SAN DIEGO - Mazda is making several mid-cycle changes to its bread and butter Protege sedan to make it more competitive.
Most importantly, engine availability has been broadened. Protege now can be equipped with a 2.0-liter I-4 that generates 130 hp and 135 pounds-feet of torque, replacing a 1.8-liter engine.
The new engine is standard with the ES model and optional on the LX. The base DX and LX models retain the 1.6-liter engine.
Mazda expects the 2.0-liter engine to account for 55 percent of Protege sales, nearly double the installation rate of the 1.8-liter engine.
Mazda also increased the rigidity of the Protege's front and rear subframes; added thicker sheet metal in all four suspension towers; and added or thickened suspension cross members. The changes are meant to improve handling and decrease body roll during cornering.
A new modular audio system can be popped out and upgraded by dealer technicians. Body color mirrors will be available. The front and rear fascias have been reskinned, as has the interior's center console.
The ES model also gets significant upgrades: a rear spoiler, four-wheel disc brakes, white-face gauges, black monochromatic interior and 16-inch wheels.