2005 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx LS 4dr Hatchback (3.5L 6cyl 4A)
There should be more medium/large hatchbacks out there besides the Mazda6 and the Maxx. I picked the Maxx because it had a low maintainence OHV engine, a wide variety of local dealers most (in my experience) who have given higher quality service than their import selling cohorts, and because it was unique in concept but every day Chevy in execution. So far it's delivered as advertised, delivering very good gas mileage near the EPA averages of 22/30. Some reviews have knocked the electric steering, but other than a slight bit of twitchiness on uneven roads, I've noticed no problems. Maybe Chevy has improved things since the 04 model. Simple 4-speed auto nicely matched to engine.
Great flexibility. Surprising gas mileage. Gutty, torquey engine that delivers great mileage. Maybe the best Japanese mills are smoother but I think the old technology has been nicely updated. Great flexibility. Try putting a lawnmower in the back of your Accord sedan. Lots of kit for the money.
Chrome running under headlights on front clip is a bit ungainly. The '06 SS looks a lot better and similar tweeks to the base cars should be tried. Wide variation of quality in interior. Seating surfaces are a bit plain. Great door handles-- some other surfaces look a bit hard and inexpensive.