Interesting you bring this up. Last night (and I literally mean last night) I purchased a 2014 Mazda3 hatchback. Manual transmission (which I love) and a new payment (which I hate). In all seriousness, it is a 'fun' car to drive and I was under similar constraints. It had to be able to haul my wife and two children around comfortably. If you don't have kids, you can have whatever coupe you want. For me, mine had to have four doors.
I looked at a Focus. My word, that back seat may as well not even be there. I know it has four doors, but the back two essentially open up into a shoebox. The 3 is much more spacious. The gearbox is tight, the clutch is facile, and the steering is immediate. I'm used to an F-150 or a Kia Sportage, you turn the wheel and it kind of ambles in that direction. If I blink my eyes in the 3, I'm already in another lane.
I wanted to go at least a year without a car payment, but thanks to my daughter and son-in-law's track record with cars, I'm having to give them the Sportage (my commuter vehicle). I'm not happy about a new car, but I like what I've bought very much. I would maybe check out a Hyundai Veloster. I test drove one and that thing is just so nimble and fun to drive.