2003 Mazda MAZDASPEED Protege

  • 2003 Mazda MAZDASPEED Protege 2003.5 Sedan

    2003.5 Sedan

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      2.0L I4
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  • 2003 Mazda MAZDASPEED Protege Base Sedan

    Base Sedan

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      2.0L I4
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2003 Mazda MAZDASPEED Protege Review

Restyled and re-tuned by a top-notch team.

Reviewed by Automotive on


MAZDASPEED is the name of a unit of racing tuners and designers that has been part of the Mazda team since 1967; at least under one name or another. For the 2002 model year, this unit was assigned work on non-racing cars for the first time as part of Mazda’s continued stress on performance and handling. The 2003 MAZDASPEED Protege is the result of this effort. The new car has ample power and goes from zero to 60 in about seven seconds. It stops quickly as well with the anti-lock brakes bringing it from 70 mph to zero in 183 feet. It feels powerful at both low and high speeds despite the turbo, feeling more like a natural six-cylinder than a four-cylinder turbo.

The Range

Body Styles: sedan
Engines: two-liter four-cylinder turbo
Transmissions: five-speed manual
Models: Protege MAZDASPEED

What's New

This is the first model year for this car.


Much of the styling from the MAZDASPEED’s predecessor, the MP3, is evident in the body design of the MAZDASPEED. It has a large front air dam and built-in foglights. Extended rocker panels give the car a low and powerful stance. In addition, there are 17-in. Racing Hart alloy wheels and wider 215/45R-17 Z-rated tires standard. A redesigned rear spoiler adds to the attractiveness as well as the aerodynamics. There are also some exciting new colors, some of which are exclusive to the MAZDASPEED.


The emphasis on performance continues inside the cabin of the MAZDAPEED, with Sparco drilled aluminum pedals, and rubber inserts to improve pedal action. There is also a Sparco shift knob and a Nardi steering wheel. The seats are relatively comfortable, but they could use a bit more side support. The six speaker audio system is rated at 450 watts and features an additional 250-watt subwoofer amp. It plays CDs or MP3 CDs, and is also Sirius satellite ready. One nice feature is the motorized faceplate that retracts when the ignition is turned off. Unfortunately, the stereo still has buttons that are too small to operate with ease. The car also carries the usual creature comforts: power windows, power locks, cruise control, and a tilt steering wheel.

Performance & Handling

The engine of the MAZDASPEED has been tuned by Callaway Cars, Inc., designers of the Callaway Corvette, boosting the standard two-liter, four-cylinder engine with a Garrett T25 ball-bearing turbocharger and an air-to-air intercooler. Working with this increased thrust is a heavy duty clutch and a limited-slip differential. The drive shafts have also been increased to 24-mm. The result is remarkably consistent power for a turbo. While many turbos lag at the low end then have a surge of power, the MAZDASPEED accelerates smoothly throughout, feeling in many ways more like a natural six-cylinder.

The improved suspension was designed by Racing Beat, the same group that produced the superior handling on the Mazda MP3. The MAZDASPEED Protege's suspension and chassis setup has been enhanced with elements like the strut tower brace, higher-rate coil springs, and larger front and rear anti-roll bars. The result is phenomenal, corner hugging handling that remains dead flat through the turns.

The car also offers standard four-wheel disc brakes with an Anti-lock Brake System, 17-in. Racing Hart alloy wheels and wider 215/45R-17 Z-rated tires. These features add to the speedy handling of the car, making it more fun to drive.


The car has front driver and passenger side airbags. It has ABS that allows the car to go from 70 to zero mph in 183 feet.

EPA Fuel Economy

Mazda MAZDASPEED Protege: 21/27 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • The rail like handling
  • The speed and torque
  • The sporty exterior design
  • The sporty and comfortable interior design

You Won't Like

  • The lack of support in the seats
  • The small buttons on the stereo

Sum Up

Restyled and re-tuned by a top-notch team.

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