A rose, even when called by a different name would still smell as sweet, says Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. In the same manner, the Mazda Protege earned its good reputation even under different international designations and variants. Americans knew it as the GLC and the Protege, among its other titles. Here’s a brief look at the changes in its name and structure throughout its 40-year history:
The 1960s: The Mazda Familia in Japan
Mazda spent the early Sixties developing a mold-breaking micro-mini car. In October 1963, it launched the Familia, a commercial van styled by a young Giorgetto Giugaro. The company released a wagon variant the following April, but it was only that October when the Familia sedan appeared and began claiming 23 percent of the Japanese market. By December 1964, this car with 782-cc aluminum inline-4 engine became Mazda’s prime model.
Throughout the Sixties, Mazda added a coupe variant and several engine options to the Familia. The company also began exporting it as the Mazda 1000 to Australia and Oceania.
The 1970s: The Mazda 1200, 808, and the GLC in the USA
In 1971, Mazda exported the first piston-powered Familia sedan with a 1,169-cc inline-4 engine to America as the 1200. However, the company pulled it out the following year and replaced it with a larger coupe with a 1,588-cc inline-4 engine called the 808. In 1973, Mazda re-introduced the 1200 but retained the latter. During the 1976 gas crisis, the company renamed the 808 as the Mizer with a 1,272-cc TC inline-4 twin barrel engine.
A year later, Mazda replaced the Mizer with the Great Little Car or GLC. It was a standout rear-wheel drive with its hatchback, sedan, and wagon variants and had a 985-cc PC, 1,272-cc TC, or a 1,416-cc UC as engine options.
The 1980s: Mazda and its Ford models worldwide
Even as Ford acquired a percentage of its stocks in 1979, Mazda continued exporting its Familia-based cars worldwide. A year later, it introduced the Ford Laser, a restyled version with a 1,071-cc UC front-engine and several model-variants.
By 1985, this car was manufactured and sold all over the Asia-Pacific region, South America, Africa, and the Caribbean. It was known as the Ford Meteor in Australia and the Ford Tonic in South Africa.
The 1990s: The Mazda 323 and the Protege worldwide
Mazda unveiled two generations of Familia-based models for the Nineties that became the internationally renowned 323 hatchback and the Protege sedan. Buyers could choose between front- or all-wheel drives with many engine options that included the 1,598-cc B6, 1,800 B8, and the 1,300 B3. These models inspired the Mazda Familia Astina in Japan, the Kia Sephia in North America, the Laser Lynx in Europe, and a GT model exclusive to Canada.
In 1999, a redesigned BJ Familia was introduced to the United States with sedan, wagon, and hatchback variants. This formed the basis of the Protege 5, a station wagon variant released in 2001.
The 2000s: The Mazda Protege 5 and the end of the line in the USA
The 2001 Protege 5 had a 2,000-cc inline-4 engine capable of 130 horsepower and 135 pound feet of torque. It had four-wheel disc brakes, power windows, keyless entry, and other high-figure configurations that differentiated it from the Protege sedans. During its short existence, it became known as an affordable yet spacious and sporty car.
In October 2003, after 40 years of production, Mazda replaced the entire Familia-based line with the Mazda 3. However, countries other than Japan and the US still manufacture these cars under different names. The Mazda Protege’s rose continues to bloom in Southeast Asia as the Ford Lynx and in South America as the Mazda Allegro.