Bought this car brand new 9 years ago, and have not had a single regret. This car has been as flawless as any vehicle could possibly be for this long. Can't say enough about how great it's been, and says a lot for how underrated Mazda is as a company, in general. This car is also deceptively roomy-- total interior volume tops an Infiniti Q45 of the same year (their flagship luxury car)! I would recommend the addition of a K&N air filter for those looking for a little more power/fuel economy.
Very roomy interior, thoughtfully laid out controls, and excellent gas mileage. Well equipped for an affordable compact (power sunroof, windows, mirrors, locks, cruise, etc). Performance with just 96hp still puts smile on my face (Zoom Zoom). The 5 speed is a must.
Brakes always felt slightly underpowered, but otherwise the Protege has been thoroughly revised over the years.