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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Mazda Protege5 Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Mazda Protege5 Overview

Making the Station Wagon Cool Again

To live within one's means is a principle that seems to have escaped many of us these days. Everything we have is bigger and better and faster than we really need it to be—at least in the automotive world. Changing economic times have a sobering way of bringing us back to the basics and for many people, that means a reduction in the size and price of their daily mode of transportation. Enter the Mazda Protege5, a sleek, fun to drive sport wagon that can carry both kids and cargo yet doesn't require a bank loan to fill the tank.

For 2003, Mazda has improved on the Protege5's already racy look with a more aggressive front-end treatment and additional side skirts. The rear also gets a slight freshening, as do the sporty five-spoke 16-inch wheels.

The Protege5 is based on the popular Protege sedan. It uses the same engine, transmission and suspension, but with the addition of the enclosed rear cargo hold, becomes a much more versatile vehicle. We think you'll agree that the Protege5 looks fantastic and may even be more appealing than the sedan. The nice thing about owning a wagon is that it is easier to load and unload; plus it allows your passengers to easily access coolers or camping gear while the car is in motion (you long road trip types know how important this feature is.) Flip the rear seats down and you create a wealth of storage, capable of swallowing a set of backpacks or a mountain bike and a weekends-worth of provisions. More storage can be found up on the roof where the standard rack can be equipped with crossbars for toting a bike rack or roof cargo box.

You'll love the feel of the Protege5 on the open road, and even more so on solitary twisting back roads. This car is completely confident in every respect, tackling turns as though it were a Miata. An excellent job of carefully cultivating the suspension, steering and brakes so that they all complement each other is the sign of a truly enthusiast-based engineering staff. Yet for all its ability, the Protege5 lacks the power to really unleash the suspension's potential. Mazda has given the Protege5 a 16-valve 2.0-liter engine that produces a modest 130 horsepower. The engine is willing and loves to rev, but a car of this size really needs something a bit more potent—say the turbo from the Mazdaspeed Protege for example.

Accompanying the slick shifting five-speed manual is a new four-speed automatic with manual shift control. Now even automatic owners can enjoy the fun of shifting for themselves, an ability not to be overlooked if you want to make the most of the engine's power band.

What the Protege5 lacks in raw muscle it more than makes up for in refinement. The interior is probably one of the best you'll find in the small car field, with incredibly tactile surfaces made of high-grade vinyl, cloth and brushed aluminum. From the driver's seat you are greeted by a tightly-grouped instrument cluster highlighted by white-faced gauges that glow red at night. Reach out and your hands lay siege to a wonderfully thick three-spoke leather wheel that is small in diameter for quick back and forth driving. The seats are nicely bolstered at both the side and lower back and you can now order them with leather inserts. You'll even find a choice of audio units to please even the most devote audiophile, including one with a 100-watt amp subwoofer and Kenwood front speakers.

For a base price of just $17,315 you get a racy little car that comes standard with 16-inch wheels, fog lights, rear defroster, illuminated entry with keyless remote, air conditioning, dual power mirrors, cruise control, rear roof spoiler, tilt wheel and power windows and door locks. Popular options include a power moonroof, audio system upgrades, anti-lock brakes and side-impact airbags.

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