By on February 14, 2013

I started contributing car reviews to TTAC back in 2006. Today’s is my last. But which car should I cover in my final TTAC review?

The 2013 Audi S5 I drove last summer in Colorado? Great car, but the reason I didn’t write it up then remains valid: it’s essentially the same car (minus two doors, plus sexier curves) as the 2011 Audi S4 I drove to West Virginia and back. The biggest news is that there isn’t any big news. Despite a change from hydraulic to electric assist, steering feel (or lack thereof) remains much the same.

Why not write the review TTAC founder Robert Farago wouldn’t let me write? RF had a rule against reviewing our personal cars. But my 2003 Mazda Protege5 has been mentioned in quite a few of my reviews, and has been implicit in nearly all of them. RF’s rule went by the wayside some time ago, but the thought of reviewing the P5 didn’t cross my mind again. Until now.

When I bought my Protege5 back in November 2003, it was already at the end of its run. I got a great deal ($18,900 MSRP, paid $13,400) because the new Mazda3 was in transit. So the P5 was designed and engineered back in the mid-nineties. How does it possibly remain relevant today?

The Protege5 remains relevant for the same reasons I still own it. First of all, despite a 2,800-pound curb weight, the car’s reactions to steering inputs are quicker than in any compact hatch I’ve driven since buying it. Though the low-effort steering can have an over-assisted, rubber-band feel at modest lock under light loads (a trait shared by the current Civic Si), both on-center and when you’re tossing the car precisely through a curve the rack and column seem to transmit EVERTYTHING through a relatively thin, minimally padded rim to your fingertips. (The thick, heavily padded steering wheels favored by many people and consequently common on performance-oriented cars block feedback.) A MINI or a 500 should feel as agile and provide communication as plentiful and nuanced, but doesn’t.

By lifting off the Protege5’s throttle as you enter a turn you can coax the rear end out a bit, but in general the car’s chassis is extremely stable. Testing out the car’s handling early on in a snow-covered parking lot, I had to resort to pulling the hand brake to get it to spin. Even without stability control (which was never offered), every ounce of potential can be extracted from this car safely and easily. In subjective terms, the P5 feels so alive and is so much fun, even in daily driving, that it has made nearly every car I’ve reviewed over the past decade seem dull, even boring in comparison. Consider the Mazda Exhibit A in the case that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.

Almost ridiculously large windows separated by thin pillars further contribute to driver confidence. If you can’t see something ahead, behind, or to the side of this car, you must be looking in a different direction. As in an NA or NB Miata, I wish I could lower the seat an inch or two. As is, you sit far above the compact instrument panel yet well below the windshield header. You can see the front end just enough to easily place it. (Unless you’re the au pair who once parked by feel, crinkling the front left fender.) To get this driving position in a current vehicle, you have to get a crossover. Even these often have tall, deep instrument panels lately.

The driver seat, though surprisingly supportive and comfortable for one in such an inexpensive car, doesn’t do as much for driver confidence. It might look like it would provide lateral support, but it doesn’t (especially not when upholstered in black leather). Front and rear seat height can be independently manually adjusted. Bean counters have since killed this feature in every compact (most recently in the Chevrolet Cruze).

The Protege5 is smaller than current compact hatches, but has a roomier back seat, perhaps because safety standards were quite a bit lower in the 1990s. My three kids have logged thousands of hours in the back seat of this car. A couple of adults will not only easily fit, but they’ll find better thigh support than in many much larger cars. The Protege5’s cargo area isn’t large—this is the rare wagon that has a significantly shorter rear overhang than the related sedan, such that it’s really a wagon in roofline only—but it has always been large enough for us.

Beyond the handling and driving position, back in 2003 I was smitten with the Protege5s styling, especially the rear quarter view. Mazda really finessed the area around the tail lamps when transforming the Protege sedan into a wagon. A tasteful body kit lends just the right amount of aggressiveness to the car—unlike some, it doesn’t overpromise or make someone in his forties feel ridiculous. Overseas, the car was offered without the body kit, and the car then looks a bit pudgy. Frankly, even with the kit the car appears a bit rotund from some angles. Car styling has gotten much edgier in the years since, and at this point the Protege5 looks its age, even if it will age better in the long-term than either generation of Mazda3. I prefer to think of the exterior as “classic.”

