2001 Mazda Protegé
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Subtle styling changes and a new 130 horsepower 2.0 litre four cylinder engine are the major changes to 2001 Mazda Protegé LX and ES sedans. A new $2,900 GT option package adds bigger 16 inch radials and alloy wheels, four wheel disc brakes, air conditioning and moonroof. Base Protegé SE models, which start at $15,795, continue to offer the 103 horsepower 1.6 litre four cylinder engine.

Bigger 2.0 litre engine adds zip to Protegé sedan

It was only a couple of years ago that the compact Mazda Protegé sedan was completely redesigned, but there have already been some noteworthy changes to the 2001 model.
The Protegé’s exterior and interior have received some subtle styling changes, and uplevel LX and ES models receive a new 2.0 litre four cylinder engine with 8 more horsepower than the previous 1.8 litre four cylinder engine. Base SE Protegé’s continue to offer a 103 horsepower 1.6 litre four cylinder powerplant.

Another new Protegé model, the 2002 Protegé5 hatchback, joins the Protegé lineup this year – I’ll be reviewing that model next month.

Cleaner styling

2001 Mazda Protegé
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The 2001 Protegé sedan has new narrower headlamps and turn signals – you probably wouldn’t notice this unless you put a 2000 model next to a 2001 model. The amber-coloured turn signal lenses are now white which gives the headlights and turn signals a more integrated look. A redesigned, sculpted hood now flows neatly into the grille design and a new front bumper features a smaller, centrally-positioned air intake opening.

Overall, the styling updates to the 2001 Protegé give it a cleaner, smoother appearance which I find less ‘chunky’ than the 2000 model.

Inside, there’s a new centre control panel design with easier-to-see-and-operate controls, and lightly ‘dimpled’ surfaces on the dash, door handles and steering wheel. Base and mid-level models have a new two-tone beige or grey interior while uplevel models have a black and silver colour combination.

For 2001, there are three trim levels, SE, LX and a new ES trim level – they replace last year’s SE, DX, and LX trim levels. There’s also a new GT performance option package which can be added to the top-of-the-line ES model.

Roomy interior

2001 Mazda Protegé dash
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The Protegé used to be the roomiest compact in its class, but the recently-redesigned Honda Civic is now slightly roomier, as is the Hyundai Elantra. Still, the Protegé has a surprising amount of interior room for a compact car. With a relatively long 2610 mm (102.8 in.) wheelbase, the cabin is long, and the doors are quite large for easy entry and exit. There’s plenty of front and rear legroom and the tall roof provides generous headroom. Raised front seats provide adequate footroom for rear passengers. The Protegé is perfectly suited for transporting four adults, however like most compact cars, the rear seat is a bit narrow for three adults (there are three three-point seatbelts, however).

The Protegé’s seats are covered in a soft cloth and the front seats have extra side bolstering for improved lateral support. The driver’s seat has an adjustment for seat height and seat cushion angle. On the ES, the seats have distinctive patterned seat inserts.

Rear passengers have power windows which slide all the way down to the window ledge. But rear passengers don’t have cupholders or a fold-down centre armrest.

Standard 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks are lockable from inside the trunk so thieves can’t access the trunk from inside the car. The Protegé’s trunk (365 litres/12.9 cu. ft.) is very roomy and has wide, low opening. Turning the key in the trunk lock causes the trunk to pop up a few centimetres, and a built-in ledge makes it easy to lift.

For safety, all Protegé’s feature height-adjustable front head restraints and two rear fixed head restraints, dual de-powered front airbags, five three point seatbelts, height-adjustable front seatbelts, child proof rear door locks, and rear child seat anchor brackets.

The Protegé ES comes with a remote key fob – press once on the Unlock button and the driver’s door unlocks; press twice and all the doors unlock. Press once on the Lock button, and all the doors lock.

My test car: ES with the GT package

My test vehicle was a top-of-the-line ES model with the new 2.0 litre engine and the optional GT option package which includes 16 inch radials and alloy wheels, four wheel disc brakes with ABS, rear spoiler, air conditioning, and power moonroof. The Protegé ES retails for $17,610, and with the $2,900 GT package, the price totals $20,510.

The ES with the GT package is an attractive-looking sedan. The front bumper has twin integrated foglamps, a sporty criss-cross mesh grille, five-spoke alloy wheels, Dunlop Super Sport 5000 P195/50R16 radials, a rear decklid spoiler, and a chrome-tipped exhaust pipe.

The ES features an attractive gauge cluster with cr�me-coloured gauges – there is a large central speedometer, a smaller tachometer to the left, and coolant and fuel gauges on the right.

To the right of the sporty four spoke steering wheel, is a central control panel with metallic-look trim and a shiny, dark vertical border. There is also metallic trim surrounding the transmission lever.

The centre instrument panel has a centrally-positioned AM/FM/CD stereo with large black buttons and white numerals for ease of use. The radio also has a built-in digital clock.

Below the stereo is the heater with three easy-to-use dials. One complaint: the fan is rather noisy. On the bottom of the centre stack is an ashtray, cigarette lighter, and a dedicated 12 volt power point. In front of the console are two cupholders with a flip-up cover.

The centre armrest and storage bin is not well-designed, in my opinion. It’s too far back to rest the right arm and the bin is small. However, there is additional storage in the front door pockets, and a coinholder tray on the lower left dash.

The headlight controls are on the left stalk but a button for the foglights is on the lower left dashboard. The wipers/intermittent wipers on the right stalk, and a there’s a third, smaller stalk for cruise control.

ES models have a height-adjustable seat cushion and tilt steering wheel which allows the driver to find a comfortable driving position. I also liked the big, flat dead pedal to the left of the clutch pedal for resting the left foot when cruising on the highway.

