By on December 14, 2015

1995 BMW 318ti

Last week, we looked at a bunch of hot hatches — or, at least, hatchbacks that were hot back in the day. Those cars lost some luster over the years. Though, if they were clean, they’d clearly still be desirable.

Today, rather than from Japan, we look to the country that brought us the original hot hatch. BMW was never really known in this market, however, as they’d only ever offered rear-wheel-drive cars.

One could argue that after this failed experiment, BMW punted hatch-building duties (at least for North America) over to the MINI division.

Today’s 1995 BMW 318ti is one of two hundred that were built with the Club Sport package, which basically added on the appearance bits of the contemporary M3, along with the two-tone interior, a slightly tighter suspension, and a limited-slip differential. The factory never offered any power improvements over the 138 horsepower four cylinder originally fitted, but this car has an aftermarket supercharger installed. Roughly 200 horsepower should be on tap now.

Save for some cracked leather on the driver’s seat, this car looks basically flawless. I’m generally not a fan of bright red — excuse me, ///M fanbois, Hellrot — but it looks right on this car. The Club Sport package, even though it’s mostly for show, really does make this car so much more attractive.

Conventional wisdom holds that the Touring model (hatch) underperformed in North America because of the low price, and perhaps that’s true. Priced around $19,000 new when the standard sedan was at least 20-percent more, buyers likely felt the hatch was an inferior product unworthy of the upscale BMW badge.

For my (imaginary) money, this is probably the BMW I’d buy. It’s relatively lightweight with the four cylinder, but with similar power to the six, and the lovely M3 appearance. Nearly ten grand might be too much, though $6,000 might be a more appropriate price.

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36 Comments on “Digestible Collectible: 1995 BMW 318ti...”


  • avatar
    Scuttle

    For 10K I would rather have a E36 M3 from the same generation. There are plenty to choose from on auto trader.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      Just how much abuse has a 20-year old M3 had? Even if the first owner wasn’t a hooligan, you better expect the 3rd or 4th was. Even with decent records maintenance (not one DIYer?), it would be scary.

      • 0 avatar
        Scuttle

        Worse than this 147K mile car with an aftermarket supercharger? The BMW 6 cylinder engine from that generation can take the abuse. I saw plenty of models with 30-40K less miles than this as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      This model would look great with 3″ taken out from between the cowl and front axle. The front half was designed for a 6 and proportioned to work with the longer coupe and sedan.

      it could look much better.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    My low-mile ’98 318ti was had for about $4K a couple of years ago. I love the practicality of the hatch and the 4-pot’s economy. Mine gets new Bilsteins at all four corners this week. I am always surprised how much attention my Ti receives, especially from people who were practically in diapers when the car was new in the showroom.

    I agree that your $6K estimate is more accurate for this car. For $10K, Scuttle is on the right track.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    This thing was such a miserable drive. I was unimpressed with it in high school, when my frame of reference was a 1993 Honda Accord.

    I still have big dreams about stuffing an E36 with an ITB’d VQ35 though.

  • avatar
    sproc

    The very idea of this car seemed awesome to me when they came out in the US: hot hatch + BMW, both at the height of coolness. (To a lesser extent, same goes for C230 Kompressor a few years later.) I recall it never got much love from the press–it was seen as either a cheapo BMW or a way overpriced hot hatch wannabe, a lose-lose. I still think it looks great, though, and only wish they’d brought the 323ti here.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      In Europe, where this model sold much better and was continued on as an E46, they’re referred to by BMW as the E36 Compact and E46 Compact, not Touring. Really to separate the E36 Compact (our 318ti)from the three-box E36, the rear suspension on the Compact was borrowed from the previous E30 coupe to make the hatchback load area more spacious.The switch for the lights is another feature borrowed from the E30. Other than those items, it’s your basic E36 318iS. I looked for one about eight years ago at a local used car dealer specializing in Audi, BMW, and M-B, and I went back several times with no luck finding one. On the last visit, they got in a nice, high miles, E46 coupe(328Ci), and I went for that-I had always wanted one since they were new, and reasoned that this was my chance to be able to afford one. I wasn’t unhappy with this choice, but the 318ti would have been fine, as well, had it been available when I needed a new car. At the time, Acura was selling the Integra GSR and Car&Driver did a comparo with the two cars. They deemed the 318ti a real BMW, but wrote that a buyer would never find one for just the $20K base price- it would likely be optioned $3K-4K higher with all the usual add-ons like the regular 3-Series were, and the GSR started and ended at just $21K. They voted the GSR as their favorite of the two.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “One could argue that after this failed experiment, BMW punted hatch-building duties (at least for North America) over to the MINI division.”

