YORK, England — BMW built compact three-door hatchback versions of the 3 Series for the E36 and E46 generations, and many of these cars were fitted with diesel engines during their 1993-2004 production run. However, only the gasoline-powered 1995-1998 318ti E36 version was ever sold new on our side of the Atlantic and the E46 version (which went into production as a 2001 model) won’t be legal to import under federal law until 2026. That’s no problem for this series, because your intrepid archeologist of discarded vehicles just got back from a trip to Great Britain and spotted this ’02 3 Series Compact in a self-service scrapyard near York, England.
American car buyers spent the 1990s falling increasingly out of love with hatchbacks (and non-truck-shaped vehicles in general), and the 318ti E36 was a sales failure in the United States (despite being by far the most affordable BMW available here at the time). BMW knew there would be no point in sending its successor here. Even in Europe, sales numbers for the E46 hatchback weren’t stellar.
Engine choices for the 2001-2004 3 Series Compact included gasoline-burning four-bangers of 1.6 through 2.0 liters in displacement (for the 316ti and 318ti), plus a 189-horse 2.5-liter six-cylinder for the 325ti. For 2002, the only oil-burning engine available in this car in the UK was a 2.0-liter turbodiesel with 148 horsepower and 243 pound-feet; that would have made for fairly quick acceleration in this lightweight 3,020-pound car.
The transmission is a proper five-speed manual.
The interior is a bit grimy and there’s some body rust, which may have been sufficient to doom this car. U-Pull-It is thoughtful enough to photograph gauges with the ignition on when new arrivals show up, so we can see that this car had 130,601 miles on the odometer at the end of its driving career.
Will we see any of these cars on our side of the water, once they become legal to import? Maybe!