Long before BMW had the five-door Gran Coupe they sold another compact hatchback, the 318. Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe edition is a gussied up M-sport. Let’s see if, for its price, you’d have its back.

Toyota’s Supra originally grew out of the Celica pony car, in sort of evil twin fashion. However, while the Celica eventually went front-wheel drive and seemingly to secretary school, the reprobate Supra only got brawnier.

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Yesterday’s 1987 Toyota Supra, which rocked both a turbo and a five speed, proved to be both large and in charge. Not only that but it swept up 62 percent of us with its $12,800 price tag, earning itself a Nice Price win.

As we all now know, Toyota is working on a new sporty model which will likely carry the Supra honorific. The company has been in cahoots in its development with BMW, and that company will also sell a derivation of the very same car. This instance of corporate cooperation makes for a good sort of German/Japanese alliance, as well a nice transition from yesterdays’ big Toyota six-cylinder coupe to today’s smaller, four-cylinder BMW hatch.

Here we have a 1996 BMW 318ti carrying the M-sport package. We’ll talk a little more about the latter in a sec. First however, let’s just reorient ourselves with the 318ti.

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Anytime a manufacturer decides to move downmarket it faces the possibility of perhaps irrevocably denigrating the brand (see: Maserati Biturbo). BMW took the leap in the U.S. for the ’96 model year, introducing a three-doors down hatchback edition of the E36. It was actually only partially E36 as it maintained the semi trailing arm rear suspension of the precedent E30 in an effort to save costs. You might expect an aggressively priced but sensibly kitted Bimmer might burn up the sales charts. That assumption however would be mistaken, at least in the 318ti’s case.

Over the course of four model years BMW only sold a little over 19,000 of the hunchback hatches here, never reaching the company’s sales goals for the car. In the end, the model was banished from our shores, as BMW decided that four pot cars weren’t its bag here in the States. And yes, they’ve more recently come to their senses about that.

This ’96 318ti comes appropriately kitted in M-sport togs. Now, do not confuse this with an M-series car, as no such thing came to us from the factory. Instead it’s mostly a styling and suspension package. That includes a more aggressive front bumper housing fog lamps. A similarly sporty rear bumper with under-tray matches that, and really ties the whole car together. Five spoke alloys sit under a slightly lowered and more capable spring and shock setup.

Inside there are upgraded sport seats, and this is where this 170,000 mile 318 starts to impress. Those seats, along with the door cards, carpet and dash all look to be in exemplary condition. In fact, it’s only the floor mats that detract from the appearance as they are either faded or the wrong color for the car.

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The silver metallic exterior likewise looks a fine fettle, evidencing no peppering at the nose, no clouding of the headlamp covers, and perhaps most amazingly of all, both its fog lights intact. Hell, it even still has the little trim strip on the base of the rear glass, and those things never seem to stick around.

The ad claims that “everything works” and describes the car as being in “good condition.” The 138 horsepower M44 four doesn’t seem to have been monkeyed with, which is good. That’s backed by a proper five-speed, and the car rides on what’s said to be new Koni dampers.

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The asking price is $3,750, and you’ll now need to let the seller know if that’s where it should be, or if he’s made a grievous mistake. What do you think, does this car’s $3,750 price make it feel far more popular an attraction than it once was? Or, does that have you saying no deal?

You decide!

Portland, OR Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

HT to WindAdvisory for the hookup!

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