As my first car, my 02 Protege was everything I could have hoped for. It had good handling, brakes, and was comfortable to drive on my trips back and forth to college. It was reliable and ran good for 90,000 miles. After only having it for 2 years, an unlicensed driver hit my side and totaled my car and only got 5,000 dollars for my it which is way less than what the car was worth to me. I since have gotten a Mazda6 which is okay but different, but while looking at other cars and the Protege really was great compared to everything else I test drove.
Cassette player (to listen to mp3 in the car), sunroof, brakes, sporty feel to it when driving
more safety features, cup holders in back, better fuel efficiency (i got around 24 mpg)