LAS VEGAS - Mazda is going after the youth market with a new Protege sedan that packs what the company says kids want: more horsepower, a state-of-the-art audio system, a sophisticated interior and big, flashy wheels.
The new 2001 Protege MPS sedan is aimed at buyers in the 18- to 25-year-old category who have been purchasing Honda Civics and spending lots of money to customize them.
'We have been seeing these Civics all over Southern California, and we said, why can't Mazda have a piece of that action,' said Mark Jordan, assistant chief designer, Mazda North American Operations.
The Protege MPS is the first model developed in Mazda's new performance series. The automaker is developing vehicles with improved power, handling and braking for most of its product lines.
The MPS is the first of the 2001 Proteges to be unveiled. It features a 150-hp, 2.0-liter 16-valve, double overhead cam four-cylinder engine. By comparison, the 2001 Protege DX, LX and ES models will have a 130-hp four-cylinder engine, up from 121 hp in the 2000 model year.
All four of the new Protege models will be introduced in January at the Los Angeles auto show. Mazda plans to import about 1,500 of the MPS model, which goes on sale next spring with a sticker price less than $20,000, the company said. Other Protege models go on sale in January.
The entire 2001 Protege line receives improvements in structural rigidity, restyled headlamp treatments, redesigned seats, and interior styling touches that give the interior a more refined feeling. The exterior receives a complete front end restyling that includes fenders, hood and fascia.
The MPS features a special exhaust system. It also has a 1-inch front sway bar and a 0.76-inch rear sway bar, plus springs that lower the vehicle 1 inch and improve cornering ability.
Mazda teamed up with Kenwood Car Audio to offer an in-dash CD/MP3 receiver. MP3 technology allows compression of music onto a single CD with up to 10 hours of music. For example, the car owner can create the music discs on a personal computer and listen to the selections on the car's MP3 player. The MP3 player receiver will be standard, along with a 280-watt audio system including a 10-inch, trunk-mounted 100-watt subwoofer.