The highly polished, chrome-appearing rims now on the car don’t do it any favors, especially not when paired with red paint. They were on the car from the factory. I had the dealer swap wheels with another car, and credit me the $400 difference. But a few years later the finish peeled off the painted wheels. To replace them under warranty, Mazda shipped the wheels they thought were still on the car. The dealer then balked at replacing them at all, claiming that the flaking wheels were “aftermarket” because the selling dealer (no longer in business) hadn’t reported the swap to Mazda. I persuaded them that this was not my fault, and said I’d be more than happy to have them replace the painted wheels with painted wheels. But there was no way to have Mazda ship painted replacements, so it has worn shiny rims since.

The Mazda’s interior, well the interior is cheap, but honestly cheap. It doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not, and the door panels at least are soft to the touch. The controls are simple and within easy reach. Let’s consider the interior “classic” as well.

I suppose I must mention the P5’s engine, which has never ranked among the reasons I like the car. Under 2,000 rpm it gets the shakes and lugs. Over 4,000 rpm it runs out of breath (130 horsepower allegedly arrive at 6,000, but this isn’t obvious from behind the wheel). Between 2,000 and 4,000, though, it produces a good, solid pull with more character than you’ll find in a Mazda3 mill. Early on I replaced a tall shifter with one that halved the throws. Partly for this reason, the shifter isn’t always the smoothest, but at least you’re pulling and pushing on a rod and not a cable.

Fuel economy started out in the mid-20s, then increased to the high-20s as the engine broke in. Sometimes it tops 30. Thanks to short gearing (nearly 3,500 rpm at 70), highway fuel economy is a little lower than suburban fuel economy. For reasons of economy and noise, I’ve long wished for a sixth cog. (Some people do replace the fifth gear with one from the closely related transmission in the 626.)

Sometimes I fantasize about the powertrain I’d install in my Protege5 if cost weren’t much of an object. It couldn’t be one with much torque. Even the stock engine steers the car under hard acceleration. But a Civic Si powertrain might serve nicely. In reality, the most common significant powertrain mod is a turbo. But for me the Protege5 is about having fun in daily suburban driving, so I’ve never felt an urge for boost, especially as this would likely dull the engine’s responses pre-boost.

The Protege5’s reliability has been excellent, with one big exception. In 115,000 miles I’ve been through a couple sets of pads and rotors, a couple sets of front wheel bearings, front lower control arms, and stabilizer bar end links. Oh, and three sets of headlight bulbs, which are such a PITA to change I pay the dealer to do it.

The exception is rust. Where the roads are salted, small Mazdas predictably start to meld with atmosphere about six months after the five-year rust perforation warranty ends. Each fall I remove what rust I can from the rear wheel openings and shock towers, slap on some rust converter, then paint. I had more thorough rust repair performed once, a couple years ago. The rust has since returned. To thoroughly fix just the rear end a body shop will charge a couple grand, which can’t be rationally justified.

So, why does the auto industry no longer offer a car like this one in North America? Visibility was cast by the wayside due to styling trends. The chassis story is more complicated. The transition to electric power assisted steering (EPAS) for fuel economy reasons hasn’t helped, but even cars with hydraulic steering generally provide far less feedback (e.g. the Audis mentioned earlier, and BMW 5ers recently compared by C&D).

In a word, the reason is refinement. In sharp contrast to a current batting-way-above-its-league Focus, the Protege5 ain’t got none. After driving a Lotus Elise, the Protege5 felt as high, quiet, and cushy as a Lincoln Navigator. Compared to just about anything with four doors, though, the near-classic Mazda is rough and noisy. Wind noise, road noise, engine noise, transmission noise—the entire dyssymphony is present. NVH couldn’t have been much of a consideration when it was engineered. In years past I’ve had my entire five-person family in the car for a 700-mile trip. Looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking. This is not a highway car. For long trips we now have–what else?–a bigger wagon.

But isn’t there space for at least one affordable compact hatch that trades off refinement for responsiveness and feedback? Can’t at least one manufacturer take a chance on the possibility that the hand raisers would actually pull out their checkbooks? Until this happens—and it might never happen—I’ll stick with the Protege5 until rust takes out something essential (my pride if not a strut tower). For better and for worse, the Mazda delivers a visceral connection not only to the road, but to a bygone age.

Fortunately, there are still some car sites willing to trade refinement for responsiveness and feedback. My road at TTAC hasn’t always been straight or smooth, but smooth, straight roads are boring. With TTAC, whether headed by RF, Ed, or BS, there has never been a dull moment. Thanks, guys!

