This is a great car for budget-minded car enthusiasts. Fun to drive, good performance for the price. It's not a Bimmer or an Audi but it's also not in the same price range. Overall, it's a very good balance between price, performance, comfort and reliability, still convinced after more than 85K miles driving up and down both coasts. I would recommend the 2.3L as it's more zippy even with higher fuel consumption and the manual as it will allow better management of fuel economy for every day commute. If you take good care of it: don't park it outside, all scheduled maintenance, put good rubber on it, it will love you back 1000-fold.
AC on 2004 models is weak, better in subsequent yrs. #1 setting useless. Wish manual had 6th gear for highway cruising: rpm is 3000 at 65mph. Wish fog lights could turn on as daytime running lights. OEM Goodyears are worthless. Michelin Pilot Exalto summer are must have. Perfect complement to car