1999 Mazda Protege DX 1.6 from North America

Summary:

This car does work

Faults:

Air conditioning stopped working long ago, and we never had it fixed.

Check engine light came on frequently, but this never affected performance as far as I could tell.

The radio stopped working at around 110,000 miles.

Acceleration began to decline at around 120,000 miles.

Replaced ball joints at 144,000 miles.

General Comments:

This car is simply amazing. The abuse my family and I put it through would have destroyed lesser cars. It never failed to start up in the winter, it never left any of us stranded anywhere, and it has very little rust on it - in fact, it has less rust than any Japanese car of its age I've ever seen. It has held together well and been extremely reliable throughout my twelve year ownership.

The car has always handled extremely well, and it is relatively fun to drive, although not quite as fast as it once was. It still pulls hard for a 1.6 liter 4 cylinder engine when you're the only one in the car. This car does not like hills at all, so gather some speed if you see a hill up ahead.

This car has required very little in maintenance and repairs. It has been driven every day by my wife, my son and I, sometimes multiple trips per day, sometimes close to a thousand miles in a week. Our 2003 Mazda has more rust than this car. It's not fast, it's not sporty, but it's well worth the money for the unquestionable reliability.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 12th September, 2011

13th Sep 2011, 09:13

Now if you wrap some duct tape around the air intake hose, where the ripples are, and then open the clogged nipple for the EGR Boost sensor vacuum hose at the back side of the intake plenum and erase the codes, it will run faster again.

Sometimes the brakes drag without the driver noticing. A normal brake job will fix this.

Miles to go!

1999 Mazda Protege ES 1.8 liter 4 from North America

Summary:

The best compact car of 1999

Faults:

Pretty reliable overall, but my example came with two problems (bought it used):

1. Engine mounts seem to be shot, causing annoying buzzing/vibration at exactly 1,800 RPM, usually in low-speed acceleration.

2. Cruise control is quirky. When initially set, the system lets the speed fall about 4 MPH before actually engaging. Then when it's on, it constantly wavers above/below the set speed, i.e. set it at 70 MPH and it'll bounce between 68 and 72 every 5 seconds, which totally murders your gas mileage.

Also, the owner before me had to replace the oxygen sensor at one point. Still, 3 problems over 90,000 miles ain't a bad showing.

General Comments:

I picked the Protege over the others for its several advantages:

- Best handling in its class, thanks to quick steering and a hard suspension that make it fun to drive.

- Best driver's seat: all-day comfortable, and unlike the seat in most of the Protege's competitors, its backrest goes upright enough for us long-legged types.

- Best back seat, too. The Civic of the time was OK, but the Sentra, Mirage, and Corolla were all cramped.

- Best stereo: big 6x8 front speakers and even bigger 6x9 Pioneer rear speakers mean huge-ass bass.

- Clean, high-quality interior, especially on 1999 models (later years have a more flashy/garish instrument panel).

- Its automatic transmission is far smarter than the confused, constantly downshifting shifting trannies in most 80s/90s Mazdas.

- Unlike the Michigan-made Mazdas (626, MX-6), the Protege is reliable.

- Of the Japanese entries, only the Mitsubishi Mirage is cheaper on the used car market.

On the downside:

- Has the hardest ride, and is raucously noisy above 50 MPH (road & wind noise, plus engine noise due to short gearing).

- Engine isn't very efficient, averaging only 27 MPG in mixed driving (Corollas get 30).

- Like most cars of the time, the engine uses a timing belt, a $600 item that needs changing at 105,000 miles (at the time, the exceptions were the Corolla, Sentra, and Saturn, which use timing chains).

- No rear disc brakes on 99-00 models.

Still, considering the overall performance, quality, and modest pricing of the whole package, I'm glad I bought it, and to me the Protege ES is the most appealing small car of the late 90s, rivaled only by Nissan's 200SX SE-R and Sentra SE.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 19th September, 2010