Honestly? Look for an 00-05 Hyundai Accent.

Stay away from the automatics, they die quickly and frequently from what I hear. Get the 1.6DOHC over the 1.5SOHC.

Yes, the interior is crap. Yes, the rear visibility sucks. Yes, the shifter is garbage.

BUT they depreciate like mad, mechanically are probably 95% as sound as a similar Japanese model, and they are dirt cheap to fix if something does go wrong.

My wife was able to pick up her 2003 in 2005 for 4k, a third of what it sold for new. By now there ought to be plenty around 1000 bucks. Gets about 35MPG on a 20 mile/2000ft commute. Pushes 38 around flat areas.

My Truck: 1987 XtraCab DLX 22R 4WD 5 Speed Manual
"Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that's what gets you." -Jeremy Clarkson