Amid a preview for its 2001 models, Mazda announces that it will build a sporty, five-door wagon for 2002, based on the Protege. The vehicle - called Protege 5 - will debut at the Los Angeles and Detroit auto shows in January.

While most details about the new vehicle were kept close to the vest at the surprise sneak preview, it was revealed that Protege 5 will appear in the spring of 2001 as a 2002 model.

"The dealers absolutely loved the car when we showed it to them," says Stephen Odell, vice president of marketing and sales for Mazda.

Mazda marketers were much more forthcoming with information about their new-for-2001 models, including Miata, Millenia and the B-Series pickup.

Miata gets 15 more horsepower, variable valve timing, a more rigid chassis and larger brakes. It also will be available with 16-inch alloy wheels, a six-speed manual transmission, more aggressive styling and various interior improvements.

Millenia also gets new interior and exterior designs, as well as improved handling, a quieter ride and a bit more of a luxurious feel.

Mazda will offer three engine choices for its B-Series pickup in 2001. With a new 207-hp 4-liter V6, the B4000 becomes the most powerful compact truck on the market, Mazda says.

Ed Ostrowski, general manager of Mazda's program manager division, says these new vehicles go a long way to achieving the company's goals to be "best in class in handling and steering, performance and responsiveness."