Popularity, in the automotive industry, almost always breeds popularity. There are exceptions to the rule - especially in terms of popular colours quickly becoming passe after becoming insanely hip, and vehicles which became 'cool' for retirees, thence making a hasty exit from the to-drive list for under-30's.
However, in the case of small cars from Mazda and Honda; people will buy a Civic or 3 (nee Protege) simply because people bought Civics and 3's. Differentiating themselves from Cavaliers (popular because dealers offered thousands of $ off) or Crown Vics (fleet-oriented sales), the Honda and Mazda are popular, in the first place, because they are good cars. Let the nation of informants for the furtherance of the good car go forward and advise.
Who hasn't suggested the purchase of a Civic or 3 to their searching friend, sister, or co-worker? Seriously, who hasn't? Even if you are in the sector of Accords and 6's or Benz's and Bimmers, you would tell anybody looking for a sub-20K car to test-drive one, the other, or both.
- History of quality and reliability
- Perceived quality (you may not know how well-built the wheel bearings are, but you do know that lux-feel stereo controls suggest the wheel bearings are built well)
- Contemporary exterior appearance
- Nobody mocks a Honda Civic or Mazda 3 buyer
- Comfortable on a cross-country trip while also being.....
- Surprisingly fun to drive
- Nothing, or very little, that can totally turn you off making the purchase
Meeting yourself coming the other way 10,000 times per trip is fine if you're in a good car. Doing so in silver is unacceptable.