1996 Mazda Protege Review

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List Price Estimate
$358 - $846

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

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.

1996 Highlights

No changes for 1996.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 1996 Mazda Protege.

Trending topics in reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

Great little car!
DX 4dr Sedan
I got my 1996 Protege DX with an automatic transmission in 2006 and it's been a great car. I just turned 112,000 miles on it and have only replaced the waterpump and timing belt and have had regular fluid changes. No leaks or smoke. Starts up every time. I just replaced the stock Mazda battery two years ago! The gas mileage is about 32-34 highway and it's roomy inside. The engine could use a few more horses with the automatic but I'm used to it after all this time and it doesn't really bother me too much. I do wish I could find an actual replacement molded carpet though. All that is available is padding and rolls of carpeting that I would have to cut to fit and doesn't have the driver's side floor pad. Someone changed the stock 13" rims to nice aluminum 14" and the ride is nice compared to others with stock wheels that I have driven. I also wish it had cruise control and whomever came up with the cup holder design at Mazda probably doesn't have a job there anymore. It has developed a few interior rattles and squeaks, mostly from the door panels and the glove box door, but they are to be expected for a car that is this old and has mostly plastic interior. My biggest issue with the car though is the seals. It builds up condensation inside and takes forever to clear. Sometimes it runs down the inside of the windshield and yes I have had it checked for leaks. I have read where this is a common problem with this car in damp areas. I have learned to live with it and have kept an eye out for rust but none yet.
20 years and still running like a champ
ES 4dr Sedan
I just bought one. It was the best investment I have ever made. I paid $400 for it on Craigslist because it needed repairs. The parts were cheap. I ended up spending just $300 to replace the rear struts and springs, all four brake pads and rotors, headlights, spark plugs, air filter and replaced all of the fluids. Now it runs like new which is surprising since the engine and transmission have never been replaced or rebuilt. Some of the reviews I have read stated that the acceleration is sluggish but that has not been the case with the 1.8 liter engine paired with a 5 speed. The best part is that I was able to get close to 350 miles on a single tank of gas and it cost about $30 to completely refill the tank. The only problem I have had other than the usual protege suspension and rust issues is that it is a little cramped when getting in and out due to the steering wheel being a little low. I would recommend this car 100% to anyone looking for a cheap reliable car.
First Car
daniel ,08/11/2009
DX 4dr Sedan
Overall this car is fantastic. I got it for my 18th birthday and I'm in love with it. The engine is a little underpowered but the manual helps hide it. I just learned how to drive stick shift with this car because it is so easy. The DX trim lacks basic comforts like power anything or cruise control but the car is very easy to work on. The 1.5 liter engine makes incredible gas mileage, I went 80 miles on a little less than a 1/4 tank. Its great for a starter car or student can go forever with proper maintenance.
Great long-term purchase
LX 4dr Sedan
I bought my Protege (automatic, not manual) new in 1996, and although one of the buttons on the factory stereo stopped working within one year, I haven't had any major trouble out of this car for most of its life (first actual breakdown occurred in 2010, and wasn't a major system). I am only just now looking to replace it! The ride is responsive and the suspension is nice and firm, and though the 80hp engine is pretty sluggish, that never really bothered me. A simple, practical, reliable vehicle! The one caution I would have is that it has burned through several "lifetime" mufflers, always in the same spot--probably a design flaw. Otherwise, can't complain!


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver3 / 5
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1996 Mazda Protege

Used 1996 Mazda Protege Overview

The Used 1996 Mazda Protege is offered in the following submodels: Protege Sedan. Available styles include DX 4dr Sedan, ES 4dr Sedan, and LX 4dr Sedan. Pre-owned Mazda Protege models are available with a 1.5 L-liter gas engine or a 1.8 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 122 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 1996 Mazda Protege comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed manual.

What's a good price on a Used 1996 Mazda Protege?

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 1996 Mazda Proteges are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 1996 Mazda Protege for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 1996 Mazda Protege.

Can't find a used 1996 Mazda Proteges you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Mazda Protege for sale - 9 great deals out of 23 listings starting at $19,670.

Find a used Mazda for sale - 9 great deals out of 14 listings starting at $22,105.

Find a used certified pre-owned Mazda Protege for sale - 11 great deals out of 13 listings starting at $21,166.

Find a used certified pre-owned Mazda for sale - 6 great deals out of 7 listings starting at $10,434.

Should I lease or buy a 1996 Mazda Protege?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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