I bought this car with 125,000 miles a few years back, and it has been everywhere. It now has 190,000 and still runs same as when I got it, which is to say that it can barely get out of its own way, and doesn't have enough torque to open a jar of pickles...and if it were an automatic it would be a miserable car to drive. But fortunately my goal when I was looking was to find an old-school econobox with a manual trans and crank windows and power nothing, just pure driving experience and great gas mileage...which this car delivers, big time. Yes, it has 13" tires that feel every defect on the road. It also has a lot of road noise, but not horrific for an econobox of its time. It weighs well under 3,000 lbs so it does get shoved around somewhat by crosswinds and passing semis on the highway...but again, it wasn't intended to be a highway cruiser, although it gets the job done. It holds the road in a curve magnificently, I love throwing it into a curve faster than most people would consider sane, then downshifting and powering out like a WRC champ. Seriously, it has crisp steering and holds the road like it's on rails. In combination with rowing the manual gearbox, it's great fun. The [non-ABS] brakes are more than adequate, and the 5 spd box shifts nicely when rev-matched, but like a number of manual trans Mazdas of this era it has a pretty numb-feeling hydraulic clutch that never seems to quite keep up with me and makes shifts feel clunky otherwise. But it probably suits the average (slower shifting) driver well enough. The box itself seems pretty indestructible, and it still has the factory clutch at almost 200,000 miles so very robust, apparently. One thing I've noticed being a recurring issue is rubber rot, especially under the hood. I've had several check engine light issues along with rough idle that always traced back to split or deteriorated vacuum hoses, intake duct, etc. Guess it's just an issue when they hit this age. But it has been dead reliable, the only actual internal engine parts I've replaced were hardly internal, a valve cover gasket and grommets, and the o-ring in the base of the distributor. With those two things renewed, the engine is completely oil leak-free and oil consumption is less than 1 quart per 5000 miles, can't ask for better than that. It has the leather interior, and again, Asian cars of this age, I've noticed that while their leather was good enough, their stitches were terrible...the cord just rots and lets the seams open up after some years. You're better off with fabric in these. These cars have a pretty severe windshield angle and low ride height that makes them hard to get in and out of for bigger people...you'll probably smash your head on the A-pillar a couple of times before figuring out how to snake yourself in there. But once in, it's roomy enough, for its size. This car ALWAYS delivers at least 36 mpg, and I can coax 40 out of it with judicious driving on a highway trip. I hate to say it but the car seems to be built like a tank, surprisingly...I had a low-speed accident where I T-boned a much larger car, I had minor scuffs on the front bumper cover, he left the scene on a wrecker with a front fender and wheel packed in and tire flattened. I couldn't believe it. My headlights and front bumper cover and all survived it with not even so much as changes in the factory gaps. He couldn't believe it either, joked that it just didn't seem fair somehow, LOL. To sum up: Great fuel economy, fun to drive even though it's the slowest car I've ever owned in my life, very reliable, cheap to operate, and tougher than it has any right to be. If you just want a reliable rudimentary set of wheels that will make you laugh at rising gas prices, this is a good bet. If you want comfort or refinement of any kind, look elsewhere.
I consider my 11 year old Protege to be young by Mazda standards with only 149,000 miles on it. My family owned a '91 Protege and drove it to 277,000 miles over the course of 8 years. The engine runs great and the car always starts in all weather. Manual transmission handles great in snow and ice, car is a bit unstable driving through deep mud and water. I get 37 MPG highway. Car is so little that it's not very comfortable on the highway. You feel every bump in the road and every wind gust. The body has lots of rust on it but the car lives in Minnesota. The suspension is giving out, likely due to rust. I love my little car but wish the suspension wasn't dead.
Awesome gas mileage, comfortable front seats, great visibility (almost no blind spot), rear defroster works great, roomy rear seat, easily accessible battery for jump starts or replacements.
Make the sunroof a power sunroof, make fold down rear seats. Would like to be able to pop my trunk from inside the car, only way to open the trunk is with the key.
The car has been very reliable as others have mentioned, however this is transportation at it's most basic level. This car is a noisy tin can on wheels. Radio must be cranked in order to overcome excessive road noise. Car lacks power even with the larger 1.8L engine and is really not that great on gas. I rarely take it on highways and my wife refuses to drive it at all because of the "Tin Can" feel. With that said, it is a reliable beater for local commutes but would not take this car on long trips.
Dependability, smooth running 4 cylinder
Improve body panels and insulation. Improve power and gas mileage. Improve interior material quality.
I have owned my Mazda for eleven years. Purchased it from the showroom floor. After 150k mi it is still running strong. I am still getting 34 mpg, that is fantastic! I am just bumped they no longer make these cars! I can only hope the Mazda 6 is as reliable as my trusty Protege has been!