What's New for 1996
No changes for 1996.
The engineers and designers who were putting the finishing touches on the new Protege must have lost lots of sleep during the first half of 1994. After all, they were redesigning a compact sedan that, since its 1990 debut, had been likened to a mini Mercedes 190, and had been one of the few four-doors competing in SCCA racing events. Oh, there was that pesky upstart from Chrysler Corporation too, the Neon, but heck...it was a Chrysler; nothing to worry about.
Well, Mazda's new Protege has been on showroom floors for about one year. If the numbers of new Proteges and Neons prowling the streets of America are any indication, Mazda needs to do some quick thinking to sell at least a few Proteges.
We have some suggestions. Make the 1.8-liter engine standard on the LX model, and offer air conditioning at no extra charge. Why would Joe Consumer ante up nearly $16,600 for a five-speed Protege ES when he can get a Neon Sport with every possible option, better looks, and better performance for a grand less? (On the other hand, considering the Protege's cavernous interior, perhaps it makes better sense as an alternative to Ford's Contour SE.)
The new Protege, priced more competitively, would make a solid alternative to the Neon. With the 1.8-liter engine and the roomiest interior in its class, the Protege's design is competent, if not inspiringly styled. However, compared to many of its competitors, the Protege cannot provide the value buyers expect in a small car. Until this issue is addressed, the Protege is destined to remain invisible to consumers.