What I like --
(1) Handling -- nearly flawless. Fun to drive through twists and turns. Nimble, with perfectly assisted steering and almost no body roll when cornering.
(2) Ride -- If you drive tired, you may just nod off -- smooth and quiet.
(3) Value -- You're getting a lot of car for the dollar. Even after loading a GS with options, you can still keep the price at or around $10,000. Try doing that with an Accord or Altima. Similarly equipped versions of those cars were going for $13,000.
(4) Front seats -- very comfortable, and the 12-way power driver's seat is worth it. Adjustable height shoulder harnesses are a bonus too. If you can't manage to find a comfortable position using the power seat and the height adjustment, you're just too picky. (Dual power seats are available too.) Front seats are comfortable for long trips.
(4) Safety features -- Dual-airbags, side-impact beams, anti-submarining seats, adjustable height shoulder harnesses, (ABS option). This model fared extremely well in US Dept. of Trans. crash testing -- five star rating on front impact test.
What I don't like --
Not much bad to say about it, but there are a couple details.
(1) The 4 cyl. engine -- if you can find one, buy the 6 cyl. version. As 4 cyl. engines go, this IS a good one. It's perfect for my commutes and is great on the occasional longer trip. The 6 cyl. Duratec is a champ though, and if you spend lots of time on the highway, you'll fall in love with it. You can thank me later.
(2) Now I'm left to pick on details -- like I said, there aren't many bad things to say about the Mystique -- the cupholders and the factory radio are my two remaining issues. The cupholders are too small and the radio is too difficult to operate (radio buttons are too similar to one another).
One word of caution -- I don't have children, so back seat space is not a huge concern for me. However, for those who do have children, the Mystique is a fine choice for early on, but the back seats in pre-98 Mystiques will only accommodate adults up to about 5'7" or 5'8" with any comfort. I (6'1", 230 lbs.) can fit back there for awhile, but I wouldn't make it on long trips (2+ hours). Models '98 and later have 2" additional legroom.