Mazda Protege: A Car That Paved the Way for the Mazda 3

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Mazda has done well since entering the North American market about 50 years ago. This Japanese carmaker has continued to make stunning innovations as it had in previous decades.
One such innovation involves the Mazda 3, which is built on the legacy of the popular Protege.
Close-up shot of the front of a Mazda 3 on a showroom floor.
The Mazda Protege was a great success that led to the popularity of the Mazda 3.

History of the Mazda Protege

Mazda's core philosophy is "Jinba ittai" which is a historical term that pertains to the relationship between a mounted archer and his horse. The archer and horse must act as one, and Mazda wanted to bring the same oneness between driver and car.
This applied to the first generation of the Mazda Protege, which debuted in 1990. Then, it also manifested in Mazda's signature small hatchback. The stock model carried a 1.8-liter SOHC engine that was rated at 103 horsepower, as reported by Edmunds.
The 1995 second-generation Proteges were less sporty, with a 1.5-liter DOHC that was only rated at 92 horsepower. It was more of an economic sedan at this point; only available as a four-door version with a larger interior than the previous generation.
The third generation debuted in 1999 and customers could still buy a typical sedan version that was reminiscent of the prior generation. But there was also the Protege MP3 version, which was more sporty.
The Protege MP3 was one of the first cars that came standard with a CD player that could read MP3 files. It carried a 2.0-liter engine that produced 140 horsepower. While the Protege did have a successful run, it would be replaced by the Mazda 3 in 2004.

The Protege paved the way for the Mazda 3

The Mazda 3 was rebuilt from the ground up, but drew a lot of inspiration from its predecessor. The Mazda 3 continued the tradition of making a small sedan that was a bit more sporty than the competition.
In its first generation, the standard Mazda 3 carried a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 148 horsepower. The second-generation Mazda 3 debuted in 2008, and would feature an impressive new technology known as "SKYACTIV."
SKYACTIV was perfect for American drivers who were dealing with higher gas prices. This new feature utilized a direct injection engine which improved car efficiency by 20%, according to the Mazda official website.

Today's Mazda 3

The Mazda 3 is in its third generation, and continues to be a sedan that defies the presumption that all sedans are boring. The 2021 model received high praise from Car and Driver, winning the editor's choice award for best compact car.
Today, the Mazda 3 continues to be known as one of the most athletic compact sedans, a reputation that was built on the legacy of the Protege.
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