I can vouch for Mitsubishi Lancers. Top car, look nice, easy to make feel sporty (seriously, just chuck in a nice firm suspension upgrade and short-throw stick and it feels awesome)
If you want reliability, go a Corolla. You can also look into Pulsars, they're pretty good at that price range.
Strictly my opinion, I think your first car should be as cheap as possible while still able to get you from A-B without breaking down. Stay away from Commodores and Falcons, they cost a lot to run, they break down heaps, are often thrashed by previous owners and, as stated, cost more for EVERYTHING: Fuel, Servicing, Rego, Insurance, the works.
So yeah, buy a cheap car and be PATIENT. You only have to wait a few years and if you get suspended or something in that time frame, you really shouldn't have anything more powerful anyway.
So buy cheap, save up, then go hard haha!
Posted on Monday, 20th February 2012