The Ford Escape is Ford'* hybrid SUV. Well it comes in a hybrid edition, theres an all gas edition too.
For $1,500 you're definitely going have to hit the used market my man. I honestly don't know what to do besides a minivan without losing the extra needed height, without of course embarrassing yourselves with a rediculous lift on a sedan. I don't know will a wagon work?
I don't see how that could be better than a sedan though but I never drove one. Otherwise you could look at one of the smaller pick-ups and get a cab on it to keep the groceries dry. I did have a '90 nissan pickup with a cab that I paid $1 for.
Only other thought. See if a VW beatle would work out. They do have a nice verticle advantage to them. Women tend to think they're "cute" too so your mom might really like it. They've been out since 1998 and sticker for a new one is only around 18-19k so you might be able to come up with a decent 1998 one for not too much. I don't know if it will be quite as low as 1.5k though.
Mabonne: 1995 Bonneville SLE - RIP 12/7/05 "So Long, Baby, Goodbye"