1994 BMW Compact E36

The BMW Compact was 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. The wheelbase remained the same as the full-size sibling. 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'(Touring International) used on the more powerful versions, harking back to the ti models of the sixties.


The BMW E36/5 Compact shares its suspension with the BMW Z3, M Coupe/Roadster, which has E36 front suspension and rear suspension based on the E30. From front bumper to A pillar, the Compact looks identical to the E36 sedan, sharing both front fenders, bumpers, lights and the hood.

In order to save space, the E36/5 made use of a smaller semi-trailing arm rear axle derived from the older 3-series (E30). The inherent design of the trailing arm suspension was that it favoured oversteer. Consequently, the 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.


In North America, these models were equipped with a 1.8 litre, 138 bhp (103 kW) four-cylinder M42 engine for the 1995 model year. In 1996, the engine was expanded to 1.9 liters (M44), a treatment given to all 318i/318is. As some changes were required to make the car compliant with OBD-II, power curve adjustments occurred at the same time. European buyers had the option of a smaller 1.6 litre engine, a four-cylinder diesel, and German buyers had the exclusive and rare 323ti option with a 2.5L, 170 hp (130 kW) Inline-6.

The interior was all BMW: apart from a simple one piece dashboard, it shared the same seats and trim as the full-sized 3-series. 318ti came in different trim levels, including the base, Active and Sport. Sport package is similar to the ones offered to coupe/sedan models, giving the car the suspension upgrade, colour coded bumpers, foglights, alloy wheels, sport seats and the like. Active package offered comfort items such as OBC(On-board computer), cruise control, sunroof and remote keyless entry.

The Clubsport edition was only offered in the model year 1995. It received the treatment of BMW Individual, much like the 1995 M3 lightweight and 1995 BMW E34 540i M-sport. 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 had all the performance upgrade with no exterior distinction from the base model. Starting 1996, the sport package included the M-aerodynamic package like the Clubsport model, with the exception using the standard side mirror. Also there is a rare California edition of the vehicle, introduced in 1996, featured a Webasto style folding canvas roof reminiscent of those used in the Citroën 2CV. 1999 is a unique year for 318ti in US, since the introduction of E46 sedan/coupe models, BMW has made a decision not to offer the four-cylindered cars available to the rest of the world. All 1999 318ti’s came with the sport package. It is the rarest and most sought after of the E36 318 lineup by enthusiasts, being the lightest, fastest, best handling and least expensive.

To celebrate the 50th birthday of the German automobile magazine “Auto Motor und Sport”, BMW M GmbH 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 donated to the automobile magazine, but there are no details of the car’s present whereabouts.


The car was offered in the United States and Canada for model years 1995 through 1999. Despite being reasonably priced, starting at $19,900, the 318ti never enjoyed popularity in North America, selling much better in Europe. While consumers desired a less expensive BMW, two factors conspired to keep sales low in the US. First, the US market only sporadically supports the hatchback body style. Second, the SUV craze was beginning to surge.

The E36 automobile platform was the basis for the 1991-1999 BMW 3 Series entry-level luxury car / compact executive car. It was the successor to the BMW E30 and was eventually replaced by the BMW E46 in 1999. The 4 door models were discontinued for 1999. Replacing it was the all-new E46. The 2 door E36 was still made for the 1999 year. So in 1999 you could only choose between a 2 door E36 and a 4 door E46. In 2000, the E36 was officially discontinued. The E36 was introduced in late 1990 (1991 model) for Europe and as a 1992 model for US and Canada.

E36 experienced enormous success in the market. It laid strong foundations for the success that the BMW E46 experienced in subsequent years.

Also known as the “Dolphin shape.” The E36 was sold from 1991 through 1999. It employed the “Z-axle” multilink suspension in the rear which had been proven in the Z1. DOHC engines were used across the range, with VANOS variable valve timing introduced in 1993.

The four-door E36 was sold from Autumn, 1991, in the United States but the E30 coupes were retained until well into 1992. The E36 convertible was delayed until 1994. The hatchback 318ti Compact was introduced in 1995, was very popular in Europe, but it was not very successful in North America. The BMW Compact was identical to the regular E36 sedan from front bumper to A-Pillar. Everything else was unique, namely its rear semi-trailing arm suspension, based on the old E30, instead of the Z-Axle Multilink employed in all other E36’s. The Z3 and M Coupe have similar rear suspension setups as well. The “Touring” station wagon was sold in Europe from 1995, but was not offered in the United States.

The 2.5 L M50B25 used in the 325 models was replaced in 1996 with the 2.8 L M52B28, creating the 328 line. Another 2.5 L engine, the M52B25, was reintroduced for 1998 but the cars were sold as 323 rather than 325.

Scribbled on September 4th 2008 in robson.m3Rlin.org
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