Zoom Meets Boom!

The first-ever car with a factory-installed MP3 player.

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Now owners can listen to more than 10 continuous hours of personalized music programming without changing a disc.

Life just got easier for those who buy compact sedans and turn them into tuners -- street rods with ground-shaking sound systems. Now Mazda has done the work for them, creating a 'factory tuner' named after a popular music technology.

The 2001 Mazda MP3, a hopped-up edition of the Proteg sedan, is the first-ever car with a factory-installed MP3 player. That means owners can listen to more than 10 continuous hours of personalized music programming without changing a disc. The system plays MP3 files copied on recordable CDs, as well as conventional CDs.

Although the Kenwood unit produces excellent sound, its design is at odds with the rest of the car. While the sedan's instruments and climate controls are simple and easy to read, the busy MP3 unit has tiny buttons labeled with vexing acronyms.

The car has other features not found in the standard Proteg, such as side-sill extensions, a large rear spoiler, low-profile tires, 17-inch spoke wheels, and a stainless-steel exhaust system that emits sports car growls. At 140, it also has 18 more horsepower than the standard Proteg.

Mazda is making 1,500 MP3s, and most are already spoken for. Price: $18,500. The car's name practically screams 'steal this stereo!' so buyers may want to spring for the $220 perimeter alarm, one of the few options offered.

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