Used this little car as a commuter, weekend tripper, small load transporter. It never required any exceptional maintenance. It was pleasant for trips. Easy to drive, comfortable seating, adequate cooling, heating, and ventilation. My wife could fall asleep as a passenger. Excellent visibility all around. Easy to load and unload. Could carry bike & gear behind front seats or by folding down back seats more bikes, storage boxes, lumbers, etc. Fit easily into my garage. Paint held up well. Acceleration, braking, and handling were adequate. It felt nimble. My other cars are Porsches so I needed to adjust my performance expectations when driving the Protégé 5. I wish I could buy it again. (No more after 2003)
I own currently two 2003 models , one manual the other automatic with sport mode. Bought both ironically with 133,000 miles separate times. The first one has 172,000 miles and the other has 152,000 miles now. I bought both after selling a new 2014 Mazda 3 which I found boring to drive compared to the "zoom, zoom" ride of the PR5. Due to gearing, the car has very good low and mid range torque range compared to the 6 speed manual 155 hp of the Mazda 3. I chipped my first PR5 2002 model ( which had 235,000 miles which I sold for $4500) along with turbo muffler and cold air intake. This gave the car high torque power but current ones I own have only a cold air intake with provides more than enough power to allow me to drive between 75-80 mph going up the Grapevine in So Cal/No Cal. I know, above speed limit but I just driving the flow if you drive that route. Still get between 28-30 mpg. Though it lower than the 34 mpg from 2014 M3, the car still "feels" like a sport car which was the final analysis in Car and Driver's Comparison test placing the car in 1st place. Too bad Mazda stop making the car but if you read Consumer Reviews like Edmund you see how owners feel. Car is reliable, great handling made for the twisty roads and fun car to drive. What else can you ask for a daily car.
I bought this car a few months ago with 200k in the clock! I previously had a 99' protege 1.8 sedan that I loved, but always wanted to upgrade the handling. After a wreck, I got the opportunity to purchase my beloved 02' P5! Everything about this car was a dream come true! It handles noticeably better than the sedan did, being a standard I feel it has a little more pick up. Only issue I had with this car is in the 02' model but fixed for 03' is the a/c & a/c light cutting out on some speeds, after reading into the problem, the only permanent solution is to wire in resistors to the climate control unit, but after that fix (about an hour) the a/c works perfect again. EVERYTHING else on the car works! Working on the motor is a little harder than the 1.8 due to different coils & the strut bar. Timing belt was replaced around 150k. I have no doubt this betty will see 300k I have absolute faith. I love love love this car. 100% would buy this car again.
Bought this car when I moved. Starting out, it had a TON of problems. However, after 1 year I had all problems fixed and it didn't even cost more than $1000. Parts are a little more expensive than your run-of-the-mill Honda, but the reliability of those parts is far greater. It handles like a dream and faster than any 4cyl I've ever owned. There is one CON to this car and it's the very common idle problems. The EGR Valve and IAC Valve crap out at least once in this cars lifetime. From experience I would highly recommend spending the money and getting the correct part. No need to pay dealership prices on installing because it's MUCH easier than it looks. All in all, I give this car a 9.5 out of 10. I will continue to drive this car until the end of its life.