This was my first car for a couple years after owning a 2007 Tacoma (and a Matrix before that which I had totalled). The first things I noticed, which made me a convert to BMW for life, was the smoothness and metallic wail of the straight six engine, the perfect weight distribution, exceptional power delivery, quick gearing, minimalistic luxury, and the comparatively heavy controls (I later bought an E36 M3 which has even stiffer controls).
This car is very smooth, very quiet, and the 6 speed manual, coupled with more than adequate torque, which happens to peak at less than 3000 rpm, means the car is very quick around town without needing to be pushed hard AT ALL! Throttle response, however, is a little disappointing with the electronic gizmos dialing in some serious lag.
Steering is very heavy and weighted, but this is a welcome touch compared to my experience with Japanese cars, where the controls and steering feel un-necessarily light and "detached".
Highway cruising is exceptional - balance is flawless, wind noise is drastically reduced compared to my Tacoma, and cruising at 140 clicks can only be described as feeling natural (which has gotten me a couple of expensive tickets I might add). The funny thing is that the faster I cruised, the better my fuel economy seemed to get! I could easily get 730 clicks on a 60L tank of gas while cruising at 120 km/h. According to the OBD, I could get up to 40 mpg on any given run. Now, to think that this car outperforms most traffic, packs 230 HP, is plenty quick, and still gets this kind of mileage, is miraculous and a dream come true. The folks over at BMW sure know what they are doing!
Interior is reserved with typical minimalistic BMW luxury. My car was equipped with a lot of generous features such as triple-level seat warmers, MP3 player, automatic climate control, residual heat function (VERY handy in the winter months), dimming rear-view mirrors, etc. Fit and finish is top-grade with tasteful use of high-quality plastics and aluminium accents. The only thing I didn't like was the leatherette upholstery - while supple and durable enough, it simply did not "breathe", and consequently long trips on hot days meant sweat build-up on the seats.
This car made me a convert to BMWs, and I can't imagine being satisfied driving any other type of car as a daily driver. This car is the total package of luxury, sportiness, practicality, reliability and fuel economy. Why oh why are there not more cars like this? :-)