2003 Mazda Protege5

  • 2003 Mazda Protege5 Base Wagon

    Base Wagon

    • MAX MPG
    • SEATS
    • ENGINE
      2.0L I4
    • MSRP
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  • Review

2003 Mazda Protege5 Review

Fun to drive considering its class, but not really enough storage space to fit this class.

Reviewed by Automotive on


There is a new class of car in town; not an SUV but not just a hatchback either, and definitely not a minivan but different from your mother’s station wagon. The name the industry has attached to it is “crossover vehicle?. The 2003 Protege5 is Mazda’s entry, and according to Car & Driver, it leads its class.

The main downside on this car is storage space. It is substantially smaller than many of its competitors. This makes the Protege5 more like a big hatchback than like a true wagon. However, the seating is comfortable and the seats themselves are very supportive. There are nice touches on the interior, making it look and feel very luxurious.

The Range

Body Styles: wagon
Engines: two-liter four-cylinder
Transmissions: four-speed automatic, five-speed manual
Models: Protege5

What's New

There are carpeted floor mats. The optional moonroof has been paired with an in-dash six-disc CD changer.


Basically, the Protege has been re-sloped into a hatchback to form the Protege5. The roof has been extended back somewhat, but not enough for it to really seem like a wagon. However, it is very comfortable for people to ride in, and fortunately the roof rails allow for easy attachment of a carrier.


In a comparison with similarly classed wagons, Car & Driver rated it a 10 of 10 in comfort, the highest among its peers. This rating was due, at least in part, to the comfort of its seats and the ability to see and control all gauges and switches easily. The seats are very supportive and the lettering on the instruments and gauges is bold.

The Protege5 comes with the usual bells and whistles like one-touch power windows and remote power door locks. Cruise control is standard. The controls are ergonomically and visually satisfying with metal trim. There are nice touches like a leather steering wheel and leather trimmed shift knob and dual vanity mirrors. There is faux suede trim on the door panels, faux carbon fiber and dimpled vinyl on the dash that add to a luxurious look.

The rear seats fold down, but even so, the storage room is a little lacking, as the Protege5 is shorter than many of its competitors.

Performance & Handling

As crossovers go, the 2003 Mazda Protege5 is fairly fast. Not because of its engine power. Its two-liter, four-cylinder puts up only adequate numbers of 130 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 135 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. What makes it fast is the suspension, the steering and the braking. It is not its top speed, but it’s the ability to zip through traffic that makes this car seem fast. The suspension is tight with thicker shock panel metal, additional crossbars, and general stiffening. This allows the car to corner quickly and the solid transmission allows the engine to rev well past the red line, resulting in a car that feels faster than its numbers would indicate.

The most interesting element of this car is its incredibly solid construction and a taut suspension, which allow it to corner at speeds one would not expect in a wagon. There is a bite from the wheels with 0.79 g lateral grip and a 300-feet-diameter skid pad. The suspension has been reinforced with stronger metal and additional crossbars. Add this to precise steering and you get something that corners far better than one would expect from a car in this class.


The 2003 Mazda Protege5 has front- and passenger-side airbags and the passenger side can be turned off when someone small is in the passenger seat. There are child safe rear door locks and child seat anchors on the rear seats. It also has ABS. There are optional side-curtain airbags.

EPA Fuel Economy

Mazda Protege5 wagon automatic: 25/28 mpg city/highway
Mazda Protege5 wagon manual: 22/28 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • The tight suspension
  • The ABS
  • The precise steering

You Won't Like

  • The storage is not really sufficient for a wagon
  • The engine is not large resulting in a low top speed

Sum Up

Fun to drive considering its class, but not really enough storage space to fit this class.

If You Like This Vehicle

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