The fourth generation BMW 3 Series, with more rounded styling and slightly bulbous nose, arrived in Britain in time for S-plates in September 1998. As usual, BMW drip-fed the new models on to the market, beginning with the petrol-powered 318i, 323i and 328i saloons and order queues quickly formed across the land.
The smaller pair of saloons continued the less welcome Munich tradition of no longer matching engine size to badging - the 318i (and the lesser specified 316i which arrived later) shared a 1.9-litre engine and the 323i was a 2.5.
The four-cylinder 320d arrived a year or so later, followed, in mid-2000, by the creamy-smooth six-cylinder 330d, quickly acclaimed the world's best diesel by the glossy magazines. The Coupes, sharing hardly any exterior body components with the saloons, began arriving in 1999 and you'll see them about with 318Ci, 323Ci, 328Ci and 330Ci badges. Touring estates also started to arrive that year with the range eventually building up to 318i, 328i, 330i, 320d and 330d versions.
A more recent arrival was the superb convertible, almost coinciding with the 328i engine's replacement by the new 330i (yes, this one really is a three-litre model). The drop-top made its debut as a 323i, with 318i and 330i variants promised. These arrived shortly before the blisteringly fast M3, offered in coupe and convertible forms.