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    Thread: Mazda Protege- Tell Me About Them

    1. Member
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      07-04-2008 04:55 PM #1

      I am looking for a reasonably reliable, safe, attractive, fun, and efficient car to use a train station beater. I have come across several Mazda Protege sedans of the 2000 vintage. They seem to fit my requirements, and the price is right (4000 to 3500 bucks for 140,000 miles). I have not driven them yet, so let me know what to expect.


    2. Member adrew's Avatar
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      07-04-2008 05:31 PM #2
      I bought a '99 LX 5-speed new for $13,700. It had the 105 horsepower 1.6-liter which was more than adequate. The ES came with a 1.8 with 122 horsepower, and later you could get a 2-liter with 130 horsepower. My cousin and a friend both bought Protege5s and honestly I couldn't tell much of a difference between my 1.6 and their 2.0s. I got about 30 MPG driving mine like I stole it and mid 30s if I babied it out in the country.

      They have very stiff suspensions and handle great at the expense of road noise and a somewhat jittery ride at speed. The Protege5s, in particular, have virtually no body roll and are a blast in the mountains.

      I had mine for 5 years and 80k miles and never had a single problem. The only real issue I remember is that the A/C was kind of weak and took a while to cool down in 90°F+ heat (seems to be a similar issue with Mazda3s, from what I've read in here).

      This generation of Mazda engines are non-interference, so don't stress about changing the timing belt right away if you don't know the history. Aside from the timing belt, they're pretty much maintenance-free. Just change the plugs and filters every couple of years and you'll be fine. They have coil-on-plug ignition and are really pretty modern underhood.


      Modified by adrew at 4:35 PM 7-4-2008

      Improving the signal-to-noise ratio

    3. Member HerrGolf's Avatar
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      07-04-2008 05:40 PM #3
      My sister has had a Protege5 for six and a half years. Be advised that, because the suspensions are as stiff as they are, in places like Ohio where the roads are compromised, you might end up needing such items as sway bar links or strut mounts every now and again. Also, stay away from the automatic, because, while it's smooth and decisive, it completely saps the strength of the motor; I can't believe my sister's car is a 2.0. It's coarse, grumbly and slow.

      I'd try and find one that's not a 5 door (they have a depressing off-black interior with a lot of fake metallic plastic and pretentious looking orange illumination). I'd go for a 2000 ES or a 2001+ LX with the 2.0. They'll be a better second hand value, anyway.


      Modified by HerrGolf at 10:41 PM 7-4-2008


      Modified by HerrGolf at 10:42 PM 7-4-2008


    4. Member Markov79's Avatar
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      07-04-2008 05:43 PM #4
      Steering feels like a 100 000$ car.

      I'm serious.


    5. 07-04-2008 06:08 PM #5
      They handle waaayyyy better than an econocar should, and the steering has great feel and weighting. The 2.0 has decent pep, but it's a little bit loud and a LOT of vibrations come up through the shifter. But I prefer the interior of the Protege to the 3, and the way it drives FAR outweighs any other negatives. If I was looking for a used econocar, it would be one of my first considerations.





      Modified by SickWrathTerror at 6:10 PM 7-4-2008


    6. Member Art Vandelay's Avatar
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      07-04-2008 06:08 PM #6
      Quote, originally posted by HerrGolf »
      My sister has had a Protege5 for six and a half years. Be advised that, because the suspensions are as stiff as they are, in places like Ohio where the roads are compromised, you might end up needing such items as sway bar links or strut mounts every now and again. Also, stay away from the automatic, because, while it's smooth and decisive, it completely saps the strength of the motor; I can't believe my sister's car is a 2.0. It's coarse, grumbly and slow.

      I'd try and find one that's not a 5 door (they have a depressing off-black interior with a lot of fake metallic plastic and pretentious looking orange illumination). I'd go for a 2000 ES or a 2001+ LX with the 2.0. They'll be a better second hand value, anyway.


      Modified by HerrGolf at 10:41 PM 7-4-2008


      Modified by HerrGolf at 10:42 PM 7-4-2008

      Good post, and the Protege5 is still my number 1 choice once I get my wife knocked up. But I have to ask...how exactly is orange illumination pretentious?

