Long a favorite of driving enthusiasts, BMW’s 3 Series has nonetheless gotten bigger, heavier and less engaging with each successive generation. Nowadays, even a car buff could easily mistake a newer 3 Series sedan for a 5 Series. Make no mistake, the 3er’s performance is still impressive, but for many who relish time behind the wheel, the less quantifiable “fun to drive” factor has dropped off.

Indeed, many enthusiasts feel that the E46 generation marks the last time the 3 Series was truly engaging and true to its roots — a spry athlete of a car that offered not only quick reflexes but communication through the steering wheel and seat of one’s pants that let you know in no uncertain terms what the tires were doing.

And with cars from this generation now at least ten years old, depreciation has already taken its toll, making good examples as cheap to acquire as they’re ever going to be.

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