2005 Subaru Forester X AWD 4dr Wagon (2.5L 4cyl 4A)
Wanted to get a small SUV, but not too small. I test drove everything in the market (RAV4, Escape, Liberty, Tuscon, Equinox etc.) The Forester beats them all. Picked the car up from the dealer and the next day packed it up with a wife, two kids, two small dogs and a weeks worth of luggage and beach equipment and hit the road. Tons of room, very comfortable and a great drive (all for the base X model). Drives like a car (unlike the other small SUV's I tried) and just feels huge inside. Love the handling and can't wait to battle the winter. Grabbed a 2005 because loved the Green (which they don't have in 2006), below invoice price and huge rebate. Surprisingly great car for the price.
Base seats are incredibly comfortable and love the material. Large trunk space. AWD. Fuel efficiency. Standard safety features.
Better pickup (which I think they have in 2006 model), but unless you are into drag racing, not a big deal. Need grippers in the cup holders (doesn't hold drinks securely). More a/c vents in the back. Overall incredible car and the perfect car at this price level.