1999 Mazda Protege Review

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Mazda Protege model years
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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • A worthwhile alternative to the Honda Civic.
  • Only comes in sedan form (no coupe or hatchback model).

Vehicle overview

Looking to take a share of the Honda Civic's sales numbers, Mazda's new-for-'99 Protege offers substantial improvements this year. OK, so maybe the top-line ES brake system has gone from a four-wheel disc setup to a front disc/rear drum configuration, but since the new model is also lighter than previous Proteges, Mazda assures us that stopping distances haven't suffered.

Topping the list of improvements is a new base engine that grows from 1.5 to 1.6 liters. As you might expect, power is also up with the new base engine making 105 horsepower compared to only 92 for the old 1.5-liter mill. This engine is standard on the DX and LX models while the top-line ES features a new, 1.8-liter inline four capable of 122 horsepower and 120 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard in the Protege but an all-new, four-speed automatic can be ordered with either engine.

Exterior changes range from a new "626-like" grille to body-colored door handles and side moldings (on LX and ES models) to 15-inch alloy wheels (ES only). Inside there's a new driver's side vanity mirror, larger cloth door inserts, and three-point safety belts for the rear seat. LX and ES models get a larger center console but lose the previous front-seat side storage trays. All three models lose the locking glovebox door that was standard last year.

New options include an LX Premium Package that comes with ABS, moonroof, and remote keyless illuminated entry. The keyless entry is standard this year on ES models.We admire Mazda for going after Civic-like quality and performance with the new Protege. The Honda is a tough act to follow but this new Mazda has plenty to offer the buyer looking to separate from the Civic masses.

1999 Highlights

The Protege gets an extensive makeover for '99 that includes new exterior and interior styling, a more powerful engine lineup, additional luxury options and five new colors.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 1999 Mazda Protege.

Trending topics in reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

4.75 out of 5 stars
glad i baught this car!
LX 4dr Sedan
I bought a new protege in 99, the car has always been really trustworthy! The car really hasn't had any real problems besides normal maint (alternator, oil changes, brakes etc.) I have always kept up maint on this car and has allowed this car to still run just like it did when I drove it off the lot even after 311,000 miles! I have never had to do any Major engine or trans work on this car and still trust it enough to make 3 400 mile trips a week! On the highway it gets about 35-40 mpg and citywise mid20s to lower 30s! One complaint is that the cupholders are to small and are placed too close to the dash and shifter. Also long trips the seats can get uncomfortable! But great car and value!
3.75 out of 5 stars
The most reliable/most boring car ever.
J. Victor,11/24/2010
ES 4dr Sedan
I've owned and driven this car going into my 3rd Michigan winter, and aside from routine oil changes and brake maintanence, have had ZERO problems with this car. It's been a rock solid little go-kart. It's also totally boring. I might think higher of it with a splash of color (as mine is silver with grey interior), and it has no fun toys to speak of (typical PW/PL/cruise) but I can count on it to run and run well. Engine still has some 'zoomzoom' even after 170K miles. Very impressed with this thing's longevity.
5 out of 5 stars
181k Miles, Still Strong No, Major Repairs
Chris M.,04/01/2016
DX 4dr Sedan
I drive the 5 speed a mannual. Inherited it from my dad who put 90k on it. I love this car. It's pretty basic in terms of style and mechanics. To me that's the beauty in it all. It was perfect for a college kid. Easy to maintain. I have hand no major problems with this car. Just normal wear and tear. The biggest issue I ever had was replacing the intake manifold two times. It failed due to rust. Luckily, I have access to a great junkyard & got parts for pennies. Car is so easy to service, I do it all by myself. (Oil changes, sparkplugs, filters, etc.) Interior is basic cloth, manual widows etc. But I have no rips in the seats and everything still works as it should. Oh and this car still has the original clutch & timing belt. Never had any leaks, the engine bay is dry. My car dosent burn oil. Would Def buy another or recommend.
4.75 out of 5 stars
Superior Ride
ES 4dr Sedan
I have owned my Protege for almost 3 years and have very much enjoyed the experience! It now has 162k and everything, including the power windows and moonroof, is still working well.


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver3 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • 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 1999 Mazda Protege
More About This Model

Winding through the Canadian countryside just outside of Toronto in a convoy of Mazdas, listening to Lilith Fair and swing CDs, a handful of journalists got a taste of what living with the all-new 1999 Protege might be like. The conclusion? Life could be fun with one of these solid little cars parked in our driveways, especially if you're in your twenties. Let us explain...

During the past 21 months, Mazda has completely redesigned its hallmark economy car and, with new Euro exterior styling and a revamped interior, set its sights on winning the business of a focused group of consumers: young, post-college, professional women. At 25, recently married and a full-time journalist, it didn't take long to realize that Mazda had made this car for me, and others like me. Now we just had to determine if we liked it.

Though the average age of the current Proteg buyer is 42, Mazda plans on putting all of its energy into an ad campaign aimed at single or newly married women aged 24-plus, with median household incomes of $30,000 to $50,000, a bachelors or masters degree, and an active, energetic lifestyle. The buyers of the new Proteg are not rebelling like the youth of their parents' generation, according to Mazda PR execs. They're molding. They embrace the thrill of discovery, yet make sound, well-researched decisions. They buy cars not only for practical reasons, but for emotional ones as well. Their life goals are fairly simple, as one 25-year-old subject said: "I don't want to change the world; I want to enjoy it."

Enjoying life should be fairly easy while driving one of the new Proteges. They're quick, sporty and spirited. With three trim levels (DX, LX and ES), two engine choices, standard CD players in LX and ES models, and cupholders placed so precisely that even tall plastic bottles and Supersized drinks don't block the climate controls or the stereo, designers have covered all the important bases. In fact, the only thing that would prevent me from considering this vehicle is where I live-Denver-and the fact that I drive into the Rocky Mountains almost every weekend. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engines in these cars were having a hard time in the hills outside Toronto, and they simply wouldn't keep me satisfied at altitudes of 10,000 feet and higher. Even the larger 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine on the Protégé's ES trim level, which makes 122 horsepower, would probably be sputtering like a snail up the I-70 corridor. Still, for my peers who don't happen to live at high altitudes, the Proteg should be considered.

For those concerned with the environment, this car may be a wise choice. The twin cam 16-valve engine used in the DX and LX trim levels has earned certification as an ultra low emissions vehicle (ULEV) by the California Air Resources Board-the first vehicle in its class to achieve such a distinction. ULEV vehicles generate 70 percent less smog-forming pollutants than standard cars. How does it work? The variable tumble control system reduces emissions on cold-starts by promoting greater swirl within the combustion chamber, and a Ford E-5 emissions system as well as piston-cooling oil jets are utilized. Since coolant flow goes directly to the cylinder head, engine cooling is also improved. The Protege is only the second gasoline-powered car to be certified as a ULEV, just a year behind the 1998 Honda Accord.

Engineered with Mazda's new "Triple-H" construction, the Proteg pillars, roof rails and side sills get reinforced and gusseted frames, which will better protect occupants in the event of a side impact or rollover crash. Dual depowered airbags and three-point seat belts for all five seating positions are standard, and ABS is available as an option on the two highest trim levels. Using 26 fewer parts than the last Protege, transmission upgrades provide smoother shifting. Consumers can choose from a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic tranny.

Exterior styling is always a point of dissidence between reviewers. While the European-looking stout rear end of the '99 Proteg appealed to me, another editor thought the entire vehicle looked ... uh, crumpled. Mazda calls its new styling "Contrast in Harmony," which means it has both soft curves and sharp edges. Imagine rugged mountain peaks reflected in a smooth lake, and that's the Protégé. Stylistically, the short, choppy rear of the car was the biggest hit with journalists, while the rounded greenhouse was angled just enough to keep from looking like a Volkswagen or an Audi. Mazda retains the "family face" of the front end-a chrome-accented five-point grille sporting the Mazda brand symbol.

Inside the car we found little to complain about. Though the '99 Proteg loses a tad of interior space due to added side impact protection, it still leads its class in interior room at 92.6 cubic feet, and 12.9 cubic feet of trunk space. Mazda's OptiSpace design gives passengers more legroom this year and the lower half of the instrument panel is slightly concave, providing extra knee room for those in front.

Recent graduates will appreciate the standard equipment on all Proteges, which includes power front ventilated disc and rear drum brakes, 60/40 split folding rear seat, body-colored bumpers, rear seat heater ducts, tilt steering wheel, adjustable seat belt anchors, intermittent wipers, and front and rear stabilizer bars. The LX model adds cruise control, a power package, and integrated rear headrests. Those opting for the top of the line ES will get 15-inch alloy wheels, A/C and keyless remote entry. Additionally, Mazda is sure to win the hearts of this up-and-coming group of women with its standard CD players (cassette decks are optional) on two trim levels. With an excellent dashboard layout and fine ergonomics, the Protégé's interior should please most potential buyers.

The last time we drove a Proteg (the '98 model), complaints about seat comfort were rampant. Most of our staff was able to get comfortable and almost all drivers exited the car with back pain. This time around (in the '99 version), I did not feel any discomfort. Though I didn't drive the car for quite as long as I drove the '98 model, I still spent a good five hours behind the wheel, without complaint. The one disappointment was that the driver's seat in the base model does not have a height adjuster. I guess if you're short like me, you better shell out the cash for the LX or ES models, which do have seat height adjusters-or buy a pillow to sit on.

The redesigned 1999 Mazda Proteg will hit showrooms in mid-September, just in time to take recent graduates to all those job interviews.

Used 1999 Mazda Protege Overview

The Used 1999 Mazda Protege is offered in the following submodels: Protege Sedan. Available styles include ES 4dr Sedan, DX 4dr Sedan, and LX 4dr Sedan. Pre-owned Mazda Protege models are available with a 1.8 L-liter gas engine or a 1.6 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 122 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 1999 Mazda Protege comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed manual.

What's a good price on a Used 1999 Mazda Protege?

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Which used 1999 Mazda Proteges are available in my area?

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Find a used Mazda Protege for sale - 4 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $23,932.

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Should I lease or buy a 1999 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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