I didn't take very good care of this car when I bought it. Whenever something went wrong, I would wait until the last minute to fix it, or until the car was simply undrivable. Just today in fact I had the transmission blow on me driving at 75km/h, and it's in getting fixed right now.
This car has had its share of problems, but that's greatly due to the way I treat it, (ie. kick the doors shut, I have a bad habit of riding the clutch when unnecessary, and teaching people to drive in the car, which causes wear and tear).
But if this car is well taken care of, then it's great. I had a lot of good problem free years; mind you it IS an 8 year old car, which isn't new, so you have to expect some wear and tear, but of course nothing major has needed replacing.
I HAVE had a lot of rusting problems, which is not my fault; any Mazda Protege 5 I've seen has had rust in the same spots (the silver Protege letters on the hatchback door mainly), so that would be the only problem I can think of; that's a problem I've seen on all Protege 5s.
And I also took it to a very unreliable place to get it fixed, which will remain unnamed, but I probably put more money into this car than what was needed. But who knows, I could be paranoid. :D.
The car performs well. Front wheel drive and very very light; it's too sporty to be a family car, performs more like a rally car than a family car, it's responsive and handles well.
Handles well and it hasn't dated like most other Mazda's. I find it's quite cool looking; the front is modern and the back is sporty in my opinion. Great car overall.
I've had good luck with Mazda's. I own a 6 now, and looking back at my previous experiences with not taking care of my cars, the 6 is phenomenal.
I would recommend this car to anyone; it's inexpensive, fun, sporty, cool and well worth the money.
Great value, fun and practical are 3 things Mazda promise, and they definitely keep their promises on this car. :)