Engine is strong but the power is not as usable as it could be - 16 valves means that revs must be kept high to get any performance out of it - the only good point is the pull in top gear at motorway speeds (due to high gearing) - very strong.
Handling, grip, body control, balance are all a joy. The steering is very communicative. The turning circle is terrible. The seats hold you well but there's no lumbar support and on long journeys they get uncomfortable.
Front tyres last about 15K - rears much longer. MPG 30+ with reasonably sporty driving.
Wind noise from passenger side irritating. Looks are understated but pleasant. Engine sounds noisy rather than sporty - although not intrusive on the motorway.
It's a fun car with a balance of virtues but I would say if you're being practical the Turbo Diesel is a better buy (excellent mid range torque) and if you're feeling WILD go for the GTi-6.