The Mazda Protégé was a small compact car that was manufactured and sold by Mazda. This vehicle was known in other markets as the Mazda 323 and Familia. The Protégé distinguished itself from other compacts with sportier handling and better interior space than many of its compact competitors. The eighth and final generation of the Protégé was sold between 1998 and 2003.
A 2-liter dual overhead cam 4-cylinder engine was used throughout the Protégé line. This engine was capable of producing 130 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 135 pound feet of torque at 4000 rpm. The 2-liter engine was backed by a standard 5-speed manual transmission; a 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive was a popular available option. A turbocharged variant of the 2-liter DOHC engine was used in the MazdaSpeed Protégé. In this application, the 2-liter turbocharged engine produced 170 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 160 pound feet of torque at 3500 rpm.
The Protégé comes from a long line of small compact cars made by Mazda, starting in 1964. The Protégé was sold in other markets around the world under different names and was the basis for a number of other compact vehicles. The Ford Escort and Mercury Tracer were based on the 323/Protégé platform, as was the Ford Laser and Meteor that was sold in Asian and Australian markets. The Protégé was eventually replaced by the Mazda3 during the 2004 model year.
The Protégé came in three trims: the DX, LX and ES. Optional features included power windows, power door locks, alloy wheels and upgraded sound system. Anti-lock brakes and driver and passenger side air bags were included as standard safety equipment. There was also a MazdaSpeed Protégé model that featured a turbocharged version of the 2-liter 4-cylinder engine. The MazdaSpeed Protégé touted suspension upgrades, 17-inch wheels, larger brakes, a special aero kit and drastically improved performance thanks in part to its turbocharged 2-liter 4-cylinder engine.
The base manufacturer suggested retail price for a Protégé DX was $13,680, while the top-of-the-line ES started out at $16,140. The MazdaSpeed Protégé topped the price list at around $20,500. The Protégé proved to not only be an inexpensive compact car, but also a fuel efficient one as well. With a 5-speed manual, EPA fuel economy estimates for the Protégé were estimated at 25 miles per gallon in city driving and 31 miles to the gallon on the highway. Fuel economy estimates for the MazdaSpeed Protégé were estimated at 24 miles per gallon in city driving and 30 miles per gallon on the highway
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