Before getting my ///M, I had a 2008 VW Jetta GLI with DSG. Great fun, that little sucker! I actually really regretted trading it in because I had loved it so much, but once I got my M3 I never looked back! The GLI was an amazing car and I'd recommend it to anyone, but it couldn't hold a candle next to an M car, even one 10 years older than it.
Actually, random little fact. I spent more on the GLI than I did on my ///M. So strangely enough, the most expensive car I've ever bought was NOT a BMW, it was actually a VW, hahahaha.