Side-impact airbags are a new option for the LX and ES versions of the Protegé, Mazda's front-drive compact sedan. The new side-impact airbags are part of option packages that include anti-lock brakes. Protegé was redesigned last year, but it has a short future in its present form. Ford owns a controlling interest in Mazda, and plans are to switch the Protegé to the Ford Focus platform for 2002. However, Mazda's rendition is expected to look much different than Ford's.
The five-passenger Protegé is one of the roomier small cars, with interior volume of 92.6 cubic feet. That translates into adequate rear legroom and headroom for adult-size passengers. A split, folding rear seat supplements the 12.9-cubic-foot trunk, giving Protegé commendable cargo space for a small sedan.
At 174 inches end to end, Protegé is one inch shorter than the best-selling small car, the Honda Civic. Mazda says the "European-inspired styling" was done jointly by designers in Europe, Japan and California.
Under the Hood
The DX and LX models use a 105-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The top-line ES has a 1.8-liter engine with 122 horsepower. Manual and automatic transmissions are available with both.
It is easy to lose sight of the Protegé in the herd of small sedans. A closer look reveals a roomy car that is well equipped, competent, fun to drive and competitively priced.