Originally Posted by BacteriumFendYoke
I'm a fan of VW cars and have seen a few, I know how well they drive too. I don't own one because the Golf and Polo are too small for me (6'2") but my brother has an 11 year old Polo that is just great, even if a little low on power (just a 1 litre).
With that said, the Mazda 3 is another excellent car. Those are the two I would be looking at myself. Mazda and Ford are deeply intertwined and if I'm right, shares much of the Ford Focus mechanically - which is a car that I really rate. The Mazda 3 is based on the 'International' model of Focus, as far as I know. It will drive very well and be fairly spacious on the inside with a decent reliability record and easy, cheap availability of parts.
Being someone that has owned two Fords and had been around Fords all my life (I have a cousin-in-law that has a collection) I've obviously got a bias but I believe that my bias is fairly justified!
As for Hyundai, they have made big moves in the last four or five years but I wouldn't touch anything older than that. The same is true of Kia. Decent enough cars, with a decent build quality and recent reliability record but they just don't do it for me.
You are mostly right, with one caveat. The Ford Focus is actually based on the Mazda 3. Mazda designed the chassis and the high-end powertrains. The base engine and transmissions available in both cars are from Ford. Both are fantastic cars, and very similar. It mostly comes down to styling preferences and what kind of deal you get. Although, some Mazda3 models are made in Japan, which is a big plus.