As far as noise on the interstate and fun to drive factors, your best bet is to pick a few cars on your list and test drive them. Makes that tend to rate high regarding being fun to drive would be Volkswagen and Mazda as they tend to have great steering feel, etc... They also have very nice interiors which are a good place to spend time. The Accord is always a solid option as well, as it is very refined. Cars like the Optima and Camry tend to not rate highly regarding being fun to drive, even with the more powerful engines. Subaru's are great in snow, but the CVT transmissions aren't a lot of fun and the interiors tend to be cheaper. In MN, I would consider one of the FWD options and pare it with a good set of snow tires/wheels for the winter. You can get this setup for around $1,000. The VW Golf and Golf based GTI are great drivers cars that would fit your budget and the newest generation has a nicely sized back seat.