Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I ended up buying a new 2017.5 Nissan Rogue SV AWD.Of all the cars I looked at, the Rogue was the only car that had all of the features I wanted in one package, and because the dealership had exactly what I was looking for on the lot and I was buying right at the end of the year, I was able to get a really good price.
So far, I've had the car for a little over a month and just recently hit 1000 miles. It's winter in New Hampshire, so I have been driving in mostly freezing temperatures and averaged 26.4 mpg on my last couple fill ups as calculated by Fuelly. The car's onboard dash has shown fuel economy stats that are about 5% higher than real life mpg. (On the last two tanks I got 27 mpg driving the car in regular mode when the dash read 28.2 and 25.9 mpg driving the car in eco mode when the dash read 27.2.) I'm hoping that with milder temperatures and as the engine breaks in it will perform a little better. My best commute was 31.7 mpg and I managed 33+ mpg for a short trip home from the dealership today (both on the dash readout, so in reality a bit lower). I'll also be keeping my car in regular mode for everyday driving; the reduced power of the engine in eco mode actually hurts fuel economy on my hilly commute. Right now, I am using the factory tires (instead of snow tires) because they are brand new so have fresh tread, and I cannot afford a brand new set of winter tires right now. Feature wise, the car has everything I wanted ? remote engine start, push-button start, heated seats, blind spot detection, Bluetooth, TPMS display with actual independent tire readouts (not just a warning light), on demand AWD, real time fuel economy indicators, push button seat adjustments, roof rails, dark fabric interior, and ample cargo space. I find the car comfortable and the dashboard and center console controls intuitive. If I want to, I'll be able to mount crossbars and a hitch mount in the future. If this car can average 30 mpg for my commute in at least the warmer months and ends up relatively inexpensive to maintain and mostly repair free in the years to come, I'll end up very happy with it.
Some notes on the other cars I test drove and suggestions made:
Kia Niro: Our local Kia dealership only had brand new 2018 LX models on the lot. Fortunately, they got a lease return 2017 EX model with 30k miles on it that I was also able to test drive. On the EX model, the button for the heated seats is located in the center console and includes icons and lights for both the driver side and passenger side seats (there are three settings). Oddly, the controls look like two separate buttons but it is actually only a single button and both "sides" operate in tandem. It is impossible to only have one side on, or to have the sides set to different temperatures. This was so odd that I asked the dealer about it - I thought maybe something was wrong with the car and the buttons were stuck - but he said that was the way the heated seats were designed. On a car that has dual indepedent climate control on the base model, it seems like a terrible oversight to employ sychronized heated seats. How many couples do you know where one person is always hot and the other is always cold? And on a car designed to be fuel efficient, it makes zero sense to waste energy heating a seat that contains no passenger. This incredibly poor design choice really turned me off - if Kia overlooked something so obvious, what else did they skimp on? Additionally, our 65lb dog was super squished in the back - he had to duck his head to fit and couldn't really move around much. The Nissan dealership was able to get the Rogue (with everything I wanted) to within $2,000 of the cost of the Niro, which would have lacked features like remote engine start, independent heated seats, and blind spot detection. The Kia dealership wouldn't wiggle on the price (the used EX model with $30k miles was priced the same as the brand new LX models) and the price of the Niro just seemed a bit steep for what the cars were; priced about $3k less would have made the vehicle a much better competitor in my book. On paper the Niro really seemed like the perfect car for me, especially if I could negotiate a good price, but in real life it was less of an obvious winner.
