2015 Scott Scale 760
It's amazing what you get for $1500! The Scale 760 has the perfect blend of XC race prowess and trail fun abilities. The geometry is spot on, the frame has tons of stand-over clearance which enhances the overall look, top this all off with an aggressive, yet tasteful paint scheme. The external BB with two piece crank, 30 speed drivetrain, air tunable fork and 27.5" wheels make this bike a bargain.
Any negatives you ask? Well, 30 speeds is a bit bizarre although they are much appreciated for the entry level cyclist who will benefit from a plethora of gear choices. The rear derailleur is traditional (not clutch type) and a long cage. Ignorance is bliss if this is your first bike and you are not familiar with the Shimano clutch derailleur (it's sublime if you like quiet).