BMW moves from strength to strength. At present, the Bavarian stalwart is overtaking the previously dominant Mercedes-Benz in overall world sales at the prestigious end of the medium-sized private car market. With cars such as the all-conquering 3-Series, 5-Series and, to a lesser extent, the 7-Series, BMW has consistently improved its products. It is only with the new 8-Series replacing the potent 6-Series that results have proved slightly disappointing. In 1990, BMW launched the new 3-Series compact four-door saloon, building upon the previous success of the car, making it far more aerodynamic and generally updating the entire range for the 1990s. The new car has been tremendously successful and, last year, was joined by the slightly more stylish two-door coupe range. In reality, the coupe differs only marginally from the saloon. The saloon was already a handsome car and the coupe is styled upon this to create another beautiful European thoroughbred. The coupe retains the overall length and, indeed, the floor pan of the saloon. Overall height is dropped by 2.5 cm and the doors are lengthened, while the bonnet and rear boot heights are lowered. Both the front windscreen and the rear screen are modified to increase rake and aid smoother air flow. This said, however, the coupe ends up slightly heavier than the saloon, possibly due to the addition of some extra coupe equipment such as ABS brake systems and the lower M Technic suspension units. Other differences include subtle modifications to the lamp clusters in the rear, which are extended and positioned lower, and a series of slots on the bonnet. The car looks extremely purposeful with the air of a nippy, classy, but practical, town car. The 1.8i appears ideal for Hongkong's busy streets. The insertion of a 2.0-or 2.5-litre engine would give the car more verve and ability in managing the steep hills of Hongkong island. Otherwise, the coupe is ideal. In overall package, the 3-Series coupe is almost perfect for the young couple or, indeed, the young family. The size and compact, but certainly not cramped, dimensions of the car allow it to be driven around the territory easily and safely, effortlessly slotting into tight parking spaces when the need arises. Driving the car bore out the much-talked-about abilities of the excellent chassis. The 50/50 distribution and overall chassis set-up is nearly perfect. Putting the car into corner after corner, going down the more twisting stretches of Stubbs Road, not once upset the superb poise and road holding of this BMW. The new coupe is simply one of the best. This is illustrated by BMW's outright win during the British Touring Car Championship last year. Zipping through Central and along to Shek O, I was slightly disappointed by the audible intrusion of the ''thrashy'' note of the four-cylinder 1.8-litre engine. Although the coupe benefits from the multi-valved edition of the latest four-cylinder BMW power unit, it could, nonetheless, benefit from the aural refinement of similar Italian marques. The BMW/Getrag gearbox was superb to use. The change was always firm and swift and this, matched with the progressive clutch, brake and accelerator, made for spirited and confidence-inspiring driving. The ABS braking system was likewise strong and sure, as was the splendid steering system. In the normally aspirated car, the 1.8-four-pot engine needed to be worked up and down the gears and double de-clutched to keep the power high. Only by driving in such a manner was there just about the right amount of grunt to keep the momentum up. As stated earlier, I personally would prefer its larger brothers, the 2.0i and 2.5i, with their six-cylinder engines. The saving in fuel and purchase price of the 318i, especially over that of the 320i, cannot be that great. However, the 318i is a more reasonable $350,000, whereas the 320i comes in at $423,000, while the 325i costs a whopping $510,000. It must also be remembered that, like most German manufacturers, this is the base price and $50,000 to $60,000 can easily be added on, when various options are specified. Inside the 318i, I immediately felt at home. The quality of the fittings and their perfect positioning instantly endeared themselves to me. The dual heating and air-conditioning systems, one for the passenger side and another for the driver's side of the car, gave credence to the thought and technology that has gone into this splendid vehicle. The seats adjusted well for leg room and height, and enveloped me into a firm, but comfortable, driving position, with all controls falling immediately to hand. Sales of the new 3-Series in Hongkong are strong, for numerous reasons. With the 3-Series saloon and coupe models, BMW customers are getting one of the best names in the motoring business, good reliability, a proud sporting image, and an immensely high resale value coupled to an excellent quality of build.