Michael Knight: Hoff
To me Hoff's Michael Knight was the cowboy with his black trusty stead (Trans-Am). He got along with everyone, because that's the type of person Hoff's Knight was. He always wanted to help those in need. He was someone men wanted to be and women probably wanted to be with. Plain and simple he was the good guy.
Bruening's Michael Knight was more like Mr. Popular. Sometimes I saw him more as a frat boy. In terms of a guy that some people wanted to be or be with, I think men really wanted his car and girlfriend more than to be him.
The original is not perfect. If you grew up watching the show and watched the DVD's now you might be surprised how corny some parts are. However, that show wasn't a copycat and it's story telling was much more consistent. The character interaction between Michael, KITT, Devon and to a lesser extent Bonnie and April were better than any of the characters in the new series. (I'm sure Michael's interaction with R.C. was better too, but I don't recall details of their interactions so much).
Also, I never could look past the KITT transformation thing in the 2008 series. In the pilot movie I could make do with his morphing and regeneration, but the ability to change into a truck, old Mustang and whatever else was just too much. I felt sometimes this was a kids cartoon in which the car could turn itself into whatever the heck it wanted to. KITT was suppose to be a top secret weapon and yet he's morphing into whatever he wanted to in broad daylight down the expressway and then driving down the subway.
One more thing, I don't think the new KR had the same charm as the original. The original almost always had Hoff protecting the little guy. I think that was really cool that he had a powerful weapon such as KITT to do this in. The 2008 version dealt more into high profile, government related cases and wasn't very interesting. Some of the later episodes of KR08 were better at this though.