BMW 3 Series Compact E36
|Production||1993–2000 371,498 built|
|Successor||BMW E46 Compact|
|Body style||3-door hatchback|
|Engine||1.6 L I4 102 PS (75 kW; 101 hp) 1.9 L 105 PS (77 kW; 104 hp) 1.8 L I4 140 PS (100 kW; 140 hp) 1.9 L I4 140 PS (100 kW; 140 hp) 2.5 L I6 170 PS (130 kW; 170 hp) 1.6 L I4 Petrol/Biogas 87 PS (64 kW; 86 hp) 1.7 L I4 diesel 90 PS (66 kW; 89 hp)|
|Wheelbase||2,700 mm (110 in)|
|Length||4,210 mm (166 in)|
|Width||1,700 mm (67 in)|
|Curb weight||1,175 kg (2,590 lb)−1,290 kg (2,800 lb)|
The BMW Compact is a compact car / small family car, basically a truncated liftback version of the BMW 3 Series, produced by the German automaker BMW between 1993 and 2004. From 1994, it was based on the BMW E36 platform, switching to the BMW E46 platform in 2001. Production of BMW Compact ceased in 2004 when it was succeeded by the 1 Series.
The car was available in 316i, 316g (compressed natural gas), 318ti, 318tds (diesel) and later as a 323ti. The title 'Ti'(Turismo Internazionale), is unique to the Compact range and is used on the more powerful versions, harking back to the BMW New Class 'Ti' models of the sixties.
E36 Compact (E36/5)
From front bumper to A pillar, the Compact is identical to the BMW 3 Series (E36) sedan, sharing the front fenders, bumpers, lights, windshield, wing mirrors, and the hood. As with the entire E36 range, the E36/5 also shares an identical wheelbase. Similarities with the E36 sedan/coupe range end here; from the A pillar rearwards, the E36/5 is unique from others in the E36 range featuring unique framed doors, windows, roof, trunk pan, taillights, and suspension.
The BMW E36/5 Compact shares its suspension with the BMW Z3. The front 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 more 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 Compact received mixed reviews from the automotive press, some claiming the chassis was the most balanced of the E36 range, while others said that the car wandered and darted in a straight line, and was uncomposed in the corners. It is popular with enthusiasts, being the lightest, best handling and least expensive.
Engines and performance
In North America, the sole engine available was the DOHC 1.8 litre, 138 bhp (103 kW; 140 PS) four-cylinder BMW M42 engine for the 1995 model year. In 1996, to make the car compliant with OBD-II, the engine was updated and expanded to 1.9 liters BMW M44. Consequently, all E36 Compacts sold in North America were in 318ti form.
Outside North America, consumers had a wider range of engine choices.
Interior and trim levels
Apart from a simple one piece dashboard, the E36 Compact shared the same seats and trim as the full-sized 3-series.
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.
During 1993/4, BMW built several prototype 5-door compacts, 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 variant. The prototypes were stripped and the bodyshells disposed of.