      JSW TDI, Mustang SVO, et al.

    7. Member HerrGolf's Avatar
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      07-04-2008 06:45 PM #7
      Quote, originally posted by Art Vandelay »

      Good post, and the Protege5 is still my number 1 choice once I get my wife knocked up. But I have to ask...how exactly is orange illumination pretentious?

      Maybe I could've chosen a better adjective, but because the Protege is was sold as an "economy" car in the US and never came with the more highly tuned FS-ZE motor they sold in Japan and because the turbo wasn't put on any mainstream models, I found that the orange lighting put out an image the car couldn't back up. Plus, I just think it's ugly and that's too subjective a term.


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      07-04-2008 07:47 PM #8
      Best engine with the manual is the 1.8 122HP.

      [quote]4000 to 3500 bucks for 140,000 miles)[quote]

      Way too much... get yourself educated first.


    9. 07-04-2008 08:05 PM #9
      I had a 2003 LX 2.0L it was a pure piece of crap.

      The trany died at 18 000 milles, the engine exploded at 55K milles, 6 months before the end of my 4 years lease the car was rusting. I broke my lease 5 months before the end. I will never own another mazda.


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      07-04-2008 08:10 PM #10
      friend picked up an 02 2.0 LX w/ 20k miles for 4k a few months ago and loves it.
      My 3, I wish I would have gone w/ a P5 instead. But I was looking for something else and just ran out of time so I settled w/ the 3.

    11. Member Markov79's Avatar
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      07-04-2008 10:08 PM #11
      Quote, originally posted by jeff2.0t »
      I had a 2003 LX 2.0L it was a pure piece of crap.

      The trany died at 18 000 milles, the engine exploded at 55K milles, 6 months before the end of my 4 years lease the car was rusting. I broke my lease 5 months before the end. I will never own another mazda.

      That's funny, 3 people I know recently told me the exact same thing: they will never own another Mazda.

      They all drive Mazda 3s.


    12. 07-04-2008 10:16 PM #12
      They are fun to drive. In some ways I actually like them better than the Mazda3 to be honest. They don't do great in crash testing, even for a small car, but other than that, good little runabouts.

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      07-04-2008 10:26 PM #13
      Quote, originally posted by jeff2.0t »
      I had a 2003 LX 2.0L it was a pure piece of crap.

      The trany died at 18 000 milles, the engine exploded at 55K milles, 6 months before the end of my 4 years lease the car was rusting. I broke my lease 5 months before the end. I will never own another mazda.

      I don't understand this mentality. You think every car mazda makes has issues like the one you had? You had a car that was obviously a complete lemon (or you trashed the thing) and you've completely sworn off the brand? Every single manufacturer out there gets these. Some people, like you, are just unlucky enough to come across them.


    14. 07-04-2008 10:29 PM #14
      Quote, originally posted by Markov79 »
      Steering feels like a 100 000$ car.

      I'm serious.

      I haven't driven a 100,000K car before (unless you count a 760il) but the awesome steering feel is what made me get my old Protege.


    15. 07-04-2008 10:30 PM #15
      if u get a 5spd one than they're awesome, great handling, good in the winter time, good on gas, its a decent car for the money

    16. Member maskedSONY's Avatar
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      07-04-2008 10:38 PM #16

      I have a 2001 Protege ES 5-speed so I think I can help you out.

      Like others have said, the steering and suspension in the car is goddamn fantastic - I like to say that when you are on the highway, the car feels like a Japanese BMW. It is stiff, so try to avoid the rough stuff. The 2.0L engine gives pretty decent gas mileage, about 26-27 in the city and 30-31 on the highway are the numbers I get pretty consistently. Around town it's a bit weak if you ask me, but on the highway the 5th gear is aggressively geared and allows you to pass and pull away from traffic with a decent amount of strength.

      The interior is really nice. The seats are a bit flat but are great for long trips - my legs hardly get fatigued. The dash has some minor rattles, but nothing that is too bothersome. edit - The stock radio has a great layout for its controls with two large knobs and nicely organized buttons. Visibility is great because the car is a 90s design, when massive beltlines weren't in style. And the illumination is more red than orange and looks great at night.

