My curiosity about these is still there. I would love to at least drive one, and it seems to satisfy a lot of my needs on paper — which may or may not amount to nothing. And I happen to really like the way they look. Maybe not too popular in the US since you couldn’t get a 6-cylinder here, but I’m the last person to bemoan owning a little 4-banger.
Owner forums don’t depict them as reliable or even well-built (I have sat in a poorly kept E36 before. The plastic is indeed “fantastic”). But I already have three absurdly reliable vehicles and I don’t intend to own my next car for maybe even a year. And until I score that one-owner Tercel wagon with no rust that does not exist, I will continue to window shop for things like the 318ti.