I love my 2013 manual ES Lancer sedan. I wanted a car with 4 or 5 doors and enough back seat legroom for teenage kids. At less than $16K driveaway, price was a big part of my decision.
I am really happy with my Lancer - it is comfortable and quiet. The 2.0L engine means I don't have to change gears for all hills. It is relaxing to drive - almost lazy. Almost all other 4/5 door cars below $16K have much smaller engines and are very "buzzy" to drive.
Do you really need a HATCHBACK? Fold down back seats allowed me to recently bring home melamine shelving (2400mm x 595mm) inside the Lancer with boot lid fully closed.
EXCELLENT REAL WORLD FUEL ECONOMY @ 9.9L/100km in city driving with ALL TRIPS less than 10km (Northern Beaches hills too).
REVERSE CAMERA makes parking easy and very SAFE!
VOICE COMMAND bluetooth allows you to dial while driving, even if the number is not in your phone book.
REAR LEGROOM (length) is on par with Corolla, Mazda 3 (previous model) and i30 (all these cars have wheelbase of about 2640mm). The Pulsar and Elantra have much more room for long legs in the back due to their 2700mm wheelbase (length from the front wheels to the back wheels). PLEASE NOTE: since I bought my Lancer, the new Mazda 3 has come out and it also has 2700mm wheelbase (but is significantly more expensive than Lancer).
REAR HIP ROOM is about the same in all these cars. BUT THE REAR SEATS are quite different. Even though they all have 3 seat belts, the flat rear seat in both the Lancer and Pulsar makes them more comfortable for 3, while the contoured back seat in the Elantra makes it luxurious for 2, but not ideal for 3. The Corolla and Mazda 3 back seats are somewhere in between - not ideal for 3 and not luxurious for 2. IMHO if you regularly have back seat passengers, don't compromise, buy the back seat that suits you best, 2 = Elantra, 3 = Pulsar or Lancer.
AIR COND is really cold and gets to the back seat passengers with no problem.
PRICE was a big factor in my decision. Nissan are currently doing some really good deals on Pulsar at prices that almost match Lancer prices. My kids are getting taller, so the extra length in the Pulsar may tip my decision the other way if I was buying today. But I am very happy with my Lancer.