1995 Mazda Protege LX
1995 Mazda Protege, Click image to enlarge

Mazda first introduced its urban commuter sedan, the four-door Protegé, as a 1990 model and by the time the second generation version arrived in the fall of 1994 (as a 1995 model) more than 200,000 Protegés had been sold in Canada.

The ’95 car was a big step forward for the Protegé. Thus, buyers in the used market should note the differences between pre- and post-’95 models. The newer models are much bigger, more powerful, more refined and more responsive than their predecessors.

While the ’95 Protegé looks strikingly similar to its Toyota rival, the Corolla, inside the cabin you’ll find packaging that’s notably different. Mazda’s chief North American designer, Tom Matano, argued at the time that the uniqueness of the ’95 Protegé was found in its amazingly efficient use of space. He called it “opti-space.” In fact, the ’95 Protegé had more interior room than any of its major competitors of the day. Four six-footers can ride around without any squeezing at all.

Overall, a very stiff body structure allowed Mazda to tune the Protegé for both ride comfort and spirited handling and the ’95 is clearly superior to older Protegés.

For power, Mazda revised the 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine that did service in the ’94 model. Competitively powered, the Protegé was rated at 0-100 km/h in slightly more than nine seconds with the standard five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic was optional).

Mazda sold three versions of the Protegé in 1995: S, LX and ES. The ES version topped the Protegé line, coming loaded with standard equipment: power-assisted disc brakes all around, aluminum alloy wheels, power mirrors, door locks and windows, cruise control, stereo cassette and so on. But note that airbags and anti-lock braking were both options that year.

Buyers should definitely note that for ’95 and ’96 Mazda Canada sold a Protegé S that was actually the previous generation car and was not at all new. Just less expensive. So if you want the newest versions, stay away from ’95 and ’96 Protegé S models. Note that ABS and airbags were options in ’95.

In 1996, Mazda replaced the S with the SE which had the new bodystyle and a 92 horsepower 1.5 litre four cylinder engine. The 1996 LX model offered a 122 horsepower 1.8 litre engine, and the ES model was dropped.

Check carefully for wind and water leaks and paint problems. Also, be sure the rear defroster and, if so equipped, the power side mirrors are in working order.

Truth be told, the Protege is a really pleasant car for urban commutes and for my money. The 1995-98 versions offer nifty handling and tremendous room inside. Quality has proven to be quite good as a general rule.

For some reason – perhaps reasons that have almost nothing to do with the cars themselves – the Protegé never sold as well as, say, Toyota’s Corolla. That said, ’95 models haven’t held their value as well as some rivals and they represent very good value on the used market.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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