Subaru Impreza Outback (1998)
This little hatchback has a 2.2-liter engine, automatic transmission andsells for about $19K. It also has 4-wheel independent suspension, whichgives it great handling.
I thought I was going to hate driving this thing; it has a real shortwheelbase, so I was expecting a very uncomfortable ride. And it has anautomatic transmission, which combined with the small engine usually meansno power. Surprisingly, the power was OK and the car was pretty quiet at highspeeds. But it sure was scary when surrounded by 18-wheelers at 70 MPH.(Aside: If they're going to make cars so small, shouldn't they make truckssmaller too?)
Unlike most cars, Subarus actually have gotten a little easier to workon over the years. It's really interesting. Every year they make theengines bigger and bigger and the cars smaller and smaller. Andmiraculously, there's more and more room in the engine compartment.
I must say that the $19K price tag is a bit steep. My brother's firsthouse cost that much and had slightly more room than the Impreza.
As with other Subarus, this is full-time all-wheel drive. It's curiousto me that more manufacturers aren't offering this feature. If you live inthe great frozen North, it's really a huge advantage. You might considerbuying it for just this reason.
View cars.com model report on this vehicle.