Sunday 19 October 2014

BMW 3 series compact - The UGLY ducking of the family


The BMW 3 series Compact is considered to be the grandfather of the BMW 1 series. A significant (if not by design) model tweak allowed a smaller, but seemingly fitting model to be squeezed into the whole product range.

The 3 series compact is basically a truncated liftback version of the BMW 3 series produced by the German automaker between 1993 and 2004 on first, the E36 chassis, then after 2001 on the E46 platform. While it shared a wheelbase of the full-fledged 3 series, it did come with some different specs - which may i add made it fricking awesome!

 The 3 series compact was never meant to be a powerful car, neither on the E36 or E46 chassis after that. The most powerful engines were - surprisingly - the diesel variants and their amazing torque. while any self respecting 3 series compact diesel owner wasn't keeping the car stock, examples with 130-150HP for the E36 and over 200hp for the E46 models were frequently seen.

something similar can be said about the first generation 1 series with diesel engines providing better acceleration, more torque and more fun!

The E36/5 compact shares its suspension with the BMW Z3; the front suspension employs the E36's standard MacPherson strut desgin, 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 desgin of the trailing arm suspension was that if favored over-steer. while journalists everywhere were happy to discourage anyone from buying the car, the fun factor was there: it was prone to over-steer. its also a rather driver-intensive vehicle, requiring enough work and skills to master it properly.

design wise, the E36 compact was a slightly more successful model than the E46 variant which stood out with its weird headlights, a first and last for BMW. None of the two variants were considered to be award-winning designs and didn't add to the bottom of BMW sales, but the enthusiasts seemed to have enjoyed their athletic capabilities.

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