I have had my Protege for almost two years now and it was been a joy to drive to work. It handles well for an economy car and has a surprising amount of room for my wife, two kids and my black lab. The 5-speed is smooth and precise. Steering has nice feel.
Fun to drive. Decent economy. Not as good as a Toyota or Honda. Almost a familyman's Miata (with head room).
Road noise on concrete roads or bumpy roads. Relocate, enlarge the cup holders. Hard to reach the oil filter.