Maybe I'm being narrow-minded, but I would go with a 2nd gen SOHC neon with low miles...shouldnt be too hard to find.
I got my 2k neon SE in great running condition, with about 55k for $3800. I've had it for 2 years and put about 15,000 miles into it and its given me NO problems at all.
Its a roomy 4-door with OK performance, good gas mileage(28/35), maybe not as good as the civic, but...who wants to get a civic...
Although some people do disagree and say its not reliable because it's a dodge, but It's your descision.