Mazda For 1999
By Carey Russ
The 1999 version of Mazda's popular MX-5 Miata sports car has been around since early 1998, and is joined by an updated and restyled Protege sedan. Other Mazda products include the mid-size 626 sedan, the Millenia luxury sedan, the B-Series compact pickup, and the MPV minivan. They enter 1999 with few changes.
The previous generation of Mazda's compact Protege was one of the sportier offerings in its class. The 1999 versions promise to improve on that with two new dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder engines, a revised fully-independent suspension, and a more rigid chassis structure underneath restyled bodywork.
Three trim levels are offered. The DX and LX have a 103-hp 1.6-liter engine that meets California "Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle" (ULEV) specifications. The 1.8-liter, 120-hp engine in the ES model was developed from the engine used in the mid-size 626 sedan. All Proteges are available with a five-speed manual or new electronically- controlled four-speed automatic transmission.
The new Protege's crisper, European-inspired styling is complemented by a revamped interior with a new instrument panel and seats. The rear seat of all models has a 60/40 folding split for increased cargo carrying ability as standard equipment.
The first-generation Miata was responsible for the rebirth of the two-seat roadster, and introduced a new generation to the joys of a real sports car. It was a tough act to follow, but Mazda has succeeded with the 1999 model. The new Miata is identifiably a Miata, but leaner and more muscular in appearance, with a resemblance to the late RX-7. Under the skin, a more rigid chassis, more powerful four-cylinder twin-cam engine -- now 138 horsepower -- and revised fully- independent double wishbone suspension improve performance and handling. The convertible top now features a glass backlight with a built-in electric defroster to improve visibility. A larger trunk adds convenience.
Five different option packages are offered, covering a wide range of needs from the luxury of the "Leather Package" to the autocross-ready "Sports Package".