Compact car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,800 – $5,900*

2000 Mazda Protege ES

2000 Mazda Protege ES

2000 Mazda Protege interior

2001 Mazda Protege MP3

2001 Mazda Protege MP3

  • Fuel economy
  • Ride
  • Acceleration (w/automatic transmission)

Proteges often are overlooked by subcompact buyers. Too bad, because their roominess and driving pleasure equal–and even exceed–a Civic, Corolla, or Chevrolet Prizm. DX sedans, in particular, are a cut above most base-model subcompacts, with rich-looking plastic surfaces and appealing fabrics inside. Limited-edition MazdaSpeed models sell for considerably more than other models and really appeal only to enthusiasts.


Mazda redesigned its front-drive subcompact sedan for 1999, with “European-inspired styling.” Considered all-new, the “entry-level” 4-door also got more power, but interior and exterior dimensions changed only slightly.

Three versions again went on sale: base DX, well-equipped LX, and sporty ES. DX and LX models got a new 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, rated at 105 horsepower (13 more than the prior 1.5-liter). A new 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, developing 122 horsepower, went into the ES sedan. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard with both engines, with 4-speed automatic optional. Antilock braking was optional for the LX and ES, but side-impact airbags were not available. The ES sedan now had rear drum brakes, though all-disc braking had previously been installed.

Yearly Updates

2000 Protege
Front side airbags became available this year, as part of a Premium Package for the LX and ES. Interiors added some chrome trim, but other changes were minimal.
2001 Protege
Proteges earned a front-end facelift for 2001, along with available 4-wheel disc brakes. A 130-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine became available, too. Otherwise, the Protege was essentially a carryover. During the 2001 model year, Mazda launched a special MP3 edition of the Protege. Not only did it feature a Kenwood MP3-capable audio system, but it included a higher-output (140-horsepower) engine and a host of performance components from racing suppliers. The extras included low-profile tires on 17-inch Racing Hart wheels, a large front air dam with integrated driving lights, side sill extension, and a big rear spoiler. Only about 1500 were built, painted either Laser Blue or Vivid Yellow.
2002 Protege
A wagon called the Protege5 joined the lineup in 2002. It used the standard 4-cyl engine and an optional automatic transmission with manual-shift feature.
2003 Protege
The MP3 version was dropped, but added was the MazdaSpeed Protege sedan with a 170-hp turbocharged 4-cyl engine. MazdaSpeed sedans had a special sport suspension with 17-inch wheels, standard ABS, and unique exterior and interior trim. A “2003.5” version of the MazdaSpeed sedan appeared midyear with slightly altered exterior appearance, including dark silver wheels. ES and Protege5 get new alloy wheels and silver gauge faces for ’03.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

A 105-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine went into DX and LX sedans, while the SE got a 1.8-liter four that made 122 horsepower. With either engine, a 5-speed manual gearbox was standard and 4-speed automatic transmission optional. A 130-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine replaced the 1.8-liter for 2001, and a high-output 140-hp version went into the MP3 edition, which came only with manual shift. Special edition MazdaSpeed model got a turbocharged 2.0-liter good for 170 horsepower. It mated only to a 5-speed manual transmission.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.6/97
Engine HP 105
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 107
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 122
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 120
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/121
Engine HP 130
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 135
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/121
Engine HP 140
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 142
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual


Turbocharged dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 170
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 160
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual


Road Test

With the Protege, Mazda favors handling ability over ride comfort, unlike the tamer, softer Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. Offering sportier road manners than many rivals, Proteges give a generally favorable impression, though the tradeoff is a slightly stiffer ride and markedly higher level of engine, road, and wind noise. Still, DX and LX editions take most bumps with firm control and yield a supple ride, with adequate steering and agile handling. Although the ES sedan shares their suspension, its high-profile tires–which sharpen handling–don’t smother small road imperfections as well. Tepid acceleration is the foremost flaw of 1999-2000 models. Both engines offered in that period are slow from a stop. Acceleration does improve at about 20 mph, but passing power is lacking. Performance is adequate with manual shift, and a 5-speed ES scoots through traffic well enough, but automatic is disappointing. The extra horsepower available in 2001 provides a modest but welcome improvement. Visibility is good all around. Bodies are solid, and paintwork and exterior trim equal Honda/Toyota quality.

Protege is one of the most spacious subcompact sedans, with relatively abundant front head room and rear leg room. Wide back doors make it easy to slide feet in and out. Rotary climate knobs are just out of the driver’s reach, but the dashboard is well laid out. Open and covered bins, two cupholders, front-door map pockets, and a large glovebox provide good storage room. Trunk space is about average, though all models have a 60/40 split folding rear seatback.


Model Tested: 2001 Mazda Protege LX w/automatic

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 - 5
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 7
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 7

Total: 50


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
102.8 174.0 67.1 55.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
12.9 13.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.3 37.4 42.2 35.4
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Protege 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
Rear Passenger Injury - 4


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

Collision 122
Injury 139
Theft 51

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: The automatic transmission may not shift out of second or third gear due to a defective solenoid (the system stores the wrong trouble code often making diagnoses incorrect). The powertrain control module was being replaced under the standard warranty. (1999)
Cruise control
Description: If the brake light switch goes out of adjustment, the cruise control may quit working. (1999-2000)
Description: The power door locks may malfunction if contacts get wet or corrode. Countermeasure switches with rubber seals are available and were being installed under the normal warranty. (1999)
Description: The doors may unintentionally lock upon exit. Redesigned switches are available. (1999)
Description: The door weather strip comes off on some early production cars and must be glued in place. (1999)
Exhaust system
Description: A booming noise from the exhaust system is corrected by installing a stiffener over the front muffler and a damper weight near the rear muffler. (1999-2000)
Description: The key may be hard to insert or turn in the door lock because the flap breaks off and falls into the lock cylinder. (1999)
Rough idle
Description: Drivability problems accompanied by check-engine light often due to EGR exhaust passages getting clogged. (1999-2001)
Description: The battery may go dead due to excessive current drains from memories in components (like the radio memory or engine control computer). (1999)
Check-engine light
Description: Drivability problems accompanied by check-engine light often due to EGR exhaust passages clogged. (1999-2001)

Recall History

Description: Brake-fluid leakage could occur on certain vehicles, causing brake performance to be degraded.

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.

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