2006 Mazda Mazda3 s Grand Touring 4dr Sedan (2.3L 4cyl 5M)
Out of college was on a budget of 15k. Bought a 2006 Mazda 3 with 45k miles on it for 12k, 14k after financing and taxes. Bought the 2.3 version, and it has been an excellent car. Great pick up for a 4 cyl. Handling is amazing, easily equals the maxima i had to trade in. Gas mileage leaves something to be desired (i average about 25). leather is fake feeling, but hey, heated leather for a 14k car isn't bad. on board GPS is ok but outdated. Bose sound system is nice but not as good as i expected (again 14k). sun roof is a nice touch. lacks torque to put you back in your seat. if you are a looking for a great, reliable, go-kart like car to drive for under 16k, look for used mazda3.
heated (but not the leather) seats, gps, Bose, surprising pick up (but still a 4 cyl), GREAT handling, Bose, sun roof, very reasonable price
honestly, what could you improve without charging more? perfect balance of cost and performance.