This is the first car I have ever owned, although I have driven many others. In my opinion, this is as close to a perfect car as there is (which is why I bought it. A logical progression, really). I got an excellent example of the model for 4 grand, and have since put less than a thousand into it over 8,000 miles. It is just bulletproof. I have never pushed the revs to the red because the car simply doesn't need it to do whatever you need. The interior is comfortable but you can tell it was a secondary concern after performance. The car has it where it counts, and that is what matters to me.
Handling, of course, is the #1 reason to buy a 3 series, and it handles wonderfully. When pushed, there is a noticeable tendency to understeer, but the steering feel is amazing, the pedals are linear and direct, and the shifter is buttery smooth (if a bit of a long throw). Most of all, though, you just get the feeling that the whole car is solid and tight in a way even the most up-to-date 'economy' car simply doesn't approach. The suspension does its best to find a balance between comfort and performance, but leans to the latter. You can feel the road surface through the leather seat at all times, and body roll is minimal. Having four doors is a great practicality feature without a downside.
The radio has been replaced, but the computer in the center has grown so dim as to be nearly unreadable. The mats have torn away from their mountings and can get in the way at times, but never unsafely so. The rear leg room leaves something to be desired, and throughout the interior you can see a few pieces of plastic that are a bit less tightly attached than when the car was new. The leather has held up amazingly, though. A well-known issue with these cars is a broken climate control. Had to do some work with a solder iron and take the whole thing apart to fix it. The heated seats seem to be broken. The paint does get chipped and rust a bit easily. No mechanical complaints at all.