The Honda Civic is the best compact car on the market right now. You can get a fully loaded Touring model for around $26k. It has a lot of great features including heated front and rear seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the Honda Sensing safety package. The car has adaptive cruise control, which is what you need if you will travel far. It takes the stress of driving off your shoulders and cruises at the set speed, follows the car in front of you, and brakes if the car in front of you slows down. It also has automatic emergency braking, which slams on the brakes if you are about to get into an accident. It is one of the best driving compact sedans and prioritizes both comfort and handling. It is available in a sedan, hatchback, and coupe.
The Toyota Corolla will be the most reliable and practical choice. It wouldn't be the one I would pick, but it has some advantages over the Civic. The interior is very spacious and roomy and has a pretty quiet and smooth ride. It has a proven powertrain and will last to at least 250k miles with basic maintenance. It has very little steering feel and handles worse than a new Prius. If you care only about reliablility and interior space, buy this. I had a 2015 and 2017 loaner Corolla for 2 weeks. The safety features worked well. It was comfortable and had very good seats. The engine and CVT combination was terrible and resulted in constant engine drone. The handling was surprisingly bad for being an XSE, the sporty trim.
The Chevy Cruze is one of the most comfortable compacts, but it has below average reliability. There have been several reports of dying engines and fires because of failing electrical systems. Safety features are only available in the top trims.