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 :)
My dad bought a gold '01 Protege brand new when I was a kid. It was never driven much, mainly used as a backup car. When I got my licence it was my ride to high school and in general as I hated driving my mother's van. I drove it for a year before my dad traded it for a 2012 Honda CR-V. It did its job fine, got me to school and back without fuss, was fun to drive with the 5-speed and great on gas. The only problem I had was the alternator crapping out in the middle of the freeway and I had to have it towed. Apart from that it was pretty reliable. I'd recommend it, just watch out for rust problems and keep it to a meticulous maintenance schedule. Also not the best car to learn stick on.
My 2001 Mazda Protege has been my main car since it was new; it recently passed the 100K miles mark and is still going strong. The ABS is vital for winter driving. Never been in a serious accident. Still has good pick-up and responsiveness. Hard to imagine getting a better value for a car than this.
Major repairs so far: Transmission got replaced about five years in. Front brakes replaced last year. It definitely needs new struts and perhaps shocks at this point; the handling has deteriorated some.
Minor issues: Digital clock stopped working immediately. Rust around the wheel wells starting about 3 years ago. The hubcaps won't stay on at all anymore.
Good quick car to get around the city and beat other cars to a parking spot. handles good and can take tight turns that you couldnt do with most vehicles. For a 4 cylinder this car can move when you need it to. Most 4 cylinders dont have the best highway driving but this car accelerates good at higher speeds and passes with ease. I dont recommend it though if you will only be using it for highway driving because the ride is a little bumpy. I dont really care much for the mpg because for a car this size you expect it to have better gas. When i bought this car i was a little skepticle but it turned out to do what i needed it to do and i gave i just sold it in good condition with 173000 miles.
I have always loved the Protege. This one has over 165k and is still going strong. Makes me say "zoom zoom" every time I go around a corner fast. Never had a problem with it, it has never been in the shop for anything other than routine care. Everything still works great. No electrical problems at all. Someone just hit it, how do I part with the best car ever?