I consider my 11 year old Protege to be young by Mazda standards with only 149,000 miles on it. My family owned a '91 Protege and drove it to 277,000 miles over the course of 8 years. The engine runs great and the car always starts in all weather. Manual transmission handles great in snow and ice, car is a bit unstable driving through deep mud and water. I get 37 MPG highway. Car is so little that it's not very comfortable on the highway. You feel every bump in the road and every wind gust. The body has lots of rust on it but the car lives in Minnesota. The suspension is giving out, likely due to rust. I love my little car but wish the suspension wasn't dead.
Awesome gas mileage, comfortable front seats, great visibility (almost no blind spot), rear defroster works great, roomy rear seat, easily accessible battery for jump starts or replacements.
Make the sunroof a power sunroof, make fold down rear seats. Would like to be able to pop my trunk from inside the car, only way to open the trunk is with the key.