1999 Mazda Protegé ES Isn’t Bigger, but It’s Better



From the November 1998 problem of Automobile and Driver.

There is a sure who-cares ano­nymity to the automobiles on this econobox class. No one goals of successful the Powerball lottery to allow them to showcase a Chevy Cavalier of their driveway, or a Ford Escort or a Nissan Sentra. And in these cheap-gas days, massive numbers on the EPA mileage label now not draw a crowd (bear in mind once they did?). The one buyers who care about this class now stroll straight to the worth sticker. Value, high quality, and dependability are the impor­tant points for Protegé patrons, Mazda says. They store value and so they hold procuring throughout manufacturers till one thing matches the finances.

Nonetheless, just a few econoboxes handle to face out from the blur. The Neon stays a cutie and a lusty performer apart from. The Honda Civic is a frisky futurist. And we have at all times appreciated the Protegé as a result of, effectively, it simply appeared to get all of the fundamentals proper.

Now Mazda has an all-new Protegé—­new physique, new engines, new automated gearbox—and this one has a shot at movie star. To start out off, it is a looker. Mazda did not attempt for cute. That is a perishable con­dition (although you would not comprehend it from the Neon’s still-spunky form), and now it is a crowded nook of the market popu­lated by the roly-poly New Beetle. Moderately, it did the onerous factor in creating an econobox that really seems to be stylish. The fairly formal profile of this four-door-only physique is softened by a easily arched roofline after which given character with massive taillights and boldly sculptured wheel­-opening flares. The grille has an in-your­-face chrome accent, too, a wealthy contact you’d anticipate on a Lincoln Continental or a Mercedes, however which appears completely extrav­agant on a budgeteer.

The Protegé does one thing else exceptionally effectively, one thing maybe much more useful: It matches the motive force like a customized swimsuit. Let’s watch out right here. Anatomies differ, and we will not foresee the complaints of each human settling into the driving place of a small automotive. However our comparatively normal-size drivers report some­factor sudden, possibly even unprecedented—the Protegé does not damage them wherever. In most automobiles, bigger ones, too, one thing concerning the console, or the beneath­sprint, or the door, rubs in your knee, or your shin, precisely on the half the place there’s hardly any meat to pad the bone. The longer you drive, the extra irritating it will get. You’ll be able to overlook for some time, however then you definitely discover, and it is annoying once more.

The Protegé is without doubt one of the uncommon automobiles that did not rub us mistaken in any approach.

It appears to have all its room in helpful locations. The motive force’s seat slides rearward too far for six-footers, and so they have ample headroom even with the sunroof.

Mazda did a intelligent factor with the entrance­-seat tracks. The interior observe is mounted on the facet of the tunnel, and the outer one attaches to the facet of the sill, leaving a remarkably huge ground house for rear-pas­senger toes. Kneeroom appears unexpectedly beneficiant again there, too, as is the door-opening house for entry and exit.

None of this grabs your consideration if you assessment the official printed dimensions. In truth, on the web page, the brand new Protegé differs from the outdated Protegé by just a few 10ths of an inch in nearly each course, and normally the brand new automotive is barely smaller. General size is down 0.8 inch; that is as earth­shaking because the variations get.

However the truth is, every part is new. It is a new physique, in-built Japan on the Capella platform (that is a slender ver­sion of the 626 and never bought within the U.S.). Dimensions, inside and outside, are so near these of the outdated automotive that you simply would not suspect such a dramatic change of onerous­ware, until you discover the 0.4-inch improve in observe width. That is an enormous clue to important structural variations.

On this day of huge claims for enhanced physique rigidity, Mazda’s enchancment over the outdated Protegé appears minor—22 p.c stiffer in bending, 12 p.c higher in torsion. However on the highway, the check automotive has a rattle-­free, drone-free approach about it that is very pleasing. This automotive practically earns the time period “hushed” for its silence on impacts, for its lack of powerplant thrash at elevated revs, and for its restrained wind noise at speeds above 80 mph. That is excessive reward for an econobox.

Mazda says the brand new physique is about 50 kilos heavier than the outdated one. It has extra metal, which works to supply the silence simply talked about, and crash protec­tion. But the overall weight of the automotive is down 16 kilos on our scale, attributable to intelligent engi­neering within the bolt-ons.

