Compact car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,200 – $2,100*

1995 Mazda Protege ES

1995 Mazda Protege ES

1995 Mazda Protege ES

1995 Mazda Protege interior

1995 Mazda Protege interior

  • Optional antilock brakes (LX, ES)
  • Fuel economy
  • Passenger room
  • Ride
  • Acceleration (w/automatic transmission)
  • Entry/exit
  • Handling
  • Radio controls (1995-96)

Exceptionally easy to drive, Protege provides a rewarding mixture of maneuverability, economy, and quietness, coupled with solid assembly quality.


Redesigned for 1995, Mazda’s front-drive subcompact sedan grew more than four inches in wheelbase and three inches in overall length. Despite the size increase and the addition of dual airbags, the car’s weight stayed about the same. Protege came as a 4-door sedan in three price levels. The base DX and midlevel LX were powered by a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with 92 horsepower. The top-line ES got a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, developing 122 horsepower. Both engines had dual-overhead camshafts and came with a 5-speed manual transmission or optional 4-speed automatic. Antilocking was optional on the LX, but not available on the DX Protege.

Yearly Updates

1996 Protege
For 1996, antilock braking dropped to an option–no longer standard on the ES edition, and again unavailable on the DX.
1997 Protege
This year, Protege LX models got 14-inch tires, like the ES. Stereo units moved to a different location–at the top of the dashboard, therefore easier to operate. Otherwise, minor cosmetic freshening was the only modification. Proteges wore reshaped headlights, front fenders, front bumpers, and a new grille.
1998 Protege
Protege saw no change for ’98. An all-new model was waiting in the wings.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Only the top-line Protege LS was equipped with a 1.8-liter dual-overhead-cam 4-cylinder engine, making 122 horsepower and 117 pound-feet of torque. Both other models carried the smaller (1.5-liter) four, rated at 92 horsepower. Any model might have either 5-speed manual shift or an optional 4-speed automatic transmission.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 122
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 117
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.5/91
Engine HP 92
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 96
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

Mazda obviously tuned the Protege’s suspension more toward ride comfort than handling finesse, though steering response is good and the car reacts well in urban driving. Bumps are easily absorbed, though they often produce a loud “thump.” Hard cornering brings lots of body lean, and the narrow 13-inch tires on DX and LX models start squealing early. The 14-inch ES tires have noticeably better cornering grip.

Space inside is ample for four adults, with abundant front head and rear leg room. However, rear doors are narrow at the bottom, making it awkward to climb in and out. You get a good-sized trunk and an average-sized glovebox.

The 1.5-liter engine in DX and LX models delivers adequate acceleration with a manual transmission, though it’s sluggish with automatic. With a full load, the 1.5-liter 4-cylinder might be short on strength. Surprisingly, the 1.8-liter engine in the ES doesn’t seem that much stronger, despite its 30-horsepower advantage. Highway passing and merging are notably easier, however. Both engines should return above-average fuel economy. A manual-shift LX averaged 30.2 mpg.

The dashboard is well laid out, with clear gauges and stalk-mounted light and wiper controls. Until the 1997 model year, however, the radio sat too low. Small buttons require a long look away from the road to make any adjustments. The radio moved to the top of the dashboard in 1997. Visibility is fine in all directions.


Model Tested: 1996 Mazda Protege LX 5-speed

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 - 3
Steering/Handling - 3
Quietness - 3


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 4
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 6

Total: 40


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
102.6 174.8 67.3 55.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.1 14.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.2 37.4 42.2 35.6
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1998 Protege 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

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


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

Collision 122
Injury 139
Theft 51

Trouble Spots

Engine knock
Description: If engine knock occurs in hot weather, there is a revised engine-control computer that will correct the problem. (1995-96)
Exhaust system
Description: There is a new tailpipe tip available to eliminate a hooting noise from the exhaust. (1995-96)
Steering problems
Description: The steering wheel may be off center requiring adjustment of the alignment (tie rods). (1995)
Transaxle leak
Description: Transmission fluid may leak from the vent hole of automatic transmission. A revised vent tube is available. (1995-96)
Transmission problems
Description: Erratic shifting of automatic transmission and/or blinking of the “OD OFF” may be due to a broken or shorted transmission fluid temperature wire. (1995-98)
Check-engine light
Description: Winter blend gasoline cause check-engine light to illuminate on the 1.5-liter engine. A vent kit can be installed to correct the problem. (1997-98)

Recall History

1995 w/1.5-liter engine
Description: Valve springs can develop minute cracks and break; can cause engine chatter, piston damage, and stalling.
Description: Headlight wire can fail, causing loss of headlights with or without prior warning.

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.