2008 Volkswagen Rabbit S PZEV 4dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 6A)
I looked at all the small hatchbacks and the Rabbit won, hands down. Coming from another German car, a BMW 325, I appreciate the solid build - it doesn't have that tinny feel that too many of the Japanese econoboxes have. The standard features, like the ABS, DSC, etc., make the price very competitive. As far as driving experience, I would have to honestly say, this car is about 90% of the fun of my BMW for about 60% of the price.
Crash test ratings. Power. Fit and finish. Interior layout. Standard safety features. I don't know why, but I love the fabric of the cloth seats. No one does interiors like VW.
My only gripe is that I wish there were a couple more color choices instead of so many shades of gray. I got the sage green and even that is mostly gray. Gas mileage is not stellar but with this kind of power you have to pay for it somewhere.