Honda seems to be regarded as most reliable, quickly followed by Toyota, and not far off but still farther behind, Nissan.I bought a Nissan Altima a little over a year ago, only because it was very cheap for a used one, I didn't want to lease because I didn't want a monthly payment. Make sure to check with your insurance (esp. if you're under 25), some cars make the payments go up much more, I know that I checked the Civic and it would have made my insurance go up much more than the Altima.
the corolla and the civic are actually classified as "compact" cars, but the altima is "midsize".
not a japanese thing, although im really not looking at american made either, if i had it my way id be in a saab or an audi, but hey im gonna be a broke student so thats not an option right nowi also have an inclination that mazda isnt as good of quality as the initial three :-/when i was looking online civic & corrola were listed as mid sized, although the altima is a bit bigger