I've had several Saturns. They are one of my favorite budget beater cars. The reasons being: 1. You can get the twin cam with a stick shift 2. real good MPG 3. easy to work on 4. lots of junkyard parts 5. great online support from Richpin on youtube and Saturnfans forums. 6. The body looks good even when older due to no rust.
The best ones are the 00-02 DOHC with manual transmission, in my opinion. The cars before 2000 had oil burning issues, although they all do when you get enough miles on them. 00+ have the least issue with this.
They are getting old enough to where the good ones with reasonable miles in good shape have dried up around my area. 2 or 3 years ago, you saw them fairly often but now they are all miled out or beat into the ground with rare exception.
I've moved on to the Focus since the Saturns have dried up. I've been searching for a unicorn for a while that I think is the best combo of Focus: a 2005+ Duratec manual transmission wagon. Just about impossible to find. I settled for a 2005 automatic wagon when it became obvious that it could take a while to find a stick from 05+. I have a line on a 2001 Zetec stick that I'm working on right now. I wouldn't pass up a Zetec car, but if I can avoid a timing belt, it would be a bonus.
Anyway, personally assuming a wagon is out, I'd be looking for a ZX5 or ZX3, manual, Duratec (05+). Just me.
Another reliable decent econo car in my opinion is a 07-09 Elantra stick shift. I own one, great car, 100k on it and nary a squeak or rattle or issue at all. Nice power for an econobox. The electric steering feel sucks if you wanted to find a fly in the ointment. But mine has been dead reliable and a fairly quiet, comfortable car for relatively cheap money.