I needed a vehicle that would not be run off the single open lane on the NY Thruway during snowstorms. My FWD VW Golf was inadequate, and did not want to buy an SUV. Settled on the AWD Subaru Impreza and have not looked back. Good power with the stickshift; 25 mpg on daily commute; some 28 mpg racing up from NJ to Vermont. Had more occasion to drive through rain and mud than through snow this winter, though - handled all equally magnificently. A blast to drive, indeed! Good heater the few cold days we had. Accessories of foglights, trailer hitch, and ski rack have come in useful - most everything else already built in! Excellent websites exist for all kinds of Subaru-related info.
As already mentioned. AWD; good construction, safety, lights, interior appearance, comfortable bucket seats. Folding seats make up somewhat for narrowness of hatchback trunk. Useful accessories available on top of generous standard package.
The standard radio/speaker combo is below contempt. (I replaced with aftermarket Pioneer CD/MP3 with modification to accept iPod input; better speakers, too). Minor complaints: Poor rear view vision due to tall seats needs to get used to. Moderate mileage as penalty for AWD? Want hybrid or diesel.