If you can cut through all the bike co. and magazine marketing hype, and the nonsense you will often read on forums like this, it's really pretty simple.
Decision 1: drop bars or flat/riser etc. Simple. Which do you prefer? Have you ridden examples of both? Do that first.
Decision 2: if drop bars, then pure (endurance or race) road? Cyclocross? So-called "gravel grinder" (see reference to marketing hype above)? Purely decent pavement: road. A mix of paved/unpaved surfaces: a cyclocross or so-called "gravel grinder" will do the trick. Can't cite specific examples; not interested.
Decision 3: if you decide you'd prefer flat bars (see reference to forums nonsense above telling you that you must have drop bars etc blah blah), then you've Decision 4 to make -- to choose among various types of "hybrid" (stupid, useless term).
A. Purely decent pavement? Flat bar road bike, ideally with carbon fork (and possibly frame). Example: the full carbon Sirrus bikes; Trek 7.7FX, etc.
B. A mix of paved/unpaved surfaces: as above, but possibly with capacity for slightly wider tires (e.g. non-carbon Sirrus or Trek Fx models; Giant Escape or similar)
OR (C) a bike with front suspension (usually, but not always, accompanied by greater tire clearance and disc brakes). Examples: Spec. Crosstrail; Giant Roam/Roam XR; Trek DS; etc. etc.).
That's about it. All the rest (rim or disc brake, oh oh which entry level groupset is better etc etc etc etc) is noise. Decide on a budget; test ride examples as above in your price range to figure what 'type' of bike you want. One of 'em will float your boat; buy it and ride it. Make d_mn sure it fits. A year or two on you might want something different, or you might not. That's what your first bike is for.
Crosstrail for all terrain but mountain. Sirrus for hard packed or paved trails/roads. That would be my choice. Also make sure you buy the right size...it sounds like a no brainer, but it's pretty common for LBS to sell bikes that are either too small or too big. Test ride the ones you like the most. Some stores will let you take it for few hours to test it. Test riding it for 5 mins on a parking lot is absolutely pointless. Good luck with your choice.
"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning" - Albert Einstein
If you plan to ride on gravel, you will have to choose your Sirrus model wisely. I have a 2014 Elite, and on the stock 700x28's, I am not comfortable riding on 1/2" gravel. It isn't the best choice for unpaved roads. The Crosstrail, on the other hand, will do just fine, but you will have to work harder on paved surfaces to be as fast as you would on a Sirrus. I've never seen an RLT, but it looks to be a really good choice for the range of surfaces you want to ride. You will just need to decide if you want to ride a drop bar bike or not.
I'm new at this, but I'm quickly finding that the term "multi use" was most likely thought up in a marketing brainstorm session. My advice would be to pick your primary use, and buy the bike that best suits those specific conditions. It won't be nearly as nice on every other surface, but you can always buy another bike for that. If I were you, my choices would be:
Roads & Paved Trails = Sirrus or Domane
Unpaved Trails (Dirt/Gravel) = Crosstrail or Niner RLT
If you want a single multi-use bike, I would suggest going with a steel framed bike with a solid front fork (no suspension). You'll save a bit of weight & retain pedaling efficiency without a front suspension, and the steel frame will be durable and comfortable enough to go bombing across a rutted dirt road. Run cyclocross tires on unpaved/rough surfaces, and some touring or race tires for roads.
It sounds like you want to ride on pavement most of the time with some trails thrown in. If that's the case, then look for a bike that's relatively light (25 pounds) which means aluminum frame. You probably want 28 or 32 width tires. At the lower price end, you'll find seven speeds; then for about $100 to $150 more you'll get an 8 speed; then for another $100-$150 more you'll get a nine speed. You'll also get more expensive components but I'm not sure if there's a real difference between these or if this is just marketing. Comparing the $580 Crosstrail with the $590 Sirrus, I would go with the Sirrus. You'll get an extra gear and better tires