We had a 2006 Forester, but it was automatic and we needed manual for behind RV towing. We are really happy with the car. We've never seen lower MPG than 29 and never above 33. (32.5 would be @ 70-80 mph driving from coast to coast) Ony 2 issues: slow driving, like 10 mph in a campground is an unpleasant experience (jerky, very jerky). Passenger seat belt locks and stops my wife from reaching anything on the floor or glove compartment. I expect that issue to be fixed at next service, but the jerky slow driving is a "built in" feature.
2006 Subaru Impreza 2.5 i 4dr Sedan AWD (2.5L 4cyl 5M)
I purchased my 2006 Impreza 2.5i almost a year ago now. So far the car has remained reliable and cheap to maintain. I had a minor problem with the exhaust plumbing that was fixed under warranty, but other than that just oil changes and an alignment. The car has enough power to have spirited acceleration. The turn-in is sharp and precise; good steering feel, shifter is smooth and fluid, seats offer good support. The interior is a good driver's environment with excellent touch points. The car handles very well on both dry and wet pavement.
The AWD was hugely important in my purchase decision. It offers traction advantages that simply can't be had from FF, FR, or even MR vehicles. I also like the engine packaging that results in a lower CG and better F/R mass distribution. The suspension is also nice and stiff stock.
60/40 seating. Stickier tires. A tad more rear roll stiffness to decrease understeer and fight body roll with the new tires. A hair more power (just a hair because it's only a 2.5i), perhaps from something as simple as a K&N drop in filter. Other than those simple fixes I'm a happy camper.
2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI 4dr Sedan AWD w/Gold-Painted Wheels (2.5L 4cyl Turbo 6M)
One tends to assume that something will be forfeited when buying a high performance sedan. The only thing sacrificed when purchasing the STI is MPG, and that's only half true. In no other car can you get impeccable performance, perfect reliability, comfort, style, and the camaraderie that you get from owning an STI. Even with performance mods to put the car at >300 AWHP, gas mileage remains above 20 mpg. Consider how much higher it would be if I did not drive over 90, everywhere!! This intrepid little car has never let me down, not while sideways on dirt roads looking out the wrong window, or taking a 270^ on ramp under full acceleration. Add 5 star crash rating and the STI is hands down, #1.
AWD, engine reliability, power and torque, ease of maintenance (access to all areas without interference removal), steering response, braking power.
2006 Subaru Impreza 2.5 i 4dr Sedan AWD (2.5L 4cyl 4A)
This is my 4th Subaru (1 outback, 1 legacy, 1WRX, and this vehicle), and this is the best one yet. It handles perfectly, and the gas mileage is unbelievable. I use this vehicle as a first responder car and I have beaten even the police cruisers to calls. There is not a single thing I would improve on the vehicle.
My WRX is a fun yet very practical car. Although it does not have tons of power, it is very quick getting up to 80 which makes highway driving good. It has stable and precise steering. Gas mileage isn't great, but it beats most other AWD/4WD vehicles out there. The stock tires are not a good performance tire and are pretty crappy in snow. Not a lot of storage space, but not so small it is useless (I have the sedan, the wagon would be a better choice for some). You can't beat it for the price.
Sporty, yet great in snow for New York winters without much sacrifice in gas mileage. Very reliable. Only issue was a windshield washer sprayer. Minor detail.
The stock tires on the car should more designed for performance or rain/snow. They aren't great for either.