Compact car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $1,400*

1992 Mazda Protege

1990 Mazda Protege

1991 Mazda Protege AWD

1990 Mazda Protege interior

1990 Mazda Protege engine

  • Acceleration (LX)
  • Fuel economy
  • Handling
  • Passenger room
  • Ride
  • Acceleration (w/automatic transmission)
  • Engine noise
  • Road noise

Generally, the Proteges sold for less than comparable models from Toyota, Honda, and Nissan. Therefore consumers can expect to find some real bargains when shopping for a preowned Protege.


The redesign of Mazda’s front-drive subcompact produced two models in 1990: a 2-door hatchback called 323, plus a larger, more expensive 4-door-sedan called Protege. It rode on a 98.4-inch wheelbase, nearly four inches longer than the old 323 sedan. The base Protege SE came with a 16-valve, 103-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine. Protege LX had a twin-cam version of the same engine that delivered 125 horsepower. All models came with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic gearbox. A 4-wheel-drive Protege appeared briefly in 1990, but was quickly discontinued halfway through the 1991 model year.

Yearly Updates

1991 Protege
The Protege sedan gets only minor standard equipment changes for 1991. In addition, the base version switches names from SE to DX.
1992 Protege
New taillight lenses are the only change made to the 1992 Mazda Protege.
1993 Protege
Mazda adds its new corporate logo to the nose of the 1993 Protege and makes some mild revisions in certain equipment packages.
1994 Protege
A minor facelift for the Protege sedan is the only change for ’94. Added to the front of the compact sedan is a new front fascia, grille, hood, and new headlamps.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

The Mazda Protege 4-door compact sedan was unveiled in 1990 with two 4-cylinder engines, a 16-valve, single-overhead cam, 1.8-liter unit and a twin-cam 1.8-liter version of the same engine. Unveiled in SE (later DX) and LX trim, the base SE/DX model delivers 103 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 111 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. The twin-cam offered in the LX provides a lively 125 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 114 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard and a 4-speed automatic is optional on all models.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/112
Engine HP 102-103
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 111
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/112
Engine HP 125
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 114
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

The Protege’s roomy interiors seat four comfortably, while the 12.8 cubic feet of cargo space is a little less than some, but about average for Japanese subcompacts of the early ’90s. The instrument panel features a simple and logical design, with all controls located well within the driver’s reach.

On the downside, the Protege’s automatic transmission does not shift all that well, and tends to reduce both the car’s performance and fuel economy slightly. Despite that, acceleration and economy are fairly impressive, especially on Protege LX models. Economy ratings are pegged at 23 city/29 highway, while the base engine provides about the same city mileage, but 31 mpg on the highway.

While the cars provide fairly nimble handling and a stable ride, engine and road noise levels are above average, especially at highway speeds.

Only minor changes were made during the model’s life cycle. Noticeably absent were airbags and antilock brakes.


Model Tested: 1992 Mazda Protege LX

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 3
Fuel Economy - 7
Ride Quality - 4
Steering/Handling - 3
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 3
Room/Comfort Front - 4
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 2


Value - 4

Total: 37


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
98.4 171.5 65.9 54.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
12.8 14.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.6 37.1 42.2 34.6
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1994 Protege 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 127
Injury 140
Theft 51

Trouble Spots

Description: A squeal from the front brakes may be due to the compound of the friction material so different pads may correct the problem. (1990-94)
Description: A knocking noise is usually caused by loose caliper main sleeves that must be replaced. (1990-93)
Description: A squealing noise when releasing the clutch is probably due to mismatched springs in the cushioning plate of the clutch. (1990-93)
Engine noise
Description: A ticking noise from the top of the engine is likely due to inadequate hydraulic lash adjusters for the valves. (1990-93)
Timing belt
Description: There is a revised, more-robust timing-belt tensioner pulley to replace the original that often caused squealing. (1990-94)
Water leak
Description: Water on the front floor is probably coming in through the firewall at the liner around the heater pipes. (1990-93)

Recall History

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.