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, which covers car reliability, real-world fuel economy, feature-adjusted car price comparisons, and (as of this month) weekly “Why (Not) This Car?” reviews.

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103 Comments on “Review: 2003 Mazda Protege5...”


  • avatar

    Why Michael? Where are you headed?

    Great looking kids. Congrats on the beautiful family!

    As for the car, though it sounds like a car I’d like, the overhangs over the back wheels make it look like a SW. Maybe that’s why it’s roomiers back there. Also, the back design doesn’t talk to the front end. Japanese cars are almost never my cup of tea.

    Great luck wherever you’re going! I’ll miss your reviews here.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      A recent email newsletter from truedelta.com mentioned that Michael was going to start posting reviews there.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the compliments.

      The two family photos are old at this point. The one of the youngest dates from when the car was also young. He’s in the same seat a few years later in the photo of all three.

      All of the seats are now out of the car, and my daughter more often than not rides in front. She’s 13, and taller than my wife! I am not looking forward to when she starts driving. Hoping she’ll be one of these young people that doesn’t bother getting a license…

      • 0 avatar
        69firebird

        Hey Michael,I saw this just now.Good review.I’m about to crack 59,000 miles on my P5.Has never needed any work on it till a few weeks ago.Original factory front calipers,pads and rotors were toast,so I replaced them.I think they lasted pretty long considering my driving.I did replace the headlight lens assemblies as they were clouded.The car drives as new,especially since I removed a short ram I had on it and replaced the stock snorkel and a quick grille mod.If there was one thing to change…I’d get rid of my roof-rack,but the parts are a p.i.t.a.to get.
        Wish you good luck and will see you at True delta,where I’ve been a member since way back.I’d put up a picture,but I’m not seeing that as an option.

  • avatar
    carguy

    All the best Michael! I’m sure all TTAC readers will be following you closely via your excellent TrueDelta dot com web site.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I had a 2002. It rekindled my love of cars. I’d still have it if I could have justified owning a car while living in downtown Toronto.

    I was fun to drive, but not always easy to live with:
    * Geared to rev waaay to high. Someone mentioned swapping diff parts from the MX-6 to solve this.
    * Mileage isn’t great
    * Engine doesn’t like to rev, and doesn’t sound great when you do rev it.
    * Shifter isn’t great; kin dof long-throw and ropey.
    * Noisy as all hell (see first point, above), especially at speed. I wish I’d heard of that differential mod.
    * Eats brake discs. It went through two sets; my Honda Fit hasn’t gone through one in 100K yet.

    I agree about the rear-seat space. I think they managed this by making the front seats rather thin and sacrificing some cargo space (the 3 has more cargo space but less rear seat room). Newer cars have very big, very heavy seats in the front.

    Still, it’s a nice car. You have to get on the aftermarket rustproofing ASAP, and if you live in the salt-belt this is a good idea for any car. And Michael is dead-to-rights about the driving experience: only the first-generation Focus came close in this class, and even then it was most sophisticated and a little less fun.

    On a side note, I’m sorry to learn this is your last review for TTAC. It’s TTAC’s loss, and ours.

    • 0 avatar

      As noted in the review, I modded the shifter early on. Very short throw now, but low, since they cut the throw mostly by reducing the height of the lever above the fulcrum (though they also lengthen it a little below the fulcrum).

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Also, don’t forget the P5 has the same rear-seat flip forward feature as found on several Fords so the back folds truly flat. It’s a great feature.

    • 0 avatar
      Wacko

      I bought a silver 2003 MP5 brand new in the summer of 2003.

      Loved the car for the first year. Loved the feeling driving the car, but after the first year, all sorts of problems came up. I had rust showing up in less than a year of owning it, and yes I even got the 10 year anti-rust treatment when i bought it. Rust even was showing up under the anti-rust treatment!!! (yes I live in Canada).
      My MP5 would eat up light bulbs, brake pads and disks, and those factory tires lasted 10000 kms max. Rear wiper stopped working 1 week after full warranty. And what to say about the electronics, nothing good. I had the car until it reached 95000 km, sold it in 2010 to buy my Suzuki SX4. The kid who bought it from me had to rebuild the transmission about 3 months after, then he crashed it 2 months after that.
      I had the worst dealer service I have ever had in my life.

      But I still find that the MP5 ages very well, kinda looks like a audi wagon too.

