You may want to look into a Honda Fit. It has better interior space, slightly better long term reliability, but a worse power/weight ratio than the 3. The base Fit will be close in price to a base 3 (16-17k plus tax), however a top of the line 3 will be significantly more than the top of the line Fit; 30k+ versus low 20's.
That said, I helped my sister buy a new base 3 a few months ago. They're a good car, and at least in ATL, they were willing to deal on the price when negotiating over the internet.
The VW or Chevy will have worse reliability and depreciation compared to the Mazda or Honda, and as such, they'll be more expensive cars to keep on the road for the same price. I'm not familiar with the Civic hatch; I don't think it has as much interior space as the Fit, but the new Civics are well-reviewed cars.
You could also look into a Nissan Leaf. Some people can get them for under $14k new after all the incentives and credits. If you can make all your trips under 140 or so miles, it could work for you, and if so, it would probably your most economical option.