I purchased my Protege5 as a new model after doing considerable research. I found it to have more features for the dollar than any of the competition. After 120,000 miles, it has been almost bullet proof. The only issue has been warping front brake rotors. Coming from an amateur racing backround I can say that it handles as well as cars costing 10s of thousands of dollars more and consistently get 34 mpg to boot. The only thing I wish it had more of is horsepower.
Handling, reliabilty, fuel economy, styling. At 5 years old it still looks contemporary.
Move the radio antenna. Placement is just dumb. The Mazda3 has now addressed the lack of power issue.