We purchased our 2001 Saturn SC1 in 2003 with 36K miles on it; it has since been reliable for an additional 220K+ miles with only minor repairs needed. Beyond brakes, tires, oil changes, and tune ups we have spent less than $500 on repairs over the course of 12 years. It's also great on gas (manual).
Update: Car is still going strong with only minor repairs needed!
I'm a 20 year old college student and my dad bought me a Saturn SC2 (automatic) with 140,000 miles as my first car when I got my license at 18, about 2.5 years ago. My dad drives a 2001 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck (manual). Let me tell you, his truck has 220,000 miles on it and has NEVER broken down on him in 4 years. In 2.5 years my car has broken down on me more times than I can count on two hands. I'm getting tired of staring at the back of his truck while he tows me back to the house, sometimes 100+ miles away from home. I have maintained this car meticulously, and faithfully gotten every repair ever needed and it STILL breaks down. Every month it's a $500 repair. Get a Toyota, I'll be.
This was my first car with 96,000 miles on it when I bought it for $3,000. I had for over three years without a single problem. Driving around New England was fun to do, but it would always cost me $50 or so to fuel up.
My first car- got my 2001 Saturn when I turned 16. A hand-me-down, almost 8 yrs old w/ 130k at the time. The car is not fast, a little loud & is incredibly basic- BUT my family has gone through many cars over the years and this one is still kicking with over 180k & very minimal needed work (sister drives it now). I have only needed it fixed 2 or 3 times, ever (aside from regular maintenance). I had it until 2012 & my friends used to joke about how I had the same crappy old saturn from high school. Nothing crappy about having an old car that runs awesome, has awesome fuel economy & still looks decent! Awesome car- don't pass it up if you're looking for a reliable, efficient car!
Reliability, gas mileage, audio (this car has really nice sound. I used to blast my music, and it was always very clear, with a bass that sounded like I had a sound system installed in there)