We are all saying the same thing. I came from a mkiv r32 to a 2009 128i and never looked back. The car is amazing. Balanced in every way: handling, power, comfort, sport, fun, modest practicality.. You get a lot for your money. It really is a great car. Have had no major problems in my almost 4 years and the NA engine is awesome to rev up. I couldn't be happier. The driving dynamics are completely different and much more enjoyable.
Definitely test drive a stick with sport package to get the full experience, and don't be shy with the gas. The real fun begins after 3.5k RPMs