If reading about this car being underpowered worries you, then don't buy it. There is not much low end power, and at high revs it's not very smooth or efficient. It's not a sports car, find something else if that's what you want (that's why I am selling mine after 2 months). As a family car driven sensibly, the Protege is comfortable, solid, handles well and stops quickly. It has plenty of room for 4 adults, and generally it's pleasant to drive.
Solid feel. Easy to drive in the snow on all-season tires.
More torque. They have addressed this in the 2.3 Mazda 3.
This compact is wonderful to drive. It has great appointments, lots of room and comfort for front and back passengers. The upholstery is very serviceable. The drop down rear seatbacks allow me to carry 8' 2X4's when needed. I tried laying down to see if I could sleep in the car, but the trunk section is about 3" lower than the seat backs and the top of the opening to the trunk is not high enough to clear me lying on my side with an air vent under me to cushion the drop-down into the trunk. Oh, well. I miss my van, but the 28 mpg average is not hard to take. I love this car.
Fast acceleration for passing, at all speeds. Won't tip markedly like the Ford Focus when suddenly swerving. Holds the road beautifully. Nice car.
Need more illumination on the instrument panel for day and night. Softer arm rests needed, and a drivers assist handle like the passenger has. I would prefer a compact style antenna instead of the pull out roof mount. Fog light recesses for adding-on later would be nice, too. Need trunk light switch.
Bought this car used in Jan 06 with 26,000 miles. This car is a bargain compared to the Civic--you get the same quality and reliability without paying for the name! Plus, the Protege has a 2.0L instead of a Civic's 1.8. My car has the five speed and acceleration is excellent for an economy car. The engine is peppy and revs freely, with a satisfying exhaust note. The car is fun to drive and is easy throw around back roads. Steering feedback and braking are also excellent (it might be worth splurging on the ES to get rear disks though). As for reliability, between the previous owner and myself the car has only ever needed oil changes and one set of rotors and pads.
Reliability and fuel economy are Civic-esque. Power and handling are superb for an economy car. The Bridgestone Potenza tires virtually glue the car to the road.
Better gearing--in 5th gear at 65mph the tach is at 3250 rpms! This seems a bit high for such a regular speed, plus the engine is also making excess noise.
Before buying this car, I had previously owned a Chevy Malibu & Chevy Cavalier (both stunk!). I've had the car for 4 years now and have 30,000 miles and not one major thing had gone wrong with it. Power is better than a Honda, with more style and character for the price. Easy to keep clean with no major defects and comfort is the best that I can find. I wanted value for my money and even my husband agrees that this car is the best value out there. My only caution would be to watch out for used ones that belonged to rowdy teenagers who didn't upkeep the car and liked to rev the engine up as much as possible. I love this car!
Style, power are better than any Honda. You get noticed driving this car around, since it sticks out from all the other boxy compact cars with no power.
Only complaint is that the factory tires, which are top of the line Potenzas, are getting worn at 30,000 miles. To replace them, it will cost $500. Sticker shock! Otherwise, I have no complaints.
I purchased this car for my wife and wanted good handling and 4 wheel disc brakes. Had wanted a Civic but the disc brakes only came on the Si. This has been a great car - fun to drive and no problems at all. Engine not as sweet as a Honda but it has a lot of pickup around town and on the highway as well. Not as smooth in the higher RPM range as a Honda but that is not really an issue. Highway mileage is 31-32 so it gives up a bit to a Civic but much more of a sporty ride. I prefer driving the ES to my Accord V-6. I have an auto transmission and it still has a lot of Zoom Zoom. Did I mention great handling with a good highway ride? You cannot go wrong with this car. I don't like the 3.