      Rust in hell MP5

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I had a ’02 P5 as well, great little car. The handling sold me on it. Gas was killing me on my commute with my SUV at the time, so I went searching for a small fuel efficient vehicle. I drove a few different things and nothing really stood out. I ended up pulling into a dealer on a whim because I saw a 3-Series out front that looked nice, and while walking the lot stumbled on the used P5. One test drive and I knew it was my next vehicle.

      The mileage started out pretty good, mid-20s overall, but dwindled down to about 16mpg combined by the time I had it paid off. Then when the AC failed I traded it.

      It ate headlight bulbs, front tires and brakes, and the OEM Dunlaps were both pricey and short-lived (replaced them with a set of Kumhos at the first tire-change, they were a lot more affordable, but weren’t much better when it came to tire life).

      The factory black leather held up better than about any leather interior I’ve seen, virtually no visible wear even when I traded it in seven years or so after it had been built.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I had an ’02 ES sedan, and my experience was exactly as you described it. The oil pan and the front part of the exhaust rusted through right after the warranty expired, it ate pads and rotors at a ridiculous rate, the shocks were leaking oil at 60k miles, and noise on the highway bordered on unbearable.

      It really was great to drive though. Good enough that I would have put up with most of those annoyances, but most of my driving at the time I sold it was on the highway. The lack of refinement was too much for me.

    • 0 avatar
      thedaniel

      > only the first-generation Focus came close in this class

      I had a 2002 SVT Focus 5 door and it was so great. So great. But I think I like my 2003 P5 more, due to all that Mazda character. (The Focus got totaled by a fella with no insurance running a stop sign, else I’d probably still have it)

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    Michael, yours were always the reviews I valued the highest, and I’ll keep reading you at TrueDelta going forward. But as I’ve never quite figured out how to make the price comparison tool thingy work, here’s hoping you’ll keep popping back over to the comments at TTAC to tell us how expensive those BMWs _really_ are. Bonne chance!

    • 0 avatar

      Gayla (my wife and programmer) wants to revise the price comparison thingy to make it easier to use. The problem is it’s one of many thigns on the to-do list, but it’ll happen.

      I should be back every once in a while with news on the car reliability front, just no more reviews here.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Great review and it seems to close the loop. Sorry to see that you are going, I hope TTAC realizing what they are losing.

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    You will be missed.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks, Alex!

      Our perspectives were similar more often than not, so we’ll both have more room to maneuver going forward.

      • 0 avatar
        stickman

        I couldn’t help replying to this particular comment since I think you two, Michael and Alex, have the best reviews here or elsewhere. You both seem thorough enough to cover the things that really matter day to day (to me) and don’t get too unreasonably enamored over the car de jour.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    We considered a P5 when shopping for a car for my then-gf in 2002. The Mazda dealer would have none of it. They had one in their prep bay, but we were told we couldn’t look at it because it was sold. Not that we couldn’t sit in it or drive it, but literally look at it. They wanted us to buy one of their in-stock automatic sedans or ex-program Golf TDIs or come back when we were serious enough to take what they were willing to sell us. This was the same dealer that successfully thwarted me from buying a VW Fox in 1987, a Miata in 1989, and that told me the GTI 16V that had been the owner’s chain smoking son’s loaner was the only one I could consider buying about the same time. They still managed to stay in business long enough to stop me from buying the Protege 5, although they’re gone now.

    We probably would have been better off with the Mazda than the long, long gone Mini Cooper that we wound up with. I suspect that yours would be more fun to drive with a proper valve adjustment, as my friend’s Protege with a similar engine lived happily at higher engine speeds.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Why would you keep going back to that dealer? Baffling!

      I will miss Michael as well.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The next closest Mazda or VW dealer was probably 70 miles away in the late ’80s. We stopped there to look at the Protege 5 in 2002 because the dealer was on the same strip of dealers where we were looking at a few other cars. The Protege was a serious candidate, so we could have looked at one even if it would have been further away, but my girlfriend fell in love with the Mini Cooper before we got another chance to look at a Mazda.

        I also went back to that dealer repeatedly over twenty years ago because they sold cars I wanted. Nowadays I buy cars based on price from dealers anywhere in the country. I buy cars that don’t need to be repaired, so it is fine. Back then, nothing about my family’s new car buying experience suggested it would be okay to have a car without a good relationship with the local dealer. I’ll spare you the horror stories of the American cars we owned, but even my ’88 E30 BMW needed an engine rebuild with 5,000 miles thanks to its elastic head bolts letting go.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    What’s up with the last article thing, MK?

