I bought this car used for $9,900 last June (2004). It had 10,800 miles on it then and currently has 22,500. I have had no mechanical problems. I am 6'4"+ so the vehicle gets a bit uncomfortable on 1-hour+ rides (leg room). There is not really ample room for adult passengers in the back seat, I think the '02 Protege has more space. The V-6/5-spd is quite peppy, especially on the highway. I average between 26-29 mpg. The interior is simple and functional. The exterior design is nice, but the paint scratches easier then other cars I have owned and the door molding paint is fading. The suspension is sporty, but can get uncomfortable on bumpy roads.
The 5-speed manual is fantastic! The V- 6 engine performs very well. I like the interior and dash design and layout. It performs great on the highway. For the cost it is a great car and has been very reliable for me. I plan to keep it around for a while.
There are hardly any aftermarket upgrades for the V-6 Mazda 626. I know the Mazda 6 has about the same driver leg room so that could be improved upon. I know the Accord and Camry are a lot more roomy & comfortable-but more expensive.