With so many unique new designs from BMW, as well as new powertrains and technologies, it’s easy to forget that BMW used to manufacture some of the most straightforward, attractive, and entertaining small cars on the road. The good news is that those autos are still available. If you prefer an older, simpler BMW, there are many available on the used market (although, the used market is admittedly a bit insane at the moment, in terms of record-high prices). The E46 BMW 3 Series is one such car, which not only comes at a bargain price but also has all of the attributes we associate with BMWs of the past.
I recently purchased an E46 3 Series for myself. Don’t worry, it’s nothing special. I don’t have Matt Farah’s money, thus I can’t afford to buy an EAG E46 M3 in museum condition and have it sent a thousand miles to my place. No, it’s just a regular BMW 325i sedan with an automatic transmission.
I needed to replace my manual with an automatic on a daily basis because my better half couldn’t (nay, wouldn’t) drive a stick, which made life a little tough whenever she required my car. I wanted something cheap and exciting because I only drove 5,000 miles on my previous car in two years — I’m in press cars so much that I seldom drive my own car more than a few miles down the road (I know, champagne problems) — As a result, the E46 3 Series was born.
Prior to test driving my car, it had been a long time since I’d driven an E46 of any kind, years in fact. So, while I knew it was one of the best-driving BMWs ever, I’d forgotten how wonderful it is still. It seems light, sensitive, fluid, and balanced even when compared to newer cars. Sure, the steering is slower than the hyper-fast racks found in modern sport sedans, and I’d forgotten how heavy the steering is, but it has a sense of engagement that even modern cars could learn from.
Most importantly, my car was inexpensive. For example, low-cost. Let’s just say I’ve spent more money on a computer than on this vehicle. Even after 164,000 miles, it still feels tight, the engine is silky smooth, starts up nicely into a silky smooth idle, and steers as well as our memories suggested. It’s also comfortable, with excellent seats (my car has the ZSP package, which includes thicker sport seats), and the interior is still in excellent condition.
What prompted me to talk about the dirt-cheap E46 I recently purchased? The E46 3 Series Touring was recently featured in Autocar as one of the best cheap vehicles you can buy, which naturally made me thrilled with my purchase.
I can’t suggest the E46 highly enough if you’re looking for an affordable daily driver of any kind. It’s such a great overall package that it makes little difference in which model, trim level, or body style you purchase. They’re all fantastic. They are, however, available for less than $3,000 in the United States.