Two decades on and the E46 is still a handsome car, while one in tip-top condition is very desirable. Saloon, coupé, convertible, estate (named the Touring) and even a hatchback (the Compact): there are as many bodystyles as there are days in the working week.
Convertibles are highly desirable, in plentiful supply and tipped to be future classics but saloons are most common. Petrols outnumber diesels, too, while gearboxes are split equally between automatic and manual.
Prices range from £500 for giveaway diesels to £20,000 for the best low-mileage convertibles. Good runners are available from around £2500 and cars you won’t be embarrassed to park on your driveway from £5000.
If the high-performance M3 is too flash, there’s always the 330d Sport automatic, a Q-car if ever there was one with, depending on the model year, up to 201bhp and 288lb ft of torque. It can do 0-62mph in 7.4sec but really shows its colours through the gears, all while averaging 40mpg.
Its diesel sibling, the 320d, is more plentiful and, with 148bhp and 243lb ft, reasonably quick. Especially in London, where people are anxious to sell before the ULEZ is expanded to encompass everything within the North and South Circular roads, many are keenly priced, too. We saw a 2005 320d ES Touring with 125,000 miles, a full service history and no known faults on sale for just £850.
The diesels are good, but the petrols are better. The batting opens with a couple of four-pot tiddlers, the 316i and 318i, that are now few and far between. The fun starts with the six-cylinder 320i, which, from the 2000 model year, makes 168bhp. Then you have the slightly more powerful 323i and 328i that were discontinued in 2000 and replaced by the still more powerful 325i (189bhp) and 330i (228bhp). This last model can crack 0-62mph in 7.0sec while being turbine-smooth along the way.