2000 Protege New Car Test Drive
The Mazda Protege is as roomy as many of the more-expensive mid-size cars. The Protege offers a comfortable interior, a comfortable ride, good high-speed stability and excellent handling.
Mazda totally redesigned the Protege for 1999. The makeover included a new body style with a distinctly European look, a tough new frame, two new engines and a new transmission. It resulted in a vehicle that was hailed in many quarters as the best in its class.
The changes shone even more in the context of the previous Protege, which was so fundamentally sound and aesthetically pleasing that Mazda could have gone a few more years without an overhaul. Mazda's decision to plow ahead with luxury-car styling, comfort, and roominess in an economy car raised the bar for its competitors.
For 2000, Mazda has improved the Protege even more with a number of refinements. They include optional side-impact air bags for the front seats and an optional anti-lock braking system with electronic brake force distribution -- a stability-control system commonly found on much higher-end cars. New aesthetic touches for 2000 include chrome-accented interior switches, color-matched shifter and parking-brake levers, and illuminated power window and door lock switches to ease use at night.
The Mazda Protege comes in three trim levels: The top-line Protege ES ($15,040), mid-line LX ($13,245) and entry-level Protege DX ($11,970.)
Protege LX and DX models come with a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine that puts out 105 horsepower. (For California buyers, the 1.6-liter engine meets that state's standards as an ultra-low-emissions vehicle.) A five-speed manual transmission is standard. A 4-speed automatic transmission can be added as an $800 option.
The Protege ES is powered by a 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder, 122-horsepower engine that is essentially a slimmed-down version of the 2.0-liter engine that powers Mazda's 626 midsize sedan. Protege ES comes with bigger front disc brakes and a higher level of standard equipment.
Protege competitors include the top-line Toyota Corolla LE, with a 1.8-liter engine and manual transmission at a base price of $15,068. The top-line Honda Civic EX sedan, with a 1.6-liter engine and manual transmission, is steeper, with a base price of $16,830.