Today, I am going to teach you about the Mazda MP3. I feel this is necessary because here at Oversteer we occasionally focus on the weird cars — and what’s weirder than a limited-production Mazda named after a music file?
Yes, Mazda once named a car after the “MP3” music file. The year was 2001, and the car was a special edition version of the Protege, offered in just two colors: Laser Blue (with 1,000 units made) and Vivid Yellow (with 500 units made). My mother purchased a Tribute new in 2003, and I still remember seeing the MP3 in the sales brochures at the Mazda dealer. At the time, I thought it was cool. The dealer probably thought a bit differently.
So why do you name a car after a music file? Because it’s got a rockin’ sound system, of course. The MP3 had a 450-watt Kenwood stereo (MP3-capable, of course — which was a big deal at the time, but no so big that you had to go naming your car after it), along with a 10-inch subwoofer. Since it was designed to appeal to younger people, the MP3 also had slightly more horsepower (140 instead of the standard Protege’s 130, mated to a mandatory 5-speed manual transmission) along with 17-inch wheels, performance tires and a rather attractive body kit. Like I said, I thought it was cool.
Apparently, the stereo thing didn’t really sway people, but the idea of a sportier Protege did, so Mazda followed up on it: In 2003, they released the MazdaSpeed Protege with slightly more exterior upgrades than the MP3 — and more power, as it had a turbocharged engine with 170 horsepower rather than a mere 140. Once again, it was only sold with a 5-speed manual.
The MP3’s short production run and low volume ensured it’s not an especially common car; today, there are just 11 different 2001 Mazda Protege models on Autotrader, none of which are the MP3. But I suspect there are still a few of them out there, driving along, 10-inch subwoofer blastin’ some nice MP3s. Find a 2001 Mazda Protege for sale