Kelley Blue Book ® - 2002 Mazda Protege Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2002 Mazda Protege Overview

Body
Making the Wagon Cool Again

Mazda made a name for itself by building affordable, fun-to-drive cars that everyday people could afford to own and operate. The company's willingness to take risks has brought to the market such marvelously unconventional designs and the rotary and Miller-cycle engines, not to mention such beloved cars as the two-seater Miata roadster and the RX7. With the Protege 5, Mazda once again works its magic, turning an ordinary station wagon into something extraordinary.

The Protege 5 is the wagon version of the much-acclaimed Protege sedan. Until now, the 18- to 25-year-old crowd have viewed station wagons as grocery getters to be avoided at all costs—or at least not to be borrowed from Mom and Dad until after the sun sets. But if Mom and Dad pull into the driveway in a Protege 5, it's a whole different story. Mazda's little wagon has won the hearts and wallets of buyers both young and old; one look at its aggressive styling, cool alloy wheels and purposeful interior explains why.

From the outside, it is clear the Protege 5 is meant to scream, "Drive me!" Standard equipment includes color-keyed ground effects, a low front chin spoiler with large round integrated fog lamps, a rear deck spoiler mounted above the hatchback door, blackout grille and trim treatment and racy 16-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels. Considering its base price starts just over $17K, the Protege 5 represents a lot of content for the money—and it doesn't stop there. Inside, the Protege 5 inherits the Protege sedan's handsome cockpit. High quality plastics and rich cloth overlays adorn the doors inter-dispersed with carefully-placed brushed-aluminum accents. The seats in the Protege 5 are really first rate, with good lower leg support and enough side bolstering to keep you in place without leaving you with the feeling you're being pinched from both sides.

The brushed aluminum accents are carried over onto the center console and dash. The thick, three-spoke steering wheel is wrapped in leather and feels great in your hands; behind it are white-faced instruments for the speedometer, tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges. Another Mazda innovation is the optional audio system that is modular in design and can have components added as you desire. The standard audio system is an AM/FM stereo with CD but can be upgraded to include a cassette deck, in-dash 6-disc CD changer or a in-dash minidisk player. The Protege 5 is so loaded that there are only a few options to choose from, including a power glass moonroof, automatic transmission, ABS and side-impact airbags.

The Protege 5 is powered by Mazda's excellent 2.0-liter engine that produces 130 horsepower; a slick-shifting five-speed manual is standard. Though the 2.0 is a great little motor, it does not deliver the kind of performance the Protege 5's exterior seems to promise. This car is just begging for a turbo or better yet a nice V6. But for now, you will have to work the gearbox to get the most out of the engine. This in of itself can be quite fun and the Protege 5's terrific balance and tenacious road grip certainly go a long way in making up for the car's lack of off-the-line speed; the EPA fuel economy ratings of 25 mpg city/ 31 mpg highway don't hurt either.

The Protege 5 also offers something most other sports cars don't; space! The large rear hatch swings up to reveal a roomy cargo. You can fold down one side of the 60/40 split-folding rear seat to make room for a pair of skis or snowboards and still be able to put a third person in the back seat or you can flip both seats down to create a flat-floored cargo area large enough to fit mountain bikes or a semester's worth of living essentials. The Protege 5 is nothing if not practical, so if you run out of space inside, there is a nice roof-mounted carrier rack for the rest of whatever you're hauling.

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