The problem with small cars is they have all grown up, the Polo today is as big as a 10 year old Golf, most are on par with each other despite reliability surveys , reliability these days seems to include bits of trim falling off or lights failing, lights are a problem if LED or Xenon as these are very expensive to replace.
As you don't live in a city go for a 4 cylinder car with a 6 speed gearbox, this will give you the option of longer trips when needed in comfort, todays Fiesta or Polo is as comfortable as the early Sierra's if not more, just keep away from cars manufactured in the new far east, Korea and China, they are getting there but suspensions are weak and ard generally not included in their long warranties after 60,000 miles or 3 years.
Most cars from the European big 3 are ok, VAG group, PSA, which now includes Vauxhall or Renault, Toyota and Mazda, even Fiat aren't that bad these days, buy the car you like, there really isn't much difference but these high stressed 3cylinder turbo cars do have problems and engine sharing is common across all makes and manufacturing groups.
The interior trims and colour schemes of most cars these days are all so drab. Now I’m not about to buy a car based on its interior colour scheme, but I do wish they’d all take a look at the inside of a Ka. I’d much rather get into a cheerful space than the dull grey ambiance of a more grown up car.
Get one with a panoramic roof, really surprising how much it lightens up the interior as black seams to be the fashion of interiors these days. Even in Scotland there will be days of a bluish headlining though the majority will be various shades of grey possibly even 50 shades
Get an electric car, after all with it not be legal to drive anywhere but the supermarket you won't be going anywhere. At ;east with an electric car you can try getting away with claiming you set off shopping, then notince you had not much charge left so you decided to get some ; chargers are infrequent at any time, nowadays it probably is not worth switching them. So in your frantic sarching you just happened to find yourself in Durham your honour.