Used 2002 Mazda Protege5 Review

Edmunds expert review

Essentially a Protege sedan wearing a backpack, think of the Protege5 as a Lexus IS 300 SportCross for the masses.




What's new for 2002

The Protege is now available as a slick little sport wagon, adding another body style to the Protege lineup.

Vehicle overview

The Protege sedan has been an appealing choice in this segment for the past three years and now this model becomes even tastier with the addition of a sport wagon to the lineup. The Protege5 has added seating and cargo flexibility, combined with sporty styling that reminds us of the Lexus IS 300 SportCross wagon.

All Protege5s get a 2.0-liter engine that makes 130 horsepower. Torque is rated at 135 pound-feet.

The Protege5 is one of the best-looking economy wagons on the market, as it shares the front-end styling, grille, hood, fenders and headlights with the sedan. The attractive 16-inch brushed-aluminum wheels go a long way toward giving the Mazda an upscale appearance, as do the jewel-like headlight reflectors, angular taillights and chrome accents. In wagon guise, the car also comes with front and rear spoilers, lower rocker-panel side sills, a roof-mounted antenna, a roof rack, front fog lamps and a rear roof spoiler.

Inside, the firm seats are comfortable, and the driving position is excellent, with a thick steering wheel rim to grip and a well-placed dead pedal for the left foot. There's also a proper Germanic front-passenger door grip, nicely padded upper door panels where elbows often rest, lots of storage nooks and crannies, a large rear seat and a cargo area that easily triples the sedan's 12.9-cubic-foot trunk when the rear seats are folded down. Inside, Mazda carries over the Protege's center stack design, seat and trim fabric, modular audio system and the 60/40-split folding rear seatback with a double folding function.

On the road, the Protege5 is a bit louder than expected, but it does provide an excellent drive. Credit goes to the first-rate steering system that provides gobs of feedback, perfect weighting and no on-center dead spot. Enhanced by a taut and well-damped suspension, the Protege5 is the "driver's car" of economy wagons.

The Mazda Protege lineup is a long-time favorite of ours, and the Protege5 version deserves the attention of people looking for a unique commuter wagon with spicy style and a good reliability record.




Trim levels & features

The Protege5 is a four-door wagon. Its features include power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, tilt steering and an AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers. Goodies like a power sunroof, leather upholstery, 16-inch wheels, automatic transmission, antilock brakes with side airbags and an in-dash six-CD changer comprise the options list.



Performance & mpg

This Mazda is motivated by a 2.0-liter engine putting out 130 horsepower and135 pound-feet of torque. While sprightly, especially when matched to the standard five-speed manual transmission, Protege isn't going to win any drag races with souped-up Nissan Sentras. If you so desire, there is a four-speed automatic available.

Safety

Four-wheel disc brakes are standard; to get ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, you've gotta buy the package that bundles them with side airbags. Each of the three rear seating positions gets a three-point automatic locking retractor (ALR) seatbelt, and an ISO-FIX child-seat latching and tethering system further contributes to passenger safety. As of yet, no Protege5 crash tests have been performed, but the sedan version has fared decently in the NHTSA's frontal impact tests, earning five stars (out of five) for the driver and four stars for the front passenger.

Driving

On the road, the Protege5 is a bit louder than expected, but it does provide an excellent drive. Credit goes to the first-rate steering system that provides gobs of feedback, perfect weighting and no on-center dead spot. Enhanced by a taut and well-damped suspension, the Protege5 is the "driver's car" of economy wagons.

Interior

Inside, the Protege5 is dressed up with fake carbon-fiber accents and satin silver trim pieces. Black-on-white gauges with amber nighttime backlighting exhibit a slightly italicized font to enhance the impression that this is a special Protege. The driver seat is firmly padded with good bolstering on the sides, and it includes manual bottom-cushion height and tilt adjustments to help find an optimal driving position. Folding the rear seat flat opens up 24.4 cubic feet of cargo.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.