I've posted umpteen times on this subject.
The Ka rots badly, and the 1.3 engine is very poor. Economy is nowhere near what it should be for the size of car & performance. Some claim to have had 49mpg out of them, I could never get more than 38, even when deliberately trying for economy.
Corollas should be reliable, but oddly aren't brilliant for carrying passengers - you can either have legroom in the front or in the back, but not both at the same time.
I'd avoid any recent PSA (Pug, Citroen), car simply due to horrific parts availability & possibility of the BSI (multiplexed computer job) going bang. I had a Pug off the road for the far side of a month waiting for parts. The earlier non-multiplexed cars are a safer bet.
Personally, I'd go for whatever's available in good nick and you can insure - condition is everything in a second hand car. Do a load of Confused.com searches for a big variety of cars. As others have said, size of car and insurance group really are no indicator of premium. The premium is mostly based on how likely someone of your demographic is to crash that kind of car, and it's very difficult to guess.
Having run a few different cars, here's my views on some of the manufacturers:
Ford - will need bits now and then (suspension wishbones due to dead bushes mainly - evident on test drive by noise as you go over bumps, eventually leads to MOT fail), they're mostly cheap, and the newer models are pretty good - Mondeo 3, Focus, late Fiesta (the one that looks like a mini Focus) onwards. Ford basically bought in a load of engineers and technology in the late 90s - Peugeot chassis engineers, Yamaha helping with engine designs. Rust proofing improved dramatically around that time. Original Ka and previous Fiestas are based on a very old Fiesta design, and Ford managed to carry all the rust traps over to each model. Ka and some Fiestas come with the 1.3 Kent / Valencia / Endura-E, which is a bit of a joke - originally fitted to the Anglia! The Mondeo is fine, but the clutch can be a very expensive job.
VW - need less bits than Ford in my experience, interiors are very tough (easily clocked!), engines are generally low power for their size but with good torque making for a relaxed drive. The engine technology is generally reasonable as they started with a clean sheet due to previous reliance on aircooled engines. Genuine VW parts can be astonishingly cheap on older models. Same goes for SEAT, Audi and Skoda as they all share the same parts and platforms, although you tend to get more powerful engines in SEATs and Audis.
Peugeot / Citroen - don't seem to need many parts, interior build is poor (lots of rattles), repairs can be very difficult as they seem to be fond of making things nigh on inaccessible. Even basic stuff like Glowplugs can be very difficult to get at. The old 306 / ZX with the diesel engine will run forever and is galvanised, but they're pretty basic. As I said above, you can be waiting a long time for parts. Peugeot seem to have suffered particularly with rubbish electrical components - indicator stalks, brake light switches and ignition key switches have all be fairly widespread problems. A new indicator stalk for a 406 is the far side of £200. 406s warp their brake discs fairly easily. Peugeots tend to handle nicely, Citroens tend to have a fantastic soft ride, and still handle well.
Toyota / Nissan / Honda - reliable, don't need many bits, but when you do need a part, you can guarantee it will be expensive. The old bubble shape Micras are one of the most overrated cars around in my view. Engines are a strong point - V-tec in the Hondas, Toyota lifted a few Cosworth ideas for their MR2 engine etc. Insurance might be surprising for Civics as they're becoming a bit of a boy racer car.