I wanted a sporty hatchback, and was choosing between a couple of Subarus and Toyota Matrix at the time. Protege5 styling was very sleek looking in 2002, and nice looking chrome alloy wheels and low-profile Dunlop sport tires sealed the deal. The only problem I had with this vehicle was with the headlights. There was some kind of electrical/wiring issue there necessitating frequent replacements. Other than that, it's a dream to drive, performs very well in braking, acceleration and overall ride comfort for a relatively small car. The engine isn't that powerful, but I have a 5spd so you get the nice Zoom Zoom experience anyway. Love this car!
Styling (interior and exterior), road performance on long trips, gas mileage and reliability. Roomy trunk for small car.
Electrical, sound system could be a little more dynamic.