Misogynistic implications aside, my girlfriend needs a car...
Let me give a quick summary, she's a tall girl (5'10"), she hates the pep of my Si ("too fast" and "too stiff"), and the Kia Soul is not an option (which I thought would be perfect), because her dream car would be a murdered-out Hummer H3 (how is that even "cute"). - Sigh. - She's not a car girl at all, and when it comes down to it, she's not opposed to just getting another 2000 Pontiac Grand Am.
This is going to be her true first car. Her credit is pretty bueno, so she's fine with paying-off a $15k loan the next few years. That doesn't mean she'll raise her nose to $5k steal on wheels though. Is there such thing as a totally not crap crossover? I just think an SUV would be totally pointless, because she doesn't need the room; it's just an image thing, because she's tall and busty, which is kinda understandable. To quote her, "I just want a car that will make me look cute." We have different definitions of cute though. A Miata is cute; a black Escalade is obnoxious.
It's pretty easy to narrow your options when you're looking for a sporty car with a manual; there's probably 10 total here in Fargo that are not riced-out junk or over $15k. But when looking for an SUV thing, well, where can't you buy one!? This is unknown territory for me. I just want her to have a good reliable vehicle. With her preferences, I was thinking about a Wrangler (but they seem to be over-budget, and most were manual). Maybe a Chrysler 300? There are just too many options, and most of them sound bad.