      The brakes are pretty good, and the ABS on the car is very effective and sensitive. There have been several times when the car actives just one wheel when coming to a stop on a wet or snow covered surface. Keep an eye on the rear brakes, which are known to have the calipers seize.

      Ok, now for trouble spots. With the cars that have a 2.0L engine, the engine mounts are known to develop tears near the 50K mileage mark. If the clutch shudders when you drive the car, or the engine feels like it jumping out of the car when you launch it, replace the engine mounts ASAP.

      Do not buy the SLS mounts, buy all mounts from AWR via protegegarage.com.

      You need to do this because if the mount tears you can damage critical parts of the engine from the vibration. This is the one flaw of the 2.0L engine: it has a ton of vibration (compared to the 2.0L in the new 3) and so Mazda put soft mounts in from the factory to make the car feel smooth.

      The suspension endlinks are known to go out depending on the mileage, which will improperly load the suspension and cause the car to not track or handle properly. Make sure you have these checked when you look/test drive the car.

      The A/C in my car blows strong in hot weather, and can cool the car down within 10-15 minutes - however if you are sitting at idle, the A/C can be weak. This is something I've seen with all Mazdas - if the revs are higher than 2000, then the A/C gets considerably stronger. My car behaves the same way.

      Rust is also something to consider - While the paint on the Protege is, IMO, more durable than the paint jobs on the Mazda3, it still forms rust bubbles at the rear wheel wells on some cars. There's a dealer TSB to fix this, which is caused by the rear bumper screws being loosened ever so slightly.

      Ok lastly, - if you are in a major city, just do yourself a favor and don't buy a Protege unless you change the mounts. Don't want to change the mounts? Then get a Civic EX sedan. The Protege is really a car that was born for the mountains, highways and empty country roads. City roads will destroy the car, and the engine mounts will eventually wear and cause you to go nuts with the transmission shudders that result.

      I hate my car whenever I drive in the tri-state area, but I love it once I get to an empty curvy highway because the car is sooo rewarding to drive with its suspension and steering feel. It's a great car to own, and I love how it looks, but there are some things which can be annoying with its ownership which you should know about it.

      Good luck!


      Last edited by maskedSONY; 10-02-2012 at 02:39 PM. Reason: Edited to add info about motor mounts.
      Quote Originally Posted by Turbiodiesel!
      It really is the perfect, no excuses all-rounder for the rich guy who's accustomed to having it all - the Hybrid version especially. It's like an F-150 Raptor banged an M5 in the men's room of a biker bar. Nobody really wanted the results, but damn - what a set of genes.

    17. Member Markov79's Avatar
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      07-04-2008 10:48 PM #17
      Quote, originally posted by rosskoss »

      I haven't driven a 100,000K car before (unless you count a 760il) but the awesome steering feel is what made me get my old Protege.

      Well I was exaggerating when I said 100 000K car, it's more like 70K

      Let's just say it feels like a Porsche.


    18. Member maskedSONY's Avatar
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      07-04-2008 10:52 PM #18
      Quote, originally posted by Markov79 »
      Well I was exaggerating when I said 100 000K car, it's more like 70K

      Let's just say it feels like a Porsche.

      It's dangerously close to a Porsche - thank god Mazda's engineers were allow to put some fun into this car, rather than making somethign frumpy like a Sentra.

      Quote Originally Posted by Turbiodiesel!
      It really is the perfect, no excuses all-rounder for the rich guy who's accustomed to having it all - the Hybrid version especially. It's like an F-150 Raptor banged an M5 in the men's room of a biker bar. Nobody really wanted the results, but damn - what a set of genes.

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      07-04-2008 11:10 PM #19
      Quote, originally posted by adrew »
      and honestly I couldn't tell much of a difference between my 1.6 and their 2.0s.


      Could you tell much difference between the 1.6 and 1.8?

      1.6 specs
      105 @ 5800 rpm (horsepower)
      106 @ 3000 rpm (torque)

      1.8 specs (2000 last year before the 2.0)
      122 @ 6300 rpm (horsepower)
      117 @ 3500 rpm (torque)

      The 1.6 engine spec is 500 rpm sooner in both horsepower and torque. Plus I'm sure that since the 1.6 models don't come with air conditioning and a few other options they should be lighter - provided you don't have these options.

