I've seen e46's as low as 6,000, go pick one up, yes it will have a higher mileage, probably a bit more wear but will probably last you more than e36 would these days !
it doesnt really matter if you got the zhp or 320, both can be made to look the same or better, you get the same respect from fellow bmw owners, it really doesnt matter what you drive.
you can always upgrade to a better model in a few years once you can afford it.
now go and find one ! trader/kijiji/craigslist is your friend