The first thing with any car is holding the key. The key hints to you the level of quality and attention to detail to be expected. The BMW key feels solid and looks so good it excites you to press unlock for the first time.
Sit down into the well-bolstered leather seat and breathe in that new car smell! The new BMW's maintain that traditional new car smell of quality unlike other brands such as Toyota or Hyundai, in where the new car smell is an overwhelming one of the recycled materials, polyurethane, plastics and chemicals that make up the seats, dashboards and carpet.
BMW have done well to eliminate some of the very annoying beeping chimes you had to endure upon start up in previous models, including the current M240i. There is nothing like an annoying beeping sound to ruin the beginning of your luxury car experience! Adjust the very comfortable and highly adjustable seat, hit the start button, pull the little shifter into gear and hope the electronic handbrake is smart enough to release on its own (and in this car, it is).
The first thing you notice when driving this car is the thickness of the sports steering wheel. I'm happy with it, but for those with small hands you may feel you don't have a good grip, and with the quick-rack steering of heavy weight in sport mode, you need to hang onto that thing firmly.
The engine is pretty impressive. The boost comes in hard and fast from around 1700rpm and pulls hard to around 5000rpm, at which point you may as well grab the next gear - when holding onto 6000 or more, you can feel the small turbo and heavily-restricted exhaust struggling to flow the gases. However, for the average driver this car has more than enough performance. I hate the fake engine noise audio in the cabin and cannot work out how to turn it off. I also hate the assisted steering safety function, but have luckily worked out how to disable that.
There are too many buttons and too many functions in this car. Even the "P" gear for parking is a tiny, hidden button near your thumb position on the shifter. The ergonomics could be better like in Lexus and Audi models.
The run-flat tyres crash badly on bumps, but once you put some heat into them they stick to the road with amazing ability. And that's where the BMW really hits the mark - its handling! My preference for a good twisty road is with Sport mode, but with steering in comfort as it's weighted better for accurate transitioning in and out of the corners.
The transmission shift is a good balance between smooth and fast, and when you drop the windows there is a lovely aural exchange from the intake between the turbo spooling and the wastegate and blow off valve managing your tromping and blipping of the throttle. The 400Nm is felt best when you've wound out 3rd and pop into 4th gear right in the thick of the power curve (around 3800 revs)
You get a nice shove in the seat as the little 2.0-litre gets around 20psi shoved down its throat.
Buy this car if you want an impressive looking vehicle that can back up those looks with understated performance.