Mid Week Match-Up: Cheap Daily For Mike’s Kid

Welcome to another edition of Mid Week Match-Up, today’s request comes from Mike who writes: Here is one for you, that is certainly not very exciting, but could
fill the gap.  Just had a daughter turn 16 yesterday and I will be car
shopping over the Christmas break.  Idea is to get her something that
could then move into her college vehicle as well. 
Here are some specifics:

1) We live in a ranching area and the vehicle will be on dirt roads about 50% of the time

2) We experience all 4 seasons, including a fair bit of snow, so 4WD is more or less ‘de rigueur’

3) Spousal input is that it does need the electronic stability control for safety, which I think puts us in the last 5 years 

4) Budget is about $10k

It would be easy to recommend some random Subaru Forester/Impreza/Outback but instead I’m going to go with a hybrid all-wheel-drive compact SUV from Ford that gets 30+ mpg.  This 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid AWD is bidding here on eBay for $2,550 with a few hours to go located in Philadelphia, PA. It isn’t the fanciest thing on four wheels, but it should be relatively safe, reliable (the Escape is used for NYC taxis, so it can’t be that bad!) and as a bonus gets good fuel economy.  You could hold out for the Mercury Mariner version if you want something “different.”

What do you suggest?  Comments below.