The Protegé’s driving position affords good all-around visibility – in particular, the Protegé’s trunk is not as high as other cars in its class, so rear vision is not obstructed – even with the optional trunk spoiler. Body-hugging sport seats provide excellent support when cornering and the well laid-out interior is uncomplicated and user-friendly.

Driving impressions

2001 Mazda Protegé engine
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With eight more horsepower than the previous 1.8 litre engine, the performance of the 2.0 litre engine has improved slightly over last year’s Protegé – however, the Protegé is not particularly faster than its major competitors, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

0 to 100 km/h takes 11.9 seconds with the automatic transmission and 10.4 seconds with the manual transmission (Mazda figures). Independent performance tests conducted by AJAC (Automobile Journalists Association of Canada) show the Honda Civic sedan with a manual transmission does 0 to 100 km/h in 10.0 seconds and a Nissan Sentra 10.5 seconds. Figures for the Corolla were not available, but it is comparable or better than these figures because of its 124 horsepower engine and lighter curb weight.

At a steady 100 km/h, the Protegé’s engine does a leisurely 2,700 rpm. The engine can be a bit ‘growly’ at higher revs but most of the time there’s just a dull rumbling sound. On the highway, I noticed some road noise coming through the body, and some wind noise, but passengers can carry on a normal conversation OK.

While the Protegé’s fuel economy is very good (City: 9.6 l/100 km (29 mpg) & Hwy: 7.3 l/100 km (39 mpg), it’s not as good as the thrifty Honda Civic or the even-thriftier Toyota Corolla. They offer between 20 and 25% better fuel economy from their (admittedly) smaller engines.

I found the Protegé’s (optional) 4-speed automatic transmission performed well during my week-long test-drive, changing with a mild ‘bump’ from First to Second gear, but otherwise very smoothly. There’s an overdrive on/off button on the floor shifter which allows quick shifts from fourth to third – useful for holding the car in third when descending or ascending a grade.

Handling is nimble, transitions are flat, and the overall feel is sporty with controlled understeer at the limit, and minimal brake dive or pitch. Protegés have a fully independent suspension (front strut/coil springs – rear struts/links) which provides controlled handling particularly in bumpy conditions. My test car had the optional GT package which includes 16 inch 50-series tires, so it was particularly fun to drive – however I thought the highway ride was a bit ‘bouncy’. Concrete expansion gaps in some highways seem to bring out the worst in the Protége’s fully independent suspension.

The rack and pinion engine-speed sensitive variable-assist steering has a light, sporty feel with good on-centre return, and the Protegé’s turning circle of 10.4 metres is about average for a car this size. The four-wheel disc brakes on my GT-equipped test car made light work of heavy braking, perhaps because the Protegé is fairly light itself (1194 kg/2632 kg). They come with standard anti-lock brakes.

The Protegé is a delightful car to drive, particularly when equipped with the GT package. While some compact cars are designed to be merely a practical means of transportation, the Protegé adds a sporty look and driving experience to its generous practical attributes.

Price and features

2001 Mazda Protegé
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Base Protegé SE models with the 1.6 litre DOHC 16 valve four cylinder engine start at $15,795. Standard equipment includes a five-speed manual transmission, front disc/rear drum brakes (optional ABS), variable power-assist steering, 14 inch tires, body-coloured bumpers, AM/FM/CD with four speakers and digital clock, tilt steering wheel, tachometer, two front cupholders, dual airbags, 60/40 split rear seats, manual outside mirrors, fixed intermittent wipers, and rear defroster.

Protegé LX models, which start at $16,250, upgrade to the 2.0 litre four cylinder engine and add 15 inch tires and upgraded cloth seats. Moonroof, power door locks, and keyless remote are optional on the LX (but not on the SE). However, power windows are not available on the LX.

Top-of-the-line Protegé ES sedans add foglamps, body-coloured door handles, power folding mirrors, chrome-tipped exhaust, cruise control, central locking for the front doors, power windows with one-touch down feature on driver’s window, sport cloth seats, height-adjustable driver’s seat, and white-faced gauges.

A GT Package on the ES model for $2,900 includes 16 inch alloy wheels and 195/50R-16 inch tires, body-coloured rear spoiler, rear disc brakes and ABS, air conditioning, and moonroof with tilt/slide feature and sliding sunshade.

A four-speed automatic transmission is a $1,000 option on all models. Air conditioning is also a $1,000 option on SE, LX and ES (std with GT package). Anti-lock brakes are a $500 option on SE and LX models (standard on ES).

The LX model is available with keyless remote for an extra $350 – if you order keyless remote, you can also add the Sun Sport Package for $1,895 which includes air conditioning, rear spoiler and moonroof. Some colours are also an extra cost option.

Like other Mazda’s, the Protegé comes with a standard 3 year/80,000 km warranty (most other imports have a 3 yr/60,000 km warranty), and a 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty. The warranty also includes three years of roadside assistance for towing, battery boosting, tire changing and emergency fuel delivery. It also includes a travel planning service.

See more info about the Protegé on Mazda Canada’s web-site, www.mazda.ca.

Technical Data:

2001 Mazda Protegé ES
Base price (ES) $17,610
Price as tested (ES w/ GT pkg) $20,510
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.0 litre DOHC 16 valve four cylinder
Horsepower 130 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 135 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic (5 speed manual std)
Tires 195/50R-16
Curb weight 1194 kg (2632 lb.)
Wheelbase 2610 mm (102.8 in)
Length 4420 mm (174.0 in.)
Width 1705 mm (67.1 in.)
Height 1410 mm (55.5 in.)
Trunk space 365 litres (12.9 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City 9.6 l/100 km (29 mpg)
  Hwy: 7.3 l/100 km (39 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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