BMW 3 Series Compact

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BMW 3 Series Compact
BMW 316ti Compact M-Sportpaket (E46) Facelift front-1 20100627.jpg
Manufacturer BMW
Body and chassis
Class Compact car
Body style 3-door liftback
Layout FR layout
Successor BMW 1 Series

The BMW 3 Series Compact is a small family car, basically a truncated liftback version of the BMW 3 Series, produced by the German automaker BMW between 1993 and 2004. Initially based on the BMW E36 platform, it switched to the BMW E46 platform in 2001. Production of the 3 Series Compact ceased in 2004 when it was virtually succeeded by the 1 Series.

The car was available in 316i, 316g (compressed natural gas),[1] 318ti, 318tds (diesel) and later as a 323ti. The title 'Ti' (Turismo Internazionale), was unique to the Compact range and was used on the more powerful versions, harking back to the BMW New Class 'Ti' models of the sixties.

The 3 Series GT, based on the later, newest 3 Series, is not a successor to the 3 Series Compact, apart from their hatchback body style.

E36/5 (1993-2000)[edit]

1995-1997 BMW 316i (E36) hatchback 01.jpg
Production 1993–2000
371,498 built [2]
Body and chassis
Platform BMW 3 Series (E36)
Engine 1.6 L I4
1.6 L I4 Petrol/Biogas
1.8 L I4
1.9 L I4
2.5 L I6
1.7 L I4 diesel
Wheelbase 2,700 mm (106.3 in)
Length 4,210 mm (165.7 in)
Width 1,698 mm (66.9 in)
Height 1,393 mm (54.8 in)
Curb weight 1,175 kg (2,590 lb)−1,290 kg (2,840 lb)
BMW 316i (Australia)
BMW 316i (Australia)

From the front bumper to the A pillar, the 3 Series Compact is identical to the BMW 3 Series (E36) saloon. As with the entire E36 range, the E36/5 also shares an identical wheelbase. From the A pillar rearwards, the E36/5 is unique from others in the E36 range.

The E36/5 shares its suspension with the BMW Z3; the front suspension employs the E36's standard MacPherson strut design, while the rear suspension uses a semi trailing arm from the previous model BMW 3 Series (E30).

The E36/5 made use of the older semi-trailing arm rear axle, as opposed to the E36's Z-Axle Multi-link suspension. As the trailing arm design was smaller, it allowed for a lower trunk floor height, fold-down rear seats, and an exterior undermounted compact spare tire.

The inherent design of the trailing arm suspension was that it favoured oversteer. Consequently, the BMW 3 Series Compact received mixed reviews from the automotive press; with some claiming the chassis was the most balanced of the E36 range, whilst others said that the car wandered and darted in a straight line, and was uncomposed in the corners.[citation needed]

Engines and performance[edit]

In North America, the sole engine available was the DOHC 1.8 litre, 138 bhp (103 kW; 140 PS) inline-four BMW M42 engine for the 1995 model year. In 1996, to make the car compliant with OBD-II, the engine was replaced by the 1.9 litre M44 unit.

Outside North America, consumers had a wider range of engine choices. The 316g could run on compressed natural gas or on petrol; when using gas it produced about 20% less power. The 316g was a strict two-seater, as the rear seat area was taken up by the gas cylinder.

Name Power Torque Size Engine code 0–100 km/h,s Top speed Years
316i 102 PS (75 kW; 101 hp) at 5500 150 N·m (110 lb·ft) at 3900 1596 cc M43B16 12.3 188 km/h (117 mph) 1994–1999
105 PS (77 kW; 104 hp) at 5300 165 N·m (122 lb·ft) at 2500 1895 cc M43B19 11.9 190 km/h (120 mph) 1999–2000
316g 82 or 102 PS (60 or 75 kW) at 5500 127 N·m (94 lb·ft) at 3900 1596 cc M43B16 15.6 na 1995–2000
318ti 140 PS (103 kW; 138 hp) at 6000 175 N·m (129 lb·ft) at 4500 1796 cc M42B18 9.9 209 km/h (130 mph) 1994–1995
144 PS (106 kW; 142 hp) at 6000 180 N·m (130 lb·ft) at 4300 1895 cc M44B19 9.9 209 km/h (130 mph) 1995–1998
323ti 170 PS (125 kW; 168 hp) at 5500 245 N·m (181 lb·ft) at 3950 2494 cc M52B25 7.8 230 km/h (140 mph) 1997–2001
90 PS (66 kW; 89 hp) at 4400 190 N·m (140 lb·ft) at 2000 1665 cc M41D17 13.9 175 km/h (109 mph) 1995–2001

Interior and trim levels[edit]

BMW 316g logo

Apart from a simple one piece dashboard, the E36 Compact shared the same seats and trim as the 3 Series saloon.

The North American 318ti came in three different trim levels; Base, Active and Sport. Active package offered comfort items such as an on-board computer, cruise control, leather seats, alloy wheels, foglights and sunroof. The sport package equipped the car with M-technic suspension, foglights, alloy wheels, sport seats, and for 1995 only, a limited slip differential.

