Thanks everyone. I’ve read all the replies and really appreciate the input. The Escape, Mazda and Saturn suggestions land especially well with me. I like the idea of a sleeper make/model that’s similarly reliable but may be off folks’ radars, especially living in a part of the country (high desert) where Hondas and Toyotas are so highly coveted based on our complete lack of rust.
I’ll keep an eye on the thread for anyone else’s thoughts. Thanks again.
TLDR, but I think I saw mention of the Mazda 5. This is the perfect car I think for a teen that needs room but yet is fun to drive and also simple. The engine is one of the old school Japanese ones without DI or turbocharging. You can get it in a manual, and it doesn’t have any of that stuff like power sliding doors to go wrong. It is small on the outside and big on the inside, so super easy to park. Plenty of space for four adults and crazily has a third row that you can cram someone into in a pinch. Put all the rear seats down and you have a ton of cargo space that you can access from manual sliding doors on either side or the rear hatch. We bought my wife one back in 2009 new for $16K and we still drive the heck out of it today with nearly 150K on it. We looked at the Rogue and the CR-V at the time, but this handled really well compared to those. The crossovers felt top heavy to us and didn’t inspire confidence with quick lane changes or corners. The 5 is just a 3 made into a van format.
I love the thing because it is such a unicorn. A small proper minivan with a stick.