I bought my 1993 Toyota Tercel in 2007, five years ago when I started college. Since then, it has never left me stranded at the side of the road (besides one blowout, which was my own fault). For a car that only produces 83 horsepower, it's incredibly fun to drive. I bought it at 22,900 miles, and it recently turned over to the 100,000 mark. In those five years, the only non-maintenance repair that I've had to make to the car is replacing the exhaust system. And that was after 19 years of the car living in the Northeastern US, where salt and harsh chemicals are sprayed on the roads in the winter. I would recommend this car to anyone who wants something akin to the Energizer Bunny.
* Manual Transmission:
Makes the car much quicker off the line than you'd ever expect from an economy car.
While this isn't a sports car, the pickup is great.
* Amazing Gas Mileage:
Before I put my giant CB antenna on the top of my car, I would usually average between 43-46 mpg (US gallon).
Even with the drag that I have now, I still get in the high 30s.
I bought this car when it was 14 years old.
The only non-maintenance repair that I've had to make dealt with my exhaust corroding from years of abuse from harsh anti-ice chemicals.
Nothing else besides oil changes, brakes, tires, and the occasional tune-up.
* 5th Gear:
My car is a four-speed, which doesn't bother me in the slightest.
The only thing that a 5th gear might improve is (1) the fuel economy, and (2) the road noise.
Mind you, the fuel economy is already more than fine.
As someone who commutes to and from school, not having cupholders was an annoyance.
I bought some aftermarket ones.
* Air Conditioning:
While I know that using A/C wastes fuel and makes less of the car's power end up in the engine, it would still be a nice creature comfort to have.
* Trip Odometer:
Not really something that I have a use for, but its absence is something that stood out to me when I first bought the car.
Great on Fuel. Bought it 5 yrs ago at 225,000 km. It now has 366,000 km. No Smoke and no Oil Leaks. Still Runs Strong. Needs new rocker panels due to rust-out, and rust spots above rear wheel arches, the A-pillars and window frames. Needs another cat converter to pass emissions test (put a cheaper one in 2 years ago and it passed test very well.
Good fuel economy with 5-speed. Gets 40+ Imperial MPG no matter how hard we drive it!
A/C as standard equipment would be ideal. Also manual lumbar support in driver's seat.