2001 Mazda Protégé
2001 Mazda Protégé
2001 Mazda Protégé. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase

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While the Mazda3 was the car that cemented Mazda as a key player in the compact car segment in Canada, it was the company’s previous small car – the last-generation Protégé – that set the stage for the 3.

While the Protégé could never compete stylistically with its successor, it was an attractive enough car that offered a far more involved driving experience than most of its competitors.

This final generation of Protégé was introduced as a 1999 model. Initial engine choices were 1.6-litre four-cylinder (105 hp) powering base and mid-level models, and a 1.8-litre (122 hp) powerplant for top-trim versions.

In 2001, the Protégé got a mild facelift. Also, the 1.8-litre engine was replaced with a 2.0-litre (130 hp) borrowed from the larger 626 sedan; the larger engine was now standard in mid- and top-trim models, leaving the 1.6-litre as exclusive to the base model.

In 2002, the Protégé5 hatchback was added. It was offered in a single trim that was roughly equivalent to the top-end ES sedan, and as such was offered with only the 2.0-litre engine, and the same choice of manual or automatic transmissions.

And let’s not forget about the MazdaSpeed Protégé, a turbocharged sedan that is covered in its own used review here on Autos.

Transmission choices throughout the last-gen Protégé’s run were a five-speed manual as standard kit with all engine and trim levels, and a four-speed automatic was the sole option all around.

2001 Mazda Protégé
2001 Mazda Protégé. Click image to enlarge

In early versions, fuel consumption ratings were 8.5/6.7 L/100 km (city/highway) for 1.6-litre cars and 8.9/6.6 (city/highway) for 1.8-litre models. With either engine, opting for the automatic transmission increased fuel consumption notably, especially in city driving. Note that the 2.0-litre engine is a fair bit thirstier than the 1.8 it replaced, but the penalty for choosing the automatic transmission over the more-efficient manual is much smaller.

For the most part, the Protégé has proven to be a durable little car, but not to the point of its Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic competition. Consumer Reports notes fuel system troubles and some minor engine problems in older cars.

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