It depends on how much space you want and where you live. If I was looking to buy a new-ish car right now that was reliable, safe, and got great gas mileage, I'd get a Honda Fit Sport. That model is built in Japan. They actually loose money on every one they sell, and because of where it is assembled, build quality is top notch. Gets stupidly high gas mileage, will last forever, carries a bunch of crap for the size, maintains resale value, insurance will be cheap, tires are small so you won't have to spend a fortune on those when it's time for new ones and you can park it in spots most cars wouldn't fit in sideways.
Yes, it doesn't have a lot of HP, but it also weighs almost nothing. Reviews I've read of it from people that like sports cars and hatchbacks have been very positive and refer to it as eminently tossable. It'd be fun in corners.
Not sure what the used values are like, but considering they are around 18k new, you should be able to find on in your price range used. just remember, get the sport version as it supposedly has a little more pep. I'm very much a sporty/sports car guy and my current plans, when my VW bites it, is to pick up a fit sport when I can afford it and, when I have an extra garage space, get an old Lexus SC 300 and drop a single turbo supra motor in there so I have a sleeper with around 500hp for the weekends and a great city car with stupid gas mileage and low insurance for every other time. I think it's a good plan!