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.