I think it's a great little car. Very peppy. I live in Rochester NY and it's murder on most cars in the winter but my Protege never seems to get any rust on it. I've had a few things go wrong -- belt broke, thermostat, AC. Those are all normal things that need fixing after 100,000 miles. I enjoy working on the car myself. No matter what I do to it, it just keeps going. I've know some other people who own them and they say that the engine will go to 200k, no problem. I love the car and wouldn't trade it for anything.
Smooth manual transmission, Fast, great handling
Stock speakers and stereo are week. Be warned, alternator is not strong enough to handle an aftermarket stereo w/o a capacitor. Also, the air flow meter in the engine inhibits most aftermarket work to it.