28th Aug 2005, 15:23

When my dad was looking for a new car (to replace his '77 Oldsmobile 98), I recommended he look at a Toyota Corolla, me being a die hard Toyota fan. To be honest though, the Corolla is a ho-hum car with a large price tag attached to it. My second opinion was the 2001 Protege ES 2.0L, and he bought it the same day. My dad doesn't drive a lot, (only has under 40,000km on it now), but he absolutely LOVES this car! Compared to the Corolla, he got a lot more for his money, and it still was priced less than the Toyota. I am seriously considering purchasing a Protege for my next vehicle when (or if) my '88 Toy 4x4 pickup dies.

26th Jan 2007, 18:00

I simply wanted to point out that an engine turning 3500 RPM is doing less work than one pushing the car the same speed at 2500 RPM. And in a gasoline engine, torque and horsepower usually peak as they approach the red line. So high revs at highway speed is usually good for performance and durability.

As for the 140 mph speedometer, Mazda isn't kidding about that! Ever heard of the Mazda speed package? It includes a new computer chip under the hood and a car equipped with this will bury that speedometer.

I had a '92 Protege LX with a 5-speed for nine years. That car had no overdrive and turned nearly 4000 RPM at 75 mph, the prevailing speed of my commute at the time. I really liked that car; it had a lot of performance, handling, and nice interior touches such as European-style hollow headrests and marker lights on all four doors. And everything always worked, right up the 138,000-mile point, when it was totaled by a hit-and-tun driver.

I replaced it with a 2001 Protege ES 2.0, which is nearly identical in its equipment to the '92, but a bit less refined inside -- no marker lights on the doors, no hollow headrests, poor cup-holders. But this car has the same outstanding performance and handling as the last one I owned. And I'm loving the keyless entry -- I no longer have to worry about putting my key in the lock.

About the only knock on either car would be poor gas mileage. I do a lot of local driving, which puts me below 20 mpg. If I get out of town and onto the highway, I can push that up to perhaps 24 or 25 mpg. I expect a drop-off in economy in a twin-cam engine, but this is pretty poor, even considering the performance.

31st Jul 2007, 14:04

Great review and comments. I wish all carsurvey reviewers would give such a great commentary. I'm looking at buying a used 2001 and your comments really let me know I should go sit and make sure it has a comfortable feel to it.

20th Apr 2009, 21:50

I just bought an 01 Protege LX with just over 100k. I bought the car for $3500 from a dealer who was going to have some repairs done before pricing it for $5000. I bought it as is and saved $1000 in mark up.

I have done a couple of mechanical repairs. I put new tires on. The front lateral control arm of the rear end was bent from an accident. I replaced the plugs, coils and wires. That got ride of a random misfire code and check engine light. I still need to put a timing belt on it. The cosmetic things are waiting a little while. The remaining cosmetic damage was probably the result of the bald tires it had. I added key-less entry for about $45 (bulldog security).

I have put 2800 miles on it so far. I am very please with the handling. I wish the gas mileage was as good as my 91 DX. At it lowest so far it got 20 mpg. At its highest, 28 mpg. My 91 can get 34 to this day. There is a heat shield on the exhaust that is rattling. I have been checking the oil every couple of days to see how it is doing. While it is dark the level hasn't dropped at all. A few of the rear window defroster lines aren't working so I have a few stripes of frost some mornings. About a week after I got it something bounced up from the road and put a small crack in the window. The crack is smaller than a dime.

If this car lasts as long as my 91, I will be ecstatic. It has 324,000 and still runs really well.

The engine is somewhat noisy. There is a noticeable whine/wheezing/sucking sound as the engine crosses about 2500 rpms under heavy load. I'm not sure if it is a problem or not. It sounds like it is just noisy about pulling a lot of air through the intake.

My kids think it is the most awesome car ever, but we have been riding in the 91 so their judgment is a little skewed. Overall I am very pleased with the quality and price.

26th Jun 2009, 02:11

I've had a similar experience with my 2001 Protege ES. I bought it in 2006, and it gave me more than a year with no problems and lots of spunk!

Since then, I've had to replace one of the two ignition coils, and an air intake hose. Both were Mazda exclusive parts at the time I needed them, so I paid too much.

But with a few tweaks, this still is a great car. The best thing I've done is stay with one independent mechanic who is good, and remembers his customers. At this point, he knows what he's done to this car and he won't rip me off by repeating the same repairs.

Most recently, he saved me a bunch of money on labor by installing the new intake hose without the need for a diagnostic plug-in. The computers on this car don't yield much information, and it costs a lot to find this out. My independent mechanic was good enough to figure out the problem without the computer, and he turned off the engine check light without the need for all those crappy diagnostic codes.

I'll never use a dealership for repairs -- unless it's for free warranty work, and even then I'll check them thoroughly when I get the car back. Dealers have to cover warranty repairs, for which they get a fixed fee. So of course they find reasons to suck money out of your wallet.

As of now, this car is great. I can't find sticky enough tires that I can afford. It came with Kumho Ecsta tires, which are lousy when new but get better with age.

I'm still trying to match the grip I got with the Pirellis and Bridgestone H-Revo tires I had on my old, '92 Protege LX. That thing turned like it was on rails!

I live in a state with an inspection racket, so I everytime my tires get really good, they flunk and I end up with crappy new ones.

18th Nov 2009, 17:27

Good review and comments.

The engine noise can be reduced with padding under the hood. I have done this in other cars and will do it in my '98 Protege. (Special order, NAPA about $50). Or go all out and sound proof the whole car.

I didn't quite understand the comment on the tires. So you are happy with tires that the inspector won't approve? Why don't you get a second set of rims with approveable tires and put your favorites on after the inspections?

9th Apr 2011, 20:13

My 2001 Protege ES is the best thing that ever happened to me. It's fast and very reliable. I wouldn't want any other small sedan.

4th Mar 2013, 13:37

This may be too obvious a solution, but have you set the button on the driver's side of your shift lever so that the yellow light on the left side of your instrument cluster indicates that O/D is on? That is what engages the lock-up torque converter, and drops the cruising RPM way down. The system seems to reset itself when the engine is turned off, so you have to remember to push the button each time you start the car. It's really easy to forget.