    Well, they make the i3 now, and the X1, and the 1-Series for other markets.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    High miles at 147, price too high at $10 (ludicrous), weird dirty tweed fabric, non-standard exhaust, and removed airbag?

    Oh, and SEVEN PREVIOUS OWNERS.

    CP. I’m not driving a car where someone’s removed the airbag. And I wonder if that would pass some state inspections as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Shane Rimmer

      Even in places without inspections, there could be trouble getting this car on the road as I know of at least one insurance provider, USAA, that will not cover a car that has had the airbags removed.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Yeah, this particular one is a “pass”, but a truly clean 318Ti can still be had for reasonable money. Its been a couple months since Ive looked, but they are out there.

      I dont think the miles are that high, although with all the “mods” who knows. Ive seen stock 318Tis with 250k on them. If the cooling system is maintained, these are reliable, long-lasting cars.

  • avatar
    zososoto

    “Conventional wisdom holds that the Touring model (hatch) underperformed in North America because of the low price, and perhaps that’s true”

    Chris, I dont know how conventional this reasoning is at all. The price was too low? Perhaps the price was too high and the value too low. It had a fairly tame and low revving 4 banger (more accurate euro style than most realize). What was going for it besides the badge and RWD?. How well do you suppose this hot hatch compared to the Vtec Prelude with its’ sexy dashboard, or perhaps a GSR integra with it’s 8200 redline. The DOHC 2.4L 240sx?

    With this car they were trying to charge the BMW premium but without delivering on that promise.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      +1. Even the base Integra made the same power for a lot less money, not to mention being indestructible. RWD and the badge, indeed.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      The non-hatch 318 with the same engine sold just fine. That being true, your argument makes no sense.

      I dont remember what a GS-R sold for at the time, but Im betting it was for more than the $19k this car started at.

      • 0 avatar
        chrishs2000

        $20,650: http://www.cars.com/acura/integra/1995/snapshot

        318ti: $19,900 with zero options, $22,300 for sports trim.

        http://www.motorweek.org/reviews/road_tests/1995_bmw_318ti

        I have no logical or rational explanation why someone would have purchased a 318ti over a GS-R.

        • 0 avatar
          snakebit

          Just to compare out-the-door prices for both press cars compared by Car&Driver, the ’95 GSR was $21,870, the 318ti Sport, with LSD, premium stereo, security system, power sunroof, and cruise control was listed at $25,200. Hardly decontented, and the comment of a ‘plain interior’is in the eyes of the beholder-I think it was fine, but FreedMike is not convinced. As to why given all this, someone would opt for the BMW? 1)it’s rear drive and some folks like that more, 2)compared to the ’94 GSR I owned, which seemed trimmed like a Civic, this real BMW was trimmed like a BMW, i.e. very well.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      De-contented, plain interior, (not particularly good) four banger and overpriced. Plus it was a hatchback. And lots of competing cars for about the same money (there was the aforementioned Integra, Prelude, and 240SX, but there was also the MR2 and Talon/Eclipse…heck, I’d even include the Z28, Trans Am and Mustang GT).

      No mystery as to why this one failed. BMW is a prestige and performance brand and this model had too little of both going on.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    I LOVE the 318Ti. I have wanted one since I saw a new one while being a freshman in High School.

    I would certainly like a Club Sport, but even a base model Ti would do so long as its a manual transmission. The Cali roof option was great, too!

    BTW, Ti stands for “Turismo Internazionale”.

    My most-wanted BMW lol just not *this* one. Be damned if Id spend even close to that amount for a heavily modded version. If it was totally stock, showroom perfect with like 40k original miles, I could see it. But this? Id spend about 1/4 of that on a clean average stock one with a manual, and several other cars for my collection with the leftover $$$$.

    • 0 avatar
      This Is Dawg

      This was my first car! :)

      I really loved that car. It accelerated too slowly to get into much trouble, but I could still get it up to 120+mph on highways. On top of that, I could fold a lawn mower into the back and get 37 mpg on roadtrips. I haven’t liked Bimmer styling since those boxy 90s-mobiles.

