2008 Mazda Mazda6 i Sport Value Edition 4dr Sedan (2.3L 4cyl 5M)
Had owned a 2002 Mazda Protege ES. That car was such a well controlled handler, but was starting to get too punishing on midwestern roads hammered by a hard winter. The 08 Mazda6 is almost as fun to whip around as the Protege, but a much easier car to live with - better balance between fun and comfort. But of course handling still beats the pants off an Accord or (yawn) Camry! Size was just-right for me, and comfy enough in back that I don't feel guilty putting passengers back there like I used to.
Handling, handling, handling!! Without killing you. Feature content was great for price. I like a snug cockpit (others might not).
Fuel economy: but having a manual allows me to drive like a racecar when wanted, or like a miser when wanted. Upper back support of the seat was crappy - I had to make a foam cushion to make it comfy for both long drives or hard cornering. Brake pedal is also a tad too close to seat.