Purchased this car new in 1995. Chose it over Honda and Toyota because of superior interior room. I'm 6'3" and fit well in back seat, plenty of headroom. Very refined driver for size, although the ride can be less than cushy on rough roads. Precise steering, excellent brakes. Acceleration is adequate, but I choose fuel economy over power. Mine is a 5 speed, the 1.5l engine with automatic would probably be on the sluggish side. Excellent build quality, very few repairs. Trouble-free car. Plan to keep it a few more years. Rust is starting around rear wheelwells, but car still looks and runs like new. I check fuel economy with every tank, this car consistently averages 32-34 mpg.
Fuel economy great. 5-spd shifts smooth. Other car is an '02 Accord 4 cyl, it seems like a gas hog in comparison. Very practical car, can fit lots of things. I take it for hauling large items instead of Accord, with rear seat folded there is lots of room. Drives well, like a more expensive car.
Radio set too low below dash. Mazda blew it by switching focus to power. The larger engines use more fuel. I like the Mazda 3 but would buy a Civic now for economy. Don't buy this vintage Protege (95-98 1.5 liter) if you want fast acceleration. Otherwise, it is a nearly perfect car.