Toyota design and reliability is not what it used to be. New Corolla sucks. Civic is way better and I used to be Toyota/Lexus fan.I literally just cross-shopped a few of these cars. My own observations:
1. The Toyota Corolla hatch is ridiculously impractical. There's no room in the back - I'd need to lay down one or both seats to get any kind of haul in there.
2. I used to own a Mazda 3. I loved it. The new one doesn't grab me the same way, though. Seems like a great price for what you get, though. The Civic 5-door seems more practical, tough. I do a lot of diving - and the Civic is the only one I think will easily hold two sets of dive gear - with the rear seats up. And that's important to me.
3. I desperately want to love VW. I've owned 3 in the past. But after the TDI scandal (which I went through as an owner of a 2013 TDI Golf), I just can't get behind them again. The Golf is a wonderful, tight, well-handling little car. Great fusion of practicality and fun. But. No.
4. I don't understand the controversy around the Civic hatch's design. I think it looks great. Aggressive, sure - but better looking than the Toyota to my eye. And at least as good as the Hyundai. The Mazda is a looker - no doubt about that.