      ALSO

      A follow-up question:

      I just noticed that the 2001 model year got a different spec 1.6 possibly. Know anything about this?

      103 @ 5500 (hp)
      106 @ 4000 (torque)

      300 rpm less for the hp, but now 1000 rpm more for max torque (?)


      Modified by dirtyfingers at 8:29 PM 7-4-2008


    20. Member adrew's Avatar
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      07-04-2008 11:48 PM #20
      Quote, originally posted by dirtyfingers »

      Could you tell much difference between the 1.6 and 1.8?

      1.6 specs
      105 @ 5800 rpm (horsepower)
      106 @ 3000 rpm (torque)

      1.8 specs (2000 last year before the 2.0)
      122 @ 6300 rpm (horsepower)
      117 @ 3500 rpm (torque)

      The 1.6 engine spec is 500 rpm sooner in both horsepower and torque. Plus I'm sure that since the 1.6 models don't come with air conditioning and a few other options they should be lighter - provided you don't have these options.



      I think A/C was optional on the DX models, but I believe it was standard on the LX model I had (along with power windows/locks/mirrors/etc and cruise).

      I never drove the 1.8 as the ES was slightly out of my price range at the time (it was my first new car). The 1.6 is a fine engine. It has pretty good low-end power for a 1.6, but surprisingly for a DOHC 16v it starts running out of steam around 5800 RPM. The redline is 6500 but there's no real need to run it all the way out unless you enjoy the noise.

      I never had any trouble merging or keeping up with traffic or passing on 2-lane roads. Got some great speeding tickets in it back in the day.

      Here is a video I made with my old-school digicam: 35-55 in 2nd
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGr8DeMFWYo&fmt=18

      Improving the signal-to-noise ratio

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      07-04-2008 11:52 PM #21
      That generation of Familia/323/Protege is one one of my favourite small cars from the late 90s/early 00s. It was a major improvement on the previous model in terms of chassis dynamics, and in Australia even the base 1.6 version was loaded with goodies for a bargain price.

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      07-05-2008 12:02 AM #22
      Quote, originally posted by maskedSONY »

      It's dangerously close to a Porsche - thank god Mazda's engineers were allow to put some fun into this car, rather than making somethign frumpy like a Sentra.

      Well the RX-8, MX-5, Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 are all fine handling-steering cars that feel more expensive than they really are.

      It's a welcomed change in this day and age of numb driving experience.

      Any try out the new G37? Feels like you're steering a Camry...


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      07-05-2008 12:02 AM #23
      One last question!

      Is the suspension tuning identical between the 1.6, 1.8, and 2.0 models?


    24. Member adrew's Avatar
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      07-05-2008 12:07 AM #24
      Quote, originally posted by dirtyfingers »
      One last question!

      Is the suspension tuning identical between the 1.6, 1.8, and 2.0 models?

      I think so. I don't see how it could've been any firmer than my LX. Seriously, you could nail the brakes and it would come to a stop with no nosedive and no rebound at all, like a BMW. My Civic Si has considerably more roll and nosedive.

      The ES did come with 15" rims and 195/55/15 tires vs the 185/60/14 tires on the DX and LX. The Protege5 might be stiffer, though. It has low profile tires — 195/50/16 — and a strut tower brace.

      Improving the signal-to-noise ratio

    25. 07-05-2008 12:48 AM #25
      I bought a 1997 LX for $300 and drove it from North Carolina to AZ flawlessly.

      this care is the most reliable thing I've ever own....however. It's also the most BORING thing I've ever owned, I'm more entertained by my blender.

      I drive the Rabbit for fun, and I take the mazda when I just need to get somewhere


    26. Member maskedSONY's Avatar
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      07-05-2008 01:21 AM #26
      Quote, originally posted by adrew »
      I think so. I don't see how it could've been any firmer than my LX. Seriously, you could nail the brakes and it would come to a stop with no nosedive and no rebound at all, like a BMW. My Civic Si has considerably more roll and nosedive.

      The ES did come with 15" rims and 195/55/15 tires vs the 185/60/14 tires on the DX and LX. The Protege5 might be stiffer, though. It has low profile tires — 195/50/16 — and a strut tower brace.

