2006 Chevrolet Aveo LS 4dr Hatchback (1.6L 4cyl 5M)
This is my first new car, and it is absolutely great! It has excellent handling, is incredibly easy to park, and people are constantly amazed at how much room the interior has. At first the manual transmission was a little rubbery, but after 9000 miles it has broken in nicely and shifts much better. Absolutely no maintenance problems whatsoever. The car actually seems to be holding up well in Michigan on a dirt road (our normal roads are also pretty nasty). Good ride, definitely easy to push through the curves. Too bad GM can't figure out how to make something similar in America, or without stealing from Daewoo, though.
Handling, interior room, ruggedness. Very good headlights that do an excellent job of picking out the deer and other road hazards.
Perhaps a slightly more powerful 4-cylinder that puts out a bit more torque to help get through the snow (say, 120 hp and 130 lb-ft?). Make a better stock AM/FM radio. I replaced mine right away with something else.
† Edmunds.com received the highest numerical score in the proprietary J.D. Power 2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study℠. Results based on responses from 3,381 responses, measuring 14 companies and measures third-party automotive website usefulness among new and used vehicle shoppers. Proprietary study results are based on experiences and perceptions of owners surveyed from January 2014. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com.