2002 Protege New Car Test Drive
The commercials showing a Mazda Protege whipping down a winding desert road, filling the mirrors of a wildly flailing Miata aren't off the mark. The 2001 Mazda Miata delivers sprightly performance and can maintain its own against all comers in this price range. Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!
Though already outstanding, the Mazda Protege got a major makeover for 2001.
More power is available through the addition of an optional 2.0-liter engine. Four-wheel disc brakes are available. Ride and handling, already excellent for this class, is further improved through significant chassis and suspension reinforcements. The interior is more hushed with substantially improved insulation and anti-vibration measures, and the interior has been revised for enhanced convenience.
The mighty Protege offers as much interior roominess as many higher-priced mid-size sedans, and it's as comfortable as it is spacious. Ride quality is comparable to larger, pricier cars. Sporty handling makes it fun to drive and easy to maneuver in today's crowded world.
Protege comes in three trim levels with two different engines: DX ($12,765); LX ($13,485); LX 2.0 ($13,885); ES 2.0 ($15,535).
LX and DX models come with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 103 horsepower. (The 1.6-liter engine meets California's ultra-low-emissions vehicle standards.) A five-speed manual transmission is standard. A 4-speed automatic transmission can be added as an $800 option.
ES and LX-2.0 are powered by a 2.0-liter engine that produces 130 horsepower. ES comes with four-wheel disc brakes, 16-inch alloy wheels with P195/50R16 tires, a black-chrome grille treatment, a rear spoiler, fog lights, white-faced gauges and monochrome interior trim.
We highly recommend the $800 package that combines front side-impact air bags and anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution. ABS helps the driver maintain control of the steering during panic stops; just hold the brake pedal hard to the floor and steer around obstacles.