      Well, the ES 2.0 models produced after 2001 were modified to handle the extra weight of the larger displacement engine, but aside from that, theres not many changes. The Protege5 models come with a stock front tower brace while the sedan does not. All models with the 2.0L engine come with the super-oddball 195/50/R16 tire size which is really hard to find.

      Quote Originally Posted by Turbiodiesel!
      It really is the perfect, no excuses all-rounder for the rich guy who's accustomed to having it all - the Hybrid version especially. It's like an F-150 Raptor banged an M5 in the men's room of a biker bar. Nobody really wanted the results, but damn - what a set of genes.

    27. Member maskedSONY's Avatar
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      07-05-2008 01:22 AM #27
      Quote, originally posted by Markov79 »

      Well the RX-8, MX-5, Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 are all fine handling-steering cars that feel more expensive than they really are.

      It's a welcomed change in this day and age of numb driving experience.

      Any try out the new G37? Feels like you're steering a Camry...

      I have not been in an RX8, but the 3 and the 6 feel great in terms of steering feel.

      I have not been in a G37, but I can imagine it's got to be better than a Camry, which is like stirring syrup.

      Quote Originally Posted by Turbiodiesel!
      It really is the perfect, no excuses all-rounder for the rich guy who's accustomed to having it all - the Hybrid version especially. It's like an F-150 Raptor banged an M5 in the men's room of a biker bar. Nobody really wanted the results, but damn - what a set of genes.

    28. Member HerrGolf's Avatar
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      07-05-2008 01:48 AM #28
      I should add that my sister's car has been neglected and hasn't been unreliable. The platform felt very rigid. More so than my MkIV Golf's, despite that car's mushy suspension. I don't know if that's reflected in pure numbers, but it felt that way. The brakes were very strong, too. It has started to rust in the rear wheel wells.

      The low gears on the automatic are tall, while overdrive in forth is actually rather short. The stiff ride grows old quickly. It has started to rust in the rear wheel wells. Problems we've encountered in 7.5 years and 140K miles: one seized rear caliper and the new for new strut mounts in the front.


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      07-05-2008 01:49 AM #29
      I have ~163,000 miles on my '99 Protege's chassis, and about 70,000 miles on the 2.0L I swapped into it. My car was originally an LX with the 1.6L/automatic transmission. I came upon an irresistible deal on a slightly wrecked 2001 Protege with the 2.0L/manual. It's getting up there, but still continues to satisfy me and puts a smile on my face whenever I have the chance to drive it on curvy roads.

      I'm sure a 99-00 1.6 model would be perfectly adequate with a manual transmission, but stay away from the automatics. Severely underpowered can only begin to describe this combination, along with less than spectacular gas mileage -- I averaged ~28-30mpg highway. The engine spins at 4000 @ 70mph with the 1.6L/auto.

      A breakdown of the 3rd gen Protege is as follows:
      1999/2000: 1.6L 105hp engine in DX and LX, 1.8L 122hp engine in ES
      2001 (facelift): 1.6L 105hp engine in DX and LX, 2.0L 130hp engine in LX2.0 and ES
      2002: 130hp 2.0L standard across the line
      2003: same

      FAQ: http://www.protegefaq.net/

      Protege5's were produced from 2002-2003
      Mazda MP3's were produced in 2001
      Mazdaspeed Protege's were produced for 2003, "2003.5", and "2003.7"

      I prefer the exterior styling of the 1999/2000 models -- the front end matched the body lines of the rest of the car more. Especially in Japanese Sport20 trim.






      Modified by NegatiZE at 1:50 AM 7-5-2008


    30. Member Live-Wire's Avatar
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      07-05-2008 01:52 AM #30
      They are an awesome car to drive briskly. My buddy bought one a few years ago and I love driving it. Reminds me of my Mk2 golf... but with less body roll, less slop in the steering (but same tactility and feedback), similar power, better fuel economy, more space - but about the same road noise They aren't the best highway cruisers... but if you are willing to compromise they are good little cars... cheap to run too.