    Very good article. I pretty much agree with 110% of it.

    As far as that rust thing, it really isn’t just Mazdas (take a look at any older pickup, especially with flared wheel wells, or use google-fu for this issue on just about any make/model of vehicle) that have this issue, and there’s a surprisingly not so complex secret to help keep the rust away on cars in salt-laden road climes: There’s a horizontal “shelf” or “lip” that’s anywhere from 3/4 inch to 1 inch on the inner rear wheel wells, near the weld points. From the time of purchase, that “shelf” or “lip” should be cleaned out and cleared of any moist/wet debris it retains (and it will retain a lot of this matter, year round) at least once every month or two, then completely dried, and then hit with a viscous lanolin-based spray like Fluid Film of LPS-3.

    If the rust has already begun, but hasn’t permeated completely through the sheet metal, wire brush the interior of that lip with a baking soda solution after clearing out the debris, dry it, use an encapsulator/converter, and then use the lanolin spray (although if the rust is too entrenched, this won’t net any benefits).

    You have a beautiful family, by the way.

    I’ve enjoyed your reviews, even those I didn’t necessarily agree with (which weren’t that commonplace), and I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

    • 0 avatar

      At this point the rust is too far gone. First permeation in that shelf area on the right side this fall. Inner lip, so not visible unless you look really closely. But it’s coming from the inside out at this point.

      I wish I’d known that rust was such a possibility and what to do about it early on. But by the time I noticed other Mazdas rusting, mine had already started.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Yep, if the metal has been penetrated throughout, nothing but cutting and replacing metal is going to help at that point, and that’s far too expensive a process to be done on most vehicles of this vintage to be logically justified.

        I forgot to mention that it only makes matters worse that many manufacturers line the wheel wells directly above that inner wheel well lip with sound deadening materials made of fabric or different types of foam, that more often than not absorb moisture and then slowly drip and re-deposit it right back down onto that inner wheel well plane, in a very destructive and cyclical fashion.

        I know of snow plow truck drivers who just cut those sound deadeners and/or cut out that portion of the wheel well or roll their fenders, for this very reason.

  • avatar
    imag

    Best of luck to you Michael. I finally got over to TrueDelta the other day. I hope it is taking off for you.

    As to your closing question – I am hoping that the next Mazda 3 will inherit the P5’s best qualities while improving on its weaknesses.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Bought a 2002 new from the dealer and loved it. Great handling, good economy and adequate engine. Well that is until I put in an intercooled T3 turbo kit where a friend of mine used my car for the prototype. It was the Wagner motorsports kit which became a big failed venture with lots of upset customers and non delivery of items. Add in wilwood upgraded brakes at all 4 corners my blue P5 would run Summit Point in NASA DE program and wait for the straight and the eventual pass signal from the 400 hp car I was overtaking. Sold it to some dude in the Navy and he overboosted it and blew the engine several months later then parked it. Someone else bought it years later and contacted me about the car as he was rebuilding the engine so it lives on in the VA Beach area.

  • avatar
    ldl20

    Michael:

    Well written. When this car came out in 02, I wanted one badly because it seemed to fit everything I wanted: sporty and fun, in a wagon body, not too big, not too small, and not too expensive. Alas, I had purchased a 2000 Altima two years prior, so I was in the middle of my car payments, and as a teacher, with a baby girl, it just didn’t make sense to make the swap.

    Fast forward to 2007: a young son added to the family, moving up the educational ladder to Vice-Principal of a middle school, new house, more responsibilities. Plus, since 2003, there was a need for a second car. After quite a few cars, some new, some used (92 Accord, 94 Altima, 05 Accord, 04 MPV, 01 Elantra, 06 Odyssey), I was getting sick of driving my Elantra even though it did its job without fault. It got me through my 2nd go-around at Grad School, but I wanted something more fun.

    On a whim in December of 2007, I found a 1-owner 2002 P5, stick, no rust, black, with every option except the auto, leather and those silly chrome rims, with only 42K miles. Basically, it’s what I would’ve ordered from the dealer 5 years earlier. I test drove it, promptly left a deposit, and the car was mine within the week. It didn’t even matter that I barely knew how to drive a five speed, but I managed to get it