Best reliable car I 've ever bought. After 17 years, car runs strong. I drive 120 miles daily average. Everything works. Mpg @33mpg. Mayor repairs: timing belt/ radiator change / front axles. Minor: Upstream O2 sensor / EGR valve clean up. Car is easy to repair. Done it myself except timing belt. Total $ amount of repairs + tires= $4,300. Walmart brand synthetic oil keeps this car well lubed all these years.
OK, so this is not a sexy looking car with super electronics. But, it is still going strong after 15 years, gets good mpg, and does not cost a lot to own/maintain. It's not comfortable enough for long hauls, but I only use it for short, around town trips, so it meets my needs. Paint is still holding up, as is the upholstry. Water pump replacement is about the most major repair the car has had.
IF ALL THE PEOPLE THAT BOUGHT LX MODELS AND SAID THEY WERE "UNDERPOWERED" , WHY DIDN'T THEY BUY THE ES MODEL WITH THE BIGGER MOTOR ?? I BOUGHT AN ES MODEL WHICH NOW HAS 210,000 MILES ON IT AS OF JUNE OF 2004, AND IT STILL GETS UP AND GOES JUST LIKE IT DID WHEN IT WAS NEW. I WOULD DEFINITELY BUY ANOTHER ONE. MAYBE MAZDA HEARD THE COMPLAINTS ABOUT POWER, I BELIEVE THE 2004 MODELS HAVE A 2.2 LITER MOTOR IN THEM ....
My wife and I bought our 1997 Mazda LX Protege 5 speed manual back in 1997 brand new and still own it today. Other than small maintenence issues such as replacing batteries and giving it a tune up every couple of years, we have not had one single problem with it. The car still drives smooth (it is slow with the 1.5) but it's roomy and somewhat comfortable, just don't try to pass quickly on a freeway, or climb steep inclines, because you will creep up the mountain etc. The vehicle doesn't burn or drip oil and the paint job still looks very sharp for such an old car, and the interior (cloth) still looks nice and tight. We really love this car!
I have poured so much money into this car that I'm ready to get rid of it at 90,000 miles. The 97 models had a problemn with faulty master cylinders-- very expensive to fix--and I've had endless little things go wrong. It has no pickup and drives sluggishly. I do not recommend the 97 Proteges, and would nt buy another Mazda based on my experience with this one.