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.
I bought my 01 protege 3 years ago for $500.00 with 150k. He thought it was on its last leg lol it now has 235k and still gets a persistent 34 to 37 mpg and just runs like a sewing machine. The only maintenance I've had was a starter battery brakes tires and alternator
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.