Due to rust I will most likely be selling my car this spring. It is a 2003 Mazdaspeed Protege and I hate to let it go, but I am going to need a car for commuting. Fortunately, my parents are willing to buy the majority of it as their way of helping me pay for college. Unfortunately, this means they have to approve it and living in New England they won't approve a miata (or any other rwd convertible). My budget is around 11-12k. It has to be somewhat practical and reliable. I am thinking about a mazda 2 right now. They are actually pretty good handling cars with a couple hundred bucks into the suspension (lowering springs, various braces). I am open to just about anything as long as it is fun. My parents won't go for rwd, I tried explaining that with snow tires it would be fine but they won't budge. It is their money and they have to approve it, but I do have a lot of input. Oh, I prefer handling to straight line speed and japanese for reliability and cheaper parts.

EDIT: Has to be manual!