A Clubsport edition was offered in the model year 1995. The car had upgraded suspension, limited slip differential, sport seats, and full M-aerodynamic package including front and rear bumpers as well as side mirrors. It should be noted the Sport package for 1995 318ti would be identical to the Clubsport edition as had all the performance upgrades, but has no exterior distinction from the base model. Starting 1996, the sport package included the M-aerodynamic package like the Clubsport model, with the exception of standard side mirror, and the limited slip differential was no longer available. All 1999 318ti's came with the sport package.

Also there is a very rare California edition of the vehicle, introduced in 1996, featured a Webasto style folding canvas roof reminiscent of those used in the Citroën 2CV.

In 1996, to celebrate the 50th birthday of the German automobile magazine Auto, Motor und Sport handbuilt (at least) one M3 compact. The car embodied all the technical and optical characteristics of the stock E36 M3, but in the compact body, and more. A quad exhaust tip, Recaro sports seats, four-point seatbelts and an alcantara steering wheel and gear lever were specific for this model. The car was widely regarded as a test mule for the Z3 M Coupe. The car was donated to the automobile magazine, and currently resides in the M GmbH headquarters in Garching, Munich.[3]

During 1993, BMW built several prototype 5-door liftbacks, which looked outwardly even more similar to the saloon right back to the C-pillar. However, following the initially disappointing sales response to the Compact (in comparison to the Saloon & Coupe models) BMW decided not to offer a 5-door liftback variant. The prototypes were stripped and the bodyshells disposed of.


Peter Hayden in his M3-engined Compact drift car.

The E36 Compact was very popular in its home market in Europe, which prompted BMW to market the car to North America for the 1995 model year. The E36 Compact's front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout was unique for the segment, giving it no direct competitors in North America.

When introduced in the United States and Canada, despite being reasonably priced, starting at $19,900 (USD), the 318ti never enjoyed popularity in North America. While consumers desired a less expensive BMW, those in North American were not fond of the liftback body style.[citation needed]

BMW ceased importation of the BMW Compact to North America after the 1999 model year after a very short 4-year run due to a combination of poor sales, and BMW's desire to reposition themselves more upmarket by phasing out all 4-cylinder vehicles with the introduction of the new BMW E46 3-series. The failure of the E36 Compact precluded the E46 Compact's entry into the North American market.

The failure of the E36 BMW Compact in North America also prompted BMW to reconfigure the BMW Compact's ultimate successor, the BMW 1 Series, from a liftback to a coupe before attempting to market the car in North America again.

E46/5 (2000-2004)[edit]

BMW E46 compact front 20071104.jpg
Production 2000–2004
Body and chassis
Body style 3-door liftback
Platform BMW E46
Engine 1.6 L I4
1.8 L I4
2.0 L I4
2.5 L I6
2.0 L I4 diesel
Wheelbase 2,725 mm (107.3 in)
Length 4,260 mm (167.7 in)
Width 1,751 mm (68.9 in)
Height 1,408 mm (55.4 in)
Curb weight 1,300 kg (2,900 lb)−1,405 kg (3,097 lb)
BMW 3 Series Compact (E46)

The 3 Series Compact was redesigned in 2000 as part of the E46 line. Build and quality of finish was much-improved over that of the E36 TI. Despite this, the E46 TI was not as successful as its predecessor. The E46 version of the Compact was never marketed in North America, leaving its sole direct competitor in the class, the W203 Mercedes-Benz C-Class SportCoupé, to be the lone choice in the segment for those markets.

The E46 version of the Compact does not feature styling similar to the rest of E46 cars; most notably, the headlights were distinctively different from those of a regular E46.

The Compact was mechanically identical to the regular E46 3 Series, but featured sharper steering, with a quicker rack.

In 2004, the 3 Series Compact was replaced by the BMW 1 Series; however, the 1 Series did not appear in North America until 2008.


Model Years Engine code Power Torque
316ti 2002–2004 N40B16 85 kW (116 PS; 114 hp) @ 6100 150 N·m (110 lb·ft) @ 4300
2004 N45B16 85 kW (116 PS; 114 hp) @ 6000
2001–2004 N42B18 85 kW (116 PS; 114 hp) @ 5601 175 N·m (129 lb·ft) @ 3750
2004 N46B18
318ti 2001–2004 N42B20 105 kW (143 PS; 141 hp) @ 6000 200 N·m (150 lb·ft) @ 3750
2004 N46B20
325ti 2001–2004 M54B25 141 kW (192 PS; 189 hp) @ 6000 245 N·m (181 lb·ft) @ 3500
2003–2004 M47D20 85 kW (116 PS; 114 hp) @ 4000 280 N·m (210 lb·ft) @ 1750
2001–2004 M47D20 110 kW (150 PS; 148 hp) @ 4000 330 N·m (240 lb·ft) @ 2000


  1. ^ "RealOEM BMW Parts Catalog". Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  2. ^ Eberhard Kittler: Deutsche Autos seit 1990, vol. 5. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 2001. ISBN 3-613-02128-5, p.134. Note: 2000 not included.
  3. ^ "BIMMERPOST Visits BMW M's Secret Underground Garage". MarkE90M3. 

External links[edit]