We have owned our 2000 DX with auto transmission for 14 years and 227,800 miles. Other than a new ECM about 8 years ago we have only completed oil changes every 3k miles and the occasional brake job (all completed by me).
At 225,000 I decided it was time to replace the ORIGINAL timing belt (which, believe it or not, didn't look too bad). At that time I also replaced the following:
Valve cover seal
Timing pulleys and tension spring
Control arms with lower ball joints
Replace 4 Qts tranny fluid
Outer tierod ends
New driver side axle
I completed all the work myself and it was fairly easy to complete..... All for about $800 in parts. If you are a do it yourself type of person then this car is for you. Very easy to work on.
I drive this car 60 miles per day and am confident it will make it to 300,000 miles.
Car is going strong at 95,000 miles. Only repairs done to date are new door lock actuators, the radio/CD player, and recently replaced EGR valve. Gas mileage is great for an automatic, between 30 and 35 MPG. I even averaged 40 MPG once. My only complaints are the small engine and placement of rearview mirror which obstructs vision.
We have had this car since it was new 11 years ago - it replaced another just like it that died on us, and it now has 224,500 miles on it. Though we are looking for a new vehicle, we plan to keep this one as a second vehicle for use locally. I was amazed that you give mpg as 25 - 27; we've never gotten less than 32, usually more, up to 38! Perhaps part of that is my exclusive use of Mobil 1 oil; with the vagaries of gas pump shut-offs, regardless, I feel 34-35 mpg is what we have (and continue to get) for mileage. Driving it's been a pleasure, though it's showing signs of age - noisiness, mostly.
The only maintenance I have had to have on this vehicle were a recall and routine maintenance. The recall was an oxygen sensor on the emissions system, and before that was replaced, I had to take it in a lot. However, it was covered under the warranty. The Mazda CD player has a mind of it's own, though and is very finicky about what it plays.
My 2000 Mazda Protege has been wonderful to drive. I have replaced the front brakes and all four tires. Also the windshield wipers. I have 68,000 miles on it. I live in Florida and drove it to Des Moines, IA in September of 2002. It handled very good with excellent gas mileage. I have a stick transmission. The A/C runs very cold. I am very satisfied with it.