2006 Mazda MAZDA3 s Touring 4dr Sedan (2.3L 4cyl 5M)
Mazda is the under appreciated Japanese brand, but they are the most fun to drive. I needed a commuting car and chose this as a nice balance between completely boring fuel economy and something that I would like to drive since I spend about 2 hrs and 20 min in it every workday. It is very reliable and you won't be disappointed if you buy one used. I am giving mine up to my 16 yr-old daughter and feel comfortable with her driving it.
Zoom, zoom, zoom Controls on steering wheel, easy closing doors, responsive engine, nice tight suspension for the money, a great value and fun to drive.
Some kind of hands free or blue tooth cell phone link.