Because I rate the E46 316i Compact as a good ‘proper’ starter car (small engine, RWD) I thought it’d be wise to keep you abreast of what the thing is actually like to live with. So in no particular order, here are my findings…

Prices for E46 Compacts kick off from around £900 online, which is good value for a car as good as this one. So have I bought the bargain of 2021? Well, not exactly, because there are a few issues with mine…

For starters, the lacquer peel on the bonnet and rear-three quarter panel will put people off, while more concerning still is the illuminated engine light which explains the Compact’s hesitation under hard acceleration (something’s not right with the motor’s Valvetronic unit). The engine is also running rich. For everyday use, however, these things don’t stop me getting from A to B, but I will need to investigate the issues and get them sorted soon.

Alongside the engine issue, the tracking / alignment is also out of whack, which is something I need to get sorted ASAP. The symptoms include a car that feels skittish on the motorway, a bit like driving a high-sided and very light car in high winds. The car never settles, and during a long left-hander at 60mph to join a motorway, the traction control light went nuts, which is a sure fire way to know that the wheels aren’t all pointing the right way.

The tuning scene for Compacts is varied and plentiful, parts are easy to come by and there are countless E46 forums, owners’ clubs and Facebook pages. These things mean that finding used wheels, suspension components and aesthetic mods will get you well on your project car life way for not a lot of money.

What’s more, engine swapping Compacts with bigger E46 motors has been done a lot too, so if that appeals, you’ll have a wealth of tutorials and people to lean on online.

I’m enjoying E46 Compact life. Despite the aforementioned engine and tracking issues, it is a decent car to drive, feels solid and has all the refinements I like, including a multi-function steering wheel, cruise control and a remote central locking that actually works.

This content was originally published here.