A little bit about me, a little flying, and some other stuff
I spent the majority of my flight time in a Cessna 172, at the time of this writing approaching 80 hours. So it was nice to get a chance to try something new, especially when it has a lower per hour operating cost. The organization I rent from is the proud owner of of a Diamond DA-20 C1 eclipse which is another popular trainer. It is a composite body, low wing, light sport style aircraft with 2 seats and flown with a flight stick versus a yoke. It is a VFR only rated plane, mainly because its composite body has no lightning protection. The other big difference other than being significantly lighter than a 172 is that it is not steerable nose geer so you must get used to differential braking.
First impressions? Different. Ironically for a 125hp engine the thing wants to go fast. The composite body reduces drag and the plane slides through the air like its greased so you find that you can maintain a high cruising speed at a lower rpm than the 172. It also handles cross-winds fairly well with its small empenage, as I got to learn on my second flight. The canopy also gives you a spectacular view that really makes you remember why you got into flying.
This partcular aircraft tends to have a shimmy on the nosewhell turning touch down. I don't know if its a DA20 thing or just this plane, but one thing I leanred to appreciate is it forcing you to keep the nose wheel up while landing, very much like a soft field landing.
It is definitely a nice plane so if you find yourself with the opportunity to fly one, take it. It is a great experience!