Exercise caution buying this car model. It ran fine until it hit the 7 year mark. In the past year I have had to replace all four suspension links, gears 1-2-3 and bearings in the transmission, front exhaust pipe, rear right suspension, an oxygen sensor, and now the brakes are going bad. Also, Protege's are not built for salty winter road conditions! It appears as though the lemon age for these cars to go sour is around 6 years. Inquire about prior repairs before buying. Not recommended - it reminds me of my first car, a 1994 Ford Taurus. I will not be buying a Ford or Mazda again in my lifetime.
Interior looks nice, roomy in the back seats, nice trunk space, and easy on gas.
Poor mechanical design, rusts easily in Canadian winters (even when well cared for), bad transmission, expensive on repairs.
Just bought this used to act as commuter car. Styling is more boring than white paper. Engine is very loud at highway speeds. For a small car, gas mileage isn't too impressive. Probably due to the fact that engine is around 3500 RPM's when cruising @ 70 MPH. Fairly agile and nimble. Fun to drive backroads, unless you have a lot of hills, then expect a struggle. Not too shabby as a commuting car, but I'm glad this isn't my pride and joy.
Car is going strong at 95,000 miles. Only repairs done to date are new door lock actuators, the radio/CD player, and recently replaced EGR valve. Gas mileage is great for an automatic, between 30 and 35 MPG. I even averaged 40 MPG once. My only complaints are the small engine and placement of rearview mirror which obstructs vision.
Definitely the great gas mileage and sporty handling.
I got a great deal on this car at end of year. I wanted every option available. I log lots of highway miles due to commute. This car is a hoot to drive. I put better tires on it and it handles beautifully. I perform all scheduled maintenance on time and have had no issue except for the ABS brakes. The last time I had them replaced about 10k miles ago, the dealer didn't even do a test drive. I started to drive off the lot and the noise and grabbing was unbearable. Lost another day without it until they fixed the issue.
Moonroof, handling capability, trunk space and fold down rear seat for carrying.
Improve noise reduction at highER speeds (not saying that I go over the speed limit!), better brakes.