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The 2.0 16v is probably the one to go for as the other phase 1 engines are a but gutless(especially compared to your MR2
I think silver is the colour I'd choose(again personal opinion...)
Apart from the usual checks,the Megane coupes seem to eat driveshafts(especilly the 2litre),and the gearboxes can be slightly weak.Check for any knocking noises when turning tight corners and make sure the gear change is smooth and quiet.
I would think you'd be able to find an early one for the money you have to spend,although as SB says,the Phase 2 models were a definate improvement.
Good luck,and welcome to the forum.
I'd rather push my Alfa than drive a BMW....
Currently in Lagdti's garage:
2004 Saab 9-5 HOT Aero and a 2001 Audi A3 1.8 Turbo