Toyota Prius: The regular Prius was just too much of a compromise for me. Without any incentives, the only thing the Prius had going for it was fuel economy and Toyota's outstanding reliability, admittedly both huge pluses but not enough to make the steeper price and design shortcomings worth going that route. The curved hatch is useless for a dog, and the curved roof is less than ideal for mounting roof racks and transporting larger cargo. For me cargo space is important, but not as important as how that cargo space is arranged, and I did prefer a hatch that was taller in the back. I did briefly consider the Prius Prime, as federal tax rebates for plug-in hybrids combined with dealer incentives made the price competitive and I was really intrigued by owning such a low emissions vehicle, but after reading reviews about how terrible the design was for snowy climates (the Prime has a concave rear windshield and no rear wiper, so snow and ice pile up in this dip and make seeing out the back of the car impossible), I nixed that idea. Unfortunate, because my work has an EV plug in station that no one uses, and it would have been cool to take advantage of that, even if I had to pay for electric. My boyfriend is also not a Prius fan, and even though this was to be my car, we generally use my vehicle for family trips and such, and he disliked the Prius V the most of any of the cars we test drove. His opinion was a small consideration, but I did feel better leaning towards a vehicle he liked as well.
I know the Corolla iM has some similar shortcomings in terms of cargo space but I could get a used one with less than 10k miles on it for about $16,000, making it a good $8-9k cheaper than a brand new Prius. It is a pretty basic car, but I was much more willing to compromise on features when it saved me a significant amount of money; less so when the price tag was similar. The iM also has a flatter roof profile and more squared off hatch than the Prius. Everyone I know who has a Prius loves it (and the maintenance costs for them have been very low), but the current models just didn't fit my needs at the right price point.
Subarus: My experience with my Forester kind of turned me off to the idea of getting another Subaru. Everyone I know who is a car person has either drank the Subaru Kool-Aid or they hate Subarus there is no in-between. Many of the issues I had with my car were "typical Subaru issues" and resulted in a lot of expensive repairs, and I just didn't want to go down that road again. What I paid for my used Forester and repairs for the three years I owned it could have easily bought me a brand new car.
Buick models: Way out of my price range! I don't know anyone who owns a Buick and have no desire to be responsible for such an expensive vehicle. Even with great incentives, expenses like insurance and registration are based on the vehicle's MSRP, not the actual price paid, so buying $34-$40k car would have easily exceeded my annual cost-to-own budget by costing more to insure, register, and maintain, not to mention the paranoia factor of having something so pricey!
Toyota Rav4 Hybrid and Honda CR-V: I considered both of these cars but neither brand offered a trim package that had everything I wanted, therefore I either had to buy up and get an expensive package that included a lot of extraneous features to get the one feature I wanted in order to be able to buy a car off the lot or I had to custom order a car or compromise on features. Both of those things really hurt any negotiating power I had at the dealership; to get all the features I wanted these cars would have been $4-9k more than what I was able to get the Rogue for.
Honda HR-V: This car was buzzy and felt underwhelming. My boyfriend isn't a small guy, and he found both this car and the Fit to feel a bit cramped (too narrow). Oddly, I thought I would really like the crossover type cars (Honda HR-V, Subaru Crosstrek) but these vehicles just felt like a compromise in all directions, and I ended up preferring vehicles that at least excelled at one thing (being really fuel efficient and affordable or being better suited for adventures with more cargo space and ground clearance).
Nissan Rogue Hybrid: Our dealer did not have any of these and I couldn't find any of them in the local area. The reviews I read of the Rogue Hybrid were unforgiving. To me, it didn't seem worth it to try to seek one out by expanding my search radius, especially when it didn't get much love by reviewers. I totally would have test driven one if they had been available at my dealership.
Mazda CX-5: This was actually one of the nicest cars I test drove, and it handled the best of all the vehicles by far. The dealership put us in the highest trim line for a test drive, and my boyfriend really liked this car. Oddly, this car just felt "too nice" to me like something that would never really feel like mine. As pointed out by my boyfriend's co-workers, this seems like a bizarre reason not to buy a car, but I just decided I would enjoy having a vehicle I would want to actually use versus something I'd want to keep pristine and worry about ruining. That combined with not as high reliability or recommendability ratings kept me from going that direction.
I really do appreciate all of the great suggestions. You'd think buying a new car would be exciting, but I honestly hope I don't have to do it again for a really long time.