The conclusion to our BMW M2 CS review was that the considerably cheaper Competition offers much of the same thrills. That doesn’t help you much if you can’t afford one of those either, though - even the oldest used examples will set you back over £30k, while the original M2 is still far from bargain-basement territory.
You could get an E36 or E46 M3, but that still requires a hefty chunk of cheddar to buy, and the running costs of both can get extremely scary. Instead, you could get an E46 3-series Compact.
BMW toyed with the idea of making an E36 M3 Compact, which effectively would have been a forerunner to the M2. It never happened, of course, but the E46 325ti partially fulfilled that role, with a handy 189bhp coming from an M54 2.5-litre, naturally-aspirated inline-six.
You don’t have to worry about the diminutive Compact handling that output either - unlike its E36 predecessor, the E46 3er hatchback has fully independent suspension. And don’t listen to anyone going on about short wheelbases - the Compact’s is no different to the regular E46’s.
A popular base for a drift car, finding any sort of 3-series Compact that’s still in one piece is tricky. With that in mind, this 2002 325ti on eBay is well worth a punt. It’s done a very reasonable 102,000 miles, has only been owned by three different people (the current keeper has been on the logbook for nine years), and yes - it’s a manual.
It’s just been serviced and treated to new brake discs and pads at the rear. It looks tidy, although the seller does note there’s a “minor misfire” on idle, which might be worth looking into.
It’s up for £1500, which seems like a bit of a bargain. Given that small six-cylinder BMW hatchbacks are no longer a thing, that’s a sorely tempting buy.