      Unfortunately for my little Ti, it doesn’t seem to have been designed to go upside-down without a fair share of issues. Amazingly I got a couple thousand more miles out of it with the radiator zip-tied in, but when I finally had someone look at it, it was obvious the repairs would cost a hilarious amount more than the car’s worth. Add to that my dad refusing to have a beat to hell hatchback with newly added racing stripes (because it couldn’t look worse at this point) sitting in his driveway, and he gave it away to a mechanic friend.

  • avatar
    calgarytek

    That car is ripe for an engine swap. Best Motoring had a version with an F20 or F22 swap from an S2000. Back in 2004 I came across one on the Internets that had a GM LS1 swapped into it.

    As long as it has crank windows, crank seats, and crank door locks I’m happy.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    There are about a dozen to two dozen people left alive who care about an apparently unpopular *appearance* package on a stripped down oddball twenty year old car with 150K. $3-3,5 for being clean, retail for 5-5,5 and take 4-4,5. If anyone calls to inquire, please add 28CL tells them to go f*** themselves at $9,9 and they should be forced to drive Yugos for at least a year as penance for even *asking* 9,9 on a 318 of this age and mileage.

    I could see it on an old M3 timebomb at those miles but a 318? Really? Apox on them.

  • avatar
    vtnoah

    Love this body style but at 10k “The Price is Too Damn High!” If it had the M3 engine swap that I’ve seen a few with it would be perfect.

  • avatar
    wmba

    This had the ever-popular swing arm rear suspension, purveyor of instant into the ditch behavior on snowy roads, quirky behavior in the rain, and not bad if you didn’t try too hard on a dry road in summer. Thank goodness someone at BMW had invented that crazy 5 (or was it 6) link rear suspension and put it in their better cars.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      This is not even remotely a swing-axle design. It has semi-trailing arm rear suspension, just like every 70s-80s BMW until they debuted the 5-link setup. Tail happy to some extent, but not even remotely in the same league as swing axles.

  • avatar
    bufguy

    I bought a new 1997 318ti with the “active” package. Aluminum wheels, trip computer, nicer interior….It was a great entry level car…Yes a bit overpriced, but it was rear wheel drive, fun to drive, great utility with the hatch and it did have the roundel badge. It rode on the old E30 platform, same as the Z3 with the slightly tail happy trailing arm rear suspension…not the more sophisticated setup from the E36.
    I drove mine at Watkins Glen and it was a great car to learn on. Not enough power to get in trouble with….it would barely gain speed coming out of the “boot” uphill in third…but a nice car handling with the rear wheel drive.
    I remember it with nostalgia as it was an honest car and a an affordable entry into the BMW marque

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Exactly why I wanted one so badly when they came out. But alas, being just fresh out of college and with a wife still in school, I couldn’t swing a new 318ti. But I test drive numerous ones and loved them. Yes, they weren’t the fastest Bimmer in the stable, but it was an honest car. I loved the relative simplicity of them. Wanted the “Active” trim…in Boston Green, with 5 speed.

  • avatar
    Der_Kommissar

    Hey, that’s my local indy BMW shop! I used to use them with my e90 once I was out of warranty. Pretty good guys over there- I’d trust their work.

  • avatar
    salguod

    I just bought a 2 owner 1996 318ti with 240K and all receipts from new in October for $500. Another $700 in parts (engine & trans mounts, control arms, oil filter housing gasket & diff mount) and I’ve got a solid, if worn, daily driver. It’s not fast, but it’s fun to drive and it’s been a joy to wrench on.

    At $10K this one is a bit pricey, even for a Club Sport. The ’96 this dealer has with similar mileage plus the California roof is a better deal at $6,900, but still pricey.

  • avatar
    windnsea00

    I had a 1997 Black on Black 318ti M-tech some time back, it was a blast to drive! I had a full custom suspension (450f/550r springs), custom valved Bilstein’s, upgraded bushings, etc. Also put on custom wheels with 245/40/17 all around.

    Once I corner balanced it and dialed in the alignment the car was literally a go-kart. With sticky 245’s out back I could keep the pedal close to the floor in most turns, the semi-trailing arms react well to a stiff spring and proper dampening, never had it once snap out of control.

    Miss that car along with the Z3 M Coupe I had after which was also heavily modified, that car was effectively a better set up 318ti underneath along with the M engine.


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