A good friend from work is in the market for a worthy used car. I therefore call upon the Wisdom of Oppo to guide him in his epic quest.

He's had an interesting car history but has owned one too many beaters: he's looking to get something a little nicer this time around. Has a solid knowledge of basic mechanics, but doesn't have the space or tools to do his own wrenching (luckily, he has excellent connections for repair shops and parts).

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Like most of us he likes a broad array of cars both new and old, but does like one or two or three brands in particular. Having owned a Mk 3 GTI and a Mk 3 Jetta GLX, if he's a #1 fan of anything its vee-dub. Also, Honda. But don't worry, he's not that kind of Honda fan. He also likes Bimmers and the racier Toyotas. Has a thing for Lexus, but can't afford a good IS300. Likes diesels, too. So he has generally good taste, in other words.

The budget is in the $2,000-3,000 ballpark. A good price point in the market with decent value to be had, in my opinion: nicer cars than the sub 1k beater territory, and almost as good as those in the $5,000 range. Age wise he's really not interested in anything earlier than the 2000 model year.

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His requirements are tricky, because naturally he wants it all. But knows he can't have it all, or can't have it for the price he's able to pay. In descending order of importance, then:

1. manual transmission!

2. relatively reliable (this is a DD)

3. decent fuel economy (again, DD)

4. handling/control (if next winter is as bad as this one, AWD is on the table)

5. comfort/luxury (this being Canada, heated seats sure are nice)

He already has several models in mind. Some ideas are his, some have been planted in his head by me. In no particular order:

- 5th gen Prelude

- late 3rd/early 4th gen Integra

- Mk 4/Mk 5 GTI

- E39

- E46

- 3rd gen Lexus ES

- 1st gen Lexus LS

- Lincoln LS

- 8th gen Impala LS

- 4th gen Buick Regal GS

Opinions, additions welcome! Thanks in advance, Opponauts.

P.S. In before the answer to everything [EDIT: too late] he appreciates it but notes its hard to find in this range and doesn't have to point out that this would be a winter DD and that a canvas roof and small engine on a RWD car with a light chassis does not make it the most optimal choice. Aww, it has a sad, sorry Miata :(