6 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.4 37.5 41.4 34.6
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
107.3 176.3 68.5 55.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
25.7-48 16.6 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.4 37.7 41.4 34.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 3-Series 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 198
Injury 79
Theft 409

Trouble Spots

Engine knock
Description: The 3.2-L (S54) engine reportedly suffers connecting-rod-bearing failures at a higher than normal rate, perhaps because some car owners are not using the required 10W-60 synthetic oil which is not readily available in the aftermarket. BMW is extending the warranty to 6 years/100,000 miles, (2001-03)
Exhaust system
Description: BMW issued a voluntary emissions recall to replace faulty crankshaft position sensors. (1999)
Steering noise
Description: Steering wheel buzzes or vibrates due to poor isolation of the power steering pump. (1999)
Transmission leak
Description: Manual transmissions’ drain plugs may leak. BMW also suggests replacing the fill plug. (1999)
Transmission slippage
Description: Transmission may slip and/or check-engine light may glow due to torque converter clutch (TCC) slipping and/or TCC solenoid failure. (1999)

Recall History

1999 323i/328i
Description: Retaining clip that secures brake-booster pushrod to brake-pedal arm could detach from pin, allowing pushrod to disconnect, causing brake failure.
1999
Description: Side airbag system is unduly sensitive to certain noncrash impacts, such as contacting large potholes or curbs at substantial speed; could deploy without an actual side crash. Battery Safety Terminal could also activate, disconnecting starter cable from battery, so engine could not be restarted after being shut off.
2000 323i/328i
Description: Brake-lamp switch could fail internally, remaining either in “off” or “on” position; brake lamps would then either not operate or be continuously illuminated.
2001 315i/335i
Description: On some vehicles, tires could lose air suddenly, affecting vehicle control.
2001 3-Series
Description: Failure of engine-fan motor can cause electrical circuitry to overload and fail, causing fan to stop operating, with consequent engine overheating and possible engine damage.
2001 M3
Description: Screws could fall into the parking-brake drum, reducing effectiveness or making screeching noises.
2002 325i, 330i
Description: The front strut could separate from the upper mount due to an improperly installed thrust bearing.
2002 325Xi
Description: There may be a crack in the rear brake rotor(s) that could expand due to braking torque, separating the brake drum from the disc.
2002-2003 325i, 325x/xi, 330i/xi, 325/330ci, 325it/xit, and M3
Description: Passenger side frontal airbag’s defective inflator may rupture upon deployment and spray metal fragments.
2002-2005 325i, 325xi, 330i, and 330xi vehicles manufactured from September 1, 2001, through March 1, 2005.
Description: Over time, resistance in the electrical contacts may cause one or more rear lamp functions (tail light, brake light, and/or turn-signal), within the vehicle’s body panel, to stop working. Intermittent light operation reduces the ability to warn other motorists of the driver’s intentions. This could cause a vehicle crash without warning. BMW will notify owners, and dealers will repair the vehicles free of charge.
2003 325Ci/330i
Description: Antiwindow pinching devices are not functioning properly on some vehicles. Dealer will inspect and replace all affected parts.

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.