Wow, I must admit I'm a bit surprised (pleasantly, though) to learn of the sentiment for a 4-cyl. car. I was about to make a post on very much that same point, i. e. enough with the fire breathers already. I think the general observation holds that most of the technological advances in the drivetrains of today's vehicles has gone to more (unneeded, in my estimation) power at the sacrifice of fuel economy, in other words, a horsepower arms race. Doesn't the phrase "enough is enough" have any relevance anymore? (Well, of course not.)
My feeling has been that BMW has lacked a credible entry-level model for some time now, it's last one being the 318 Ti I think it was, the one with the lopped off rear end. How good a car it was I don't know, but it seemed to have been rather short-lived, while BMW played to, and very much secured its place with, the upper end of the market. From a business perspective I guess that's a sensible enough plan, but I think there was more opportunity than risk in developing something for the lower end of the market (albeit at some premium) to bring that population into the fold for the presumed "move up" after the first couple of job promotions.
I could yammer on but won't for now, at least until I have to defend myself from any artillery that might be lobbed my way as a result of this posting, except for one final thing-- picking up on drz's point, I saw maybe about a year ago on "Top Gear," a British car enthusiast program associated with the BBC website, a comparison between the 1-series and a VW I think it was. If I recall correctly, they were somewhat impressed with the 1-, but not sufficiently so to opt for it given the price differential between the two cars. Okay, enough of my