I bought this Mazda after trading in my 1999 Protege ES (which I loved)with 110K miles. There are a few things I notice with the 3 that aren't as good as the Protege. First is the stereo. The new one is VERY weak. That was one of the impressive things about the Protege - given that it was a small economy car. Second are small things like the window controls and vanity mirrors. The quality isn't the same. It seems like the new version uses cheaper, flimsy parts. The leather wrapped steering wheel feels like sandpaper. The old one felt great. The AC in this car is extremely weak. I could run it on full blast all day and never get really cold. Back seat is not as roomy.
Better stereo, AC, and interior gauge design. The red displays are way too much. I've dimmed mine as much as possible. Auto trunk release would be helpful. Get quality of materials back up to the level of the old Protege. Styling of front fenders makes it difficult to see when turning corners.