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.