      Quote, originally posted by Polskie Ogorki »

      I don't understand this mentality. You think every car mazda makes has issues like the one you had? You had a car that was obviously a complete lemon (or you trashed the thing) and you've completely sworn off the brand? Every single manufacturer out there gets these. Some people, like you, are just unlucky enough to come across them.

      I've heard of serious issues too (Protege and to lesser extent 3)... mainly for the rust aspect - and they rust in unusual places too. I've heard of the odd engine failure, but that can happen on any brand of car... same with transmission failure. They aren't known to have these issues in the majority of vehicles... but they do crop up. Major problems would be enough to make people swear off a brand (and tell everyone how bad they are) - hell people did it with VW for window regulators and coils. Got to remember the majority of people who say anything on the net' are here to complain.


    31. Member maskedSONY's Avatar
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      07-05-2008 01:52 AM #31
      I have never seen a Protege with the 1999-style headlamps with the big round headlamps until those pics. You are right. They complement the lines of the car perfectly!
      Quote Originally Posted by Turbiodiesel!
      It really is the perfect, no excuses all-rounder for the rich guy who's accustomed to having it all - the Hybrid version especially. It's like an F-150 Raptor banged an M5 in the men's room of a biker bar. Nobody really wanted the results, but damn - what a set of genes.

    32. Member DownShift's Avatar
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      07-05-2008 02:23 AM #32
      My gf has an '02 5spd ES (bought new) with 80k miles on it and its been the easiest car to maintain, just brakes and oil changes.
      I think its a great city car and terrible highway car. Its just too loud and slow for my tastes on the highway.
      But driving around towns and backgroads its great.
      A few months ago we were close to wanting to trade it in for a newer car (acura TL) and we are so glad that we didn't since its all paid off and it get 30 mpg.

      One problem that hasn't been mentioned that most Proteges suffer from is the EGR valve. Its not a big deal to replace your self though.

      2010 335i

    33. Member Markov79's Avatar
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      07-05-2008 02:27 AM #33
      Quote, originally posted by maskedSONY »

      I have not been in an RX8, but the 3 and the 6 feel great in terms of steering feel.

      I have not been in a G37, but I can imagine it's got to be better than a Camry, which is like stirring syrup.

      Obviously it's better than a Camry, but my point was that new sports cars today feel too isolated from the road.

      Do manufacturers think drivers will be afraid if they feel a little bit of vibration through the steering wheel as the road surface changes?

      Don't worry, we can handle it!


    34. Member maskedSONY's Avatar
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      07-05-2008 02:36 AM #34
      Quote, originally posted by Markov79 »
      Obviously it's better than a Camry, but my point was that new sports cars today feel too isolated from the road.

      Do manufacturers think drivers will be afraid if they feel a little bit of vibration through the steering wheel as the road surface changes?

      Don't worry, we can handle it!

      It's because they are waaay too heavy with the chassis upgrades and safety equipment that have been forced to put on! Had it not been for that, we would have some coupes that had a front engine, RWD layout without the the power steering nonsense.

      Remember what BMW did in the 2nd year of the E46 3-series? They made the steering lighter so housewives could park the damn thing without having their arm muscles ache. Then the steering became overboosted and they had to offer the retrofit which reduced the power steering input.

      People are afraid of the road.

      Quote Originally Posted by Turbiodiesel!
      It really is the perfect, no excuses all-rounder for the rich guy who's accustomed to having it all - the Hybrid version especially. It's like an F-150 Raptor banged an M5 in the men's room of a biker bar. Nobody really wanted the results, but damn - what a set of genes.

    35. 07-05-2008 10:29 AM #35
      Quote, originally posted by Polskie Ogorki »

      I don't understand this mentality. You think every car mazda makes has issues like the one you had? You had a car that was obviously a complete lemon (or you trashed the thing) and you've completely sworn off the brand? Every single manufacturer out there gets these. Some people, like you, are just unlucky enough to come across them.

      The car was well maintained, I drive my cars on the spirited side but not like a punk. I did drive some old high milleage piece of crap before my first new car (the Protege) and never broke something major like my Protege did. They are probably good car if you drive like a girl but dont push them too hard they seem to dislike spirited driving.

      And RUST is a serious issue on those car trust me, after 3.5 years, the rust was comming from the inside like a cancer.


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