As is typical when crash enhancements are made, inside dimensions are frac­tionally smaller in nearly each case, but it surely does not damage the capability and luxury of this automotive in any noticeable approach. Trunk house has shrunk, too, by 0.2 cubic foot, however the brand new form is so uncontorted—it is a massive field!—and the lift-over is so low, that we predict it is extra helpful than ever.

The highest-of-the-line Protegé, the ES, comes with a bigger engine than the lower-­degree DX and LX fashions: 1840 cc and 122 horsepower for the ES; 1598 cc and 105 horsepower for the others (these bought in states adhering to California LEV stan­dards have two much less horsepower). Each are twin-cam, 16-valve fours however are primarily based on essentially totally different designs. The ES engine is a newly derived model of the two.0-liter 4 that is commonplace within the bigger 626 sedan.

After driving the small-engine fashions, the ES appears like a muscle automotive. It cuts practically half a second off the 0-to-60 time of the previous-generation ES mannequin—down to eight.4 seconds with the five-speed now—and top-gear acceleration improves much more. The redline is down 500 rpm from earlier than to 6500, and torque is far enhanced. In case your finances will stretch to the ES, we predict the engine alone is value the additional value.

Jim Caiozzo|Automobile and Driver

The suspension is just like that of the earlier automotive, though the elements are dif­ferent, and we discovered highway grip to be iden­tical to that of the final ES we examined, at 0.80 g on the skidpad. The brand new automotive has anti-roll bars entrance and rear and tightly restricted roll angles, which add a sporty really feel to the dealing with. The steering effort is fairly excessive, and the on-center really feel is huge fairly than sharp. In consequence, the Protegé feels secure, but it surely lacks the nippy responsiveness that makes Hondas so pleasing.

Mazda backtracked to drums for the rear brakes; the earlier ES had stable discs. The brake pedal feels higher than it did within the final automotive—agency and fade-free­—however its stopping distance elevated by 10 toes to a not-very-good 195 toes from 70 mph.

When it renewed the 626 mannequin, Mazda fairly conspicuously eliminated cer­tain comfort options in an effort to cut back prices. However now the yen is weaker, and we anticipate Protege costs to drop just a few hundred {dollars}—to $12,500 for the low­-end DX, and to $15,500 for the ES. Higher but, the Protegé will retain a excessive degree of stan­dard gear. All variations have a tilt­-adjustable steering column, a 60/40 folding rear seat, and three-point belts for all 5 seating positions. LX and ES fashions have guide adjusters for cushion top and tilt on the entrance buckets. This adjustability, mixed with firmly sup­portive seats and environment that do not rub your legs mistaken, makes the Protegé very satisfying to all kinds of drivers.

At first, the look of the inside appears aggressively bland. Select between no­-comment grey and curious adobe brown. The broad expanses are damaged up by golf-ball-dimple accents, although, and that is value a smile. Then, after just a few hours of driving, you start to note how the shadows break over the sculptured dashtop, over the motive force’s airbag cowl, and even across the windshield pillars. Because the solar strikes to totally different home windows, and because the rays slope decrease at day’s finish, but extra design subtleties rise to your discover.

There’s much more to this Protegé than its econobox stature would counsel.

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1999 Mazda Protegé ES
Automobile Sort: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan


Base/As Examined: $15,500/$16,500 (est.)
Choices: premium bundle (energy sunroof, anti-lock brakes, ground mats)

DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, port gasoline injection

Displacement: 112 in3, 1840 cm3

Energy: 122 hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque: 120 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm 


5-speed guide


Suspension, F/R: struts/strut

Brakes, F/R: 10.2-in vented disc/7.9-in drum

Tires: Bridgestone Potenza RE92


Wheelbase: 102.8 in

Size: 174.0 in

Width: 67.1 in
Peak: 55.5 in

Passenger Quantity, F/R: 52/41 ft3
Trunk Quantity: 13 ft3
Curb Weight: 2594 lb


60 mph: 8.4 sec

1/4-Mile: 16.6 sec @ 83 mph
100 mph: 27.0 sec

Rolling Begin, 5–60 mph: 9.1 sec

High Gear, 30–50 mph: 11.0 sec

High Gear, 50–70 mph: 11.7 sec

High Pace (gov ltd): 114 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 195 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.80 g 


Noticed: 20 mpg

Metropolis/Freeway: 26/30 mpg 



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