You have already narrowed things down to some great choices & gotten a couple of excellent responses.
I the process ofrecently going from a Honda Fit to a 2017 Golf Wolfsburg I had a similar list.I wanted aa caverounous utilitarian small car that was gas sipperand also fun todrive. In addition I wanted a good suiteof safety features.
My short list was Honda Fit, Golf TSI or GTI or Kia Soul.I confess that for years I thought the GTI was the best all around hatch.But the stiffer ride & stifferintiial cost knockedthe GTIoff mylist; plus I just didn't feel that I needed that much performance. Mazda 3 is great car lost out due tolow entry, compromised visiablity, & no Apple car play. The Kia Soul (sweet car, wedrove one for a two weekrental) compromises on safetysuite,consumes more fuel, doesn't have much storage with seats up, and costsmore toget same features as found in Golf Wolfsburg.The Soulhas one big advantage over the others in that entry & exit is very easy with its high roof line. IfI were taller of stiffer, I might have got the Soul for that very reason.
So in the end I chose the Golf Wolfsburg. It is very comfortable, quite sporty, gets almost 40 hightway mpg, has sunroof, faux (very nice) leather seats, sun roof, auto windsheild wipers (I didn't think I needed that but now loveit),has huge cargo space forits footprint... Relatively low roof line makes it easy to throw kayak on but not so low as to be difficult entry exit. Can haul a bike on roof or back but I use a rack on the back (not trailer hitch rack) Basically the VW Wolfie is the perfect car for 1-2 people and their gear.With just under 5,000 miles on the odo, I'm lovin it!