Used 2001 Mazda Protege Review

Edmunds expert review

When it comes to small, snappy sedans, the Protege is a tough act to beat.

What's new for 2001

Already one of the best-looking economy sedans on the market, the Protege receives freshened exterior styling for 2001. ES models now have standard 16-inch wheels, and 15-inch wheels are optional on LX models. A larger 2.0-liter engine replaces the previous 1.8-liter engine. All Proteges get a revised interior and improvements to ride comfort, braking effort and steering feel. Front seatbelt pre-tensioners are standard.

Vehicle overview

Now in its third model year, Mazda's current Protege is a snappy car that competes against vehicles like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus. Sold only as a four-door sedan, the Protege is available in three trim levels: DX, LX and ES. The base-model DX comes with standard features like power steering, a tilt steering wheel and a split-folding seatback. For options like a driver's height-adjustable seat, power windows and locks, a tachometer, and cruise control, you'll have to step up to either the LX or the ES. The ES also comes with features like standard air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, and optional ABS and side airbags.

Both the DX and the LX use a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 105 horsepower and 107 foot-pounds of torque. Power from the 1.6-liter is tolerable, but buyers looking for more acceleration should opt for the new 2.0-liter engine. Optional on the LX and standard on the ES, the new engine puts out 130 horsepower. Torque is rated at 135 foot-pounds, up 12.5 percent over last year's 1.8-liter engine.

The Protege is one of the best-looking economy sedans on the market, and the 2001 improvements should only further the car's lead. Mazda has updated the front end's styling, adding a new grille, hood, fenders and headlights. The attractive brushed-aluminum wheels go a long way toward giving the Mazda an upscale appearance, as do the jewel-like headlight reflectors, angular taillights and chrome accents.

The firm seats are comfortable, and the seat height and cushion angle adjustments (on the LX and ES) are greatly appreciated. The driving position is excellent, with a thick steering wheel rim to grip and a properly placed dead pedal for the left foot. There's also a proper Germanic front-passenger door grip, nicely padded upper door panels where elbows often rest, lots of storage nooks and crannies, a large rear seat, and a commodious 12.9 cubic foot trunk. For 2001, the interior features a new center stack design, new seat and trim fabric, a new interior color, a modular audio system, improved cupholders, ignition key illumination, power window switch illumination, a map light, a lockable glove box, and a lock for the 60/40 split-fold rear seatback.

On the road, the Protege is a bit louder than expected, but it does provide an excellent drive. Credit goes to the first-rate steering system with gobs of feedback, perfect weighting and no on-center dead spot. Enhanced by a taut and well-damped suspension, Protege is the "driver's car" of economy sedans.

The Mazda Protege is a long-time favorite of ours. And although its price can rise to uncomfortable levels (especially with the ES model), the Protege deserves the attention of people looking for a comfortably quick commuter with spicy style and a good reliability record.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.