I'd look first to the Mazda 3. It's a 2 liter with 155 hp in a 2900 lb car, and still gets good milage There's also the 2.5l engine option for more power. Then maybe a Honda Fit; a little less power; a little lighter; a little bit better interior reconfigurability. Both handle fairly well for what they are and handling can be improved with swaybars and the like if you're so inclined. There are cars that get better performance (GTI, Ford Focus and Fiesta hot hatches, Nissan Juke etc.) but they're going to cost you more upfront, in maintenance and in gas.
I'm guessing the '85 Suburban kept you un-bored because you had to constantly work to make money to keep gas in it? Maybe a $12k mid 00's Escalade would keep you in a similar state of un-boredom?