Interesting Facts about the Mazda Protege
It may be called the Protege in the United States and Canada, but it was originally called Mazda Familia when it first debuted in Japan during the early 60s. Through the years, the Protege has adapted many different names, each distinctive in their own territories. It was called Mazda 323 in Europe and Mazda Etude in South Africa, just to name a few.
In the 80s, a partnership with Ford gave birth to the rebranding of Protege as the Ford Laser in the North American market and Ford Meteor in Australia. Meanwhile, during the brink of the 90s, it was rebranded as the Ford Escort and Mercury Tracer in the United States and Canada.
How is the Mazda Protege linked to the biggest war mankind has ever seen? It has more links to the Second World War than you think. For one, the first generation of the Protege (called Familia at that time) was manufactured in the plant located in Hiroshima, the city best known as the first city to be targeted by an atomic bomb. Also, before Mazda became a car manufacturer, it was first known as a weapons maker; supplying Japan with armaments such as pistols and rifles to be used during World War II. The company was named Toyo Kogyo at that time.
The Familia line, from which the Protege owed its existence, is one of the earliest cars made by Mazda.
The first generation of the Familia, the predecessor of the Protege, was one of the earliest Japanese cars designed by revered and decorated car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro.
The fourth generation Familia is the first to Mazda christened with Protege model. It was Mazda's first front-engine, front-wheel drive subcompact car. This new design can be attributed to the co-developer of the Protege, Ford. It was introduced to the North American market in the early 90s.
In 1968, Mazda added their famous Rotary model to the line-up. It employs a Rotary-Wankel engine distinct to the Mazda brand. However, it was discontinued in favor of the larger Mazda Savanna, marking the last time this kind of engine set-up was used in this model.
Common Complaints about the Mazda Protege
The Mazda Protege model was introduced in the early 90s. However, it has long been around even before the 90s. It was first conceptualized as an "every man's" car in Japan during the 60s. It was aptly named the Familia. With Mazda's continued surge in the worldwide market, it sought to earn recognition and respect; mainly in the Western territories. That's why Mazda tied up with Ford and rebranded their effervescent Familia to the Protege. With so much history within its name, it's bound to have some problematic incarnations. Here are the top complaints about the Mazda Protege.
The most common problem encountered by the Mazda Protege is misfiring and hesitation of the engine. It has been hounding the Protege for years, ever since it was first introduced to the market. Many reported that within 75,000 to 100,000 miles, misfires occur under heavy acceleration. This was verified by many sources and the culprits linked to this problem are leaky spark plug boots. When the spark plug boot leaks, the spark will arc and disrupt the otherwise, smooth flow of combustion in the engine.
In the recent Protege models (less than 15 years ago), power train problems, particularly with the automatic transmission, have turned up in many owner's testimonials. According to them, the Protege lets off some unsettling noises whenever it shifts or hesitates in shifting. Up to this date, many owners are left unsatisfied because this untreated problem is still not resolved, even if they already went to the dealers.
Possibly one of the more disconcerting and dangerous issues that Mazda Protege owner's have to face is the inability of some Proteges to deploy air bags. Worrying reports about drivers crashing their cars in speeds well over 30 mph, yet the air bags didn't deploy. This is a huge hole Mazda has to climb out off. This complaint could easily be the most high profile and most life threatening of all.
In 1995, a recall from NHTSA required almost 52,000 units of the 1995 Mazda Protege be remedied because of unnecessary air bag deployments. Tie down hooks installed in the Protege could inadvertently deploy air bags even without crashing. This could cause injuries, and the risk of vehicular accidents will be heightened.
Fast-forward five to six years, another recall was made by the NHTSA. This time, a problem with left rear brake hoses needed urgent attention. According to them, the left rear brake hose were damaged during assembly. This will induce brake fluid leakage during application and the risk of crashing the vehicle will be elevated.
Mazda Protege: A Compact Car for Every Family
A car that could satisfy the needs of the basic structure of society should basically be a hit, but Mazda’s Protege model had quite a rough starting year despite being completely utilitarian. The model, which hit American roads in 1990, provided a combination of good acceleration, fuel economy, capacity, and ride quality. However, it seemed that having all these could never ensure great sales. The Protege survived through three generations fighting off other compact sedans in the market before leaving its throne as Mazda’s entry-level car.
1990 – 1994: A compact sedan with basic features
The first releases of the Protege were very similar to the Mazda 323 models aside from two additional doors, making the Protege a compact four-door sedan that competed with Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. The units were larger than the hatchback 323, and they had a four-inch longer wheelbase as well. The base model called the SE had a 16-valve 1.8-liter engine that could produce 103-horsepower, which was a competitive output side by side compact sedans from other makes. With the introduction of the LX model, this capability was boosted by the twin-cam engine that improved horsepower output by 22 points. Both the SE and LX models were equipped with a five-speed manual of a four-speed automatic transmission.
1995 – 1998: Still fuel efficient with more power
The second-generation models remained to be as fuel efficient as the previous models. The LX model received its power from a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that yielded 92-horsepower. In this generation, the SE model became the top-line model, which during this time was equipped with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with a 122-horsepower output. Dual-overhead camshafts were used in these models, and they had a standard five-speed manual gearbox or an optional four-speed automatic. In this generation, the models were rated with good passenger room and ride quality, but handling and acceleration ratings dropped.
1999 – 2003: A European-style American sedan
This generation saw the Protege models donning a more European style on the front end. Three versions became available: the base DX, the LX, and the ES. The first two trims had a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that was better than the previous generation’s engine by 13 points. The sport model, the ES, was powered by a 122-hp-yielding four-cylinder engine with a 1.8-liter displacement. The transmission provided was still the same, but disc brakes were available on all wheels for all trims. Antilock braking was only an optional feature for the LX and ES models, and side airbags were not installed, making handling and safety as two of these models’ downsides.
Four Mazda Protégé Maintenance Checks You Shouldn’t Neglect
No matter how old your Mazda Protege is, the key to keep it looking great and running smoothly and efficiently is proper maintenance. This small family sedan could last longer if you provide it with the kind of treatment it deserves. Fortunately, it won't take a lot of elbow grease to provide your car with the basic maintenance checks it requires. Here are some of the basics you shouldn't neglect:
- Pay attention to what's under the hood.
It's easy to forget the things you don't usually see. It shouldn't be the case with your ride. In fact, most of your maintenance regimen must be done with the hood opened up. It's good that you don't have to be a pro to do the basic engine maintenance. The first thing you have to frequently check under your hood is the level and cleanliness of your engine oil. Top it up when it's below the "L" or the minimum line because driving with low oil level can cause engine problems. Every 2,000 to 3,000 miles, change the oil—along with the oil filter—with the type suggested by your manual.
You should also keep an eye on the rubber drive belts looping around various pulleys and components in the engine compartment. Ideally, both the timing belt and the accessory drive belt should be checked every 25,000 miles and replaced every 50,000 miles.
- Perform regular tire checks.
Tire checks go far beyond just getting rid of the brake dust. You also have to check your tire pressure at least once a month. If you have a portable tire pressure gauge, it won't hurt if you'll do the checking every week because both under-inflated and over-inflated tires have an effect on your Mazda's handling, fuel economy, and ride comfort. While doing your tire pressure check, also take a few minutes to inspect the tires' tread wear. It's a good thing that most tires now have built-in wear indicators, so you just have to be on the lookout for the bar of rubber placed across the tread. Such indicator is usually molded into your tires at a depth of 2mm. If your tires reach the minimum legal tread depth, it's time to have them replaced.
- Do not undervalue your brake system.
To save time, another maintenance routine you can do along with your tire check is to visually examine your brakes. See if the brake pads and the rotors are still thick enough to do their job efficiently. If the rotor seems scored and the pads' friction material has worn past the recommended limit, do further checks because it may be high time to have them replaced. Your Protege's brake pads usually last between 30,000 to 35,000 miles, but they may wear out faster depending on where, how often, and how careful you drive. Make sure also that you feed your brake parts with sufficient amount of brake fluid.
- Give your battery regular visual checks.
A thorough visual inspection will help you determine if your battery's still up for its task or if it's slowly deteriorating. Carefully check for leaks, cracks, and other type of damage. Also make sure that the battery terminals are corrosion free and are still tight. Corrosion is a no-no in this part of the battery as it can cause no-start condition and many other problems.