Great car for a woman! NEVER have any mechanical problems; the only thing I do to this car is the routine maintenance that it needs. It already has more that 100,000 miles and is still running like the first day I bought it :)
I love that is has 4 doors and that the trunk is that big for a car that small. In addition, it has a great sound system and the interior is very cool looking. Most of the cars that I tested had cheap and horrible design interiors.
I love this car. I wanted one from the day it came out on the lot. After I got one though I had to admit that everyone was right. It needed more power. So I got my hands on a 2003.5 Mazdaspeed Protege that was wrecked by a rear end collision with only 1k miles on the car. Took the full turbo kit and put it on my MP3. The MP3 now has just over 200 horsepower at the wheels. The car is now perfect!
I bought my Protege in 2001 near the end of the season. I really enjoy driving this car. It holds the road well and is really fun to drive. I love the slick shifting 5 speed manual and the steering response. It has decent acceleration for a 2.0 liter and can really be thrown into corners. The interior space is a little smaller than some competitors and the seats are not comfortable for long trips. The only two complaints I have are the tires and CD player. The original tires wore too quickly (30k) and did not grip as well as the replacements do. The LCD on the CD players is sometimes missing pieces of numbers, making it hard to read. This happened after it was out of warranty.
Smooth shifting manual transmission, great handling, sporty looks, and easy to reach radio controls.
Seats are a bit uncomfortable on long trips (bottom cushion is too short). Tilt steering is hard to access. Many trim panels feel cheap. The original tires (Bridgestone Potenzas) wore too quickly and did not handle as well as many other "V" rated tires.