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 Spark plugs Cam seals Crank seal Water pump Timing pulleys and tension spring Struts 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.
My large almost new Ford was totaled by a drunk driver. The driver's insurance company would only rent me a car for two weeks but they did give me a good payment for my car. I wanted to take my time selecting and buying a new car so I decided to purchase a cheap car and then sell it after I got the new car. I bought my 2000 Mazda Protege for $2,500 in 2012. At the time the car had 151,000 miles. As I drove the car I began to really like it. It handled great, it was dependable, it looked good, and the gas mileage was outrageous ( 27 city 40 hwy). I have the automatic. Eventually I forgot about another car because I liked the protege so much. I looked at my gasoline bills and saw that in the past 4 years, I have saved $8,000+ in gasoline costs as compared to the Ford. Same basic driving routine. Mostly city some highway. On one trip, I was able to drive the back road highways at 55 MPH (no hills) and I got 42 MPG. I love the way the car feels inside. I have owned several Porsches and this car feels like a Porsche to me. It is super easy to park. When I see a space I just pull in. No parallel parking required. It looks really small, but if you check out the actual dimensions it is about the same size as most cars these days. The visibility is incredible. It is like you can see everywhere which is why the car looks small. The top part of the car is high (including the glass) and the body is short (like a Ferrrari). The car now has 181,000 miles on it an in the 4 years since I have owned it I have had no repairs at all. The car has never let me down. I have another car and a newer pickup truck but I always find myself driving the Protege because it is so much fun. All I have done is replace brake pads and shoes, tires, oil, belts, and hoses. No smoke from the exhaust, uses no oil, lots of power, idles smooth, nice transmission shifts, drives like a new car. If the car made it to 500,000 miles I would not be surprised. The guy I bought it from later told me he was sorry he sold it. I am only the third owner. My future plans are to have the car repainted (although the paint still looks good but not perfect) in a two tone factory color option and put some good wide alloy wide wheels and tires on it. I would also like a high performance exhaust system. The upholstery is like new, no tears or anything. I like this car more than any car I have ever owned. Every time I get into the car all I think is " this car has saved me $6,500 for the pleasure of owning and driving it".
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.