Before I woke up and switched from Saab to BMW, I drove 8 and 16 valve NA inline 4s and Loved them. It was the "feel" of the cars. They weren't very fast, but good on mileage and torquey as hell. Next my Saab 9-3 and 9-5 were cars with turbo 4s that put out more torque than HP and were reasonably quick.
Now that I'm with BMW, I have every confidence they can and will build performance-oriented 4 cyls with turbos or not that have lots of torque and deliver good MPG. Consider the current '09 WTCC 320i:
4-cylinder in line, longitudinally installed. Distribution: two overhead camshafts, 16 valves. Displacement: 1999 cc. Bore x stroke: 86 x 86 mm. Compression ratio: 11:1. Maximum output: 280 bhp @ 8300 rpm. Maximum torque: 245 nm @ 7250 rpm. Engine management: BMW Motorsport ECU 404. Lubrication: wet sump.
Sure that's a race car but you make even 230-250 hp (with even higher tq) in a lighter weight 135i package and I'd be all over it. If not, i would even go with a 335d. From an everyday practicality standpoint, Torque over HP.
'91 E34 M5
Dinan 3.6 Stroker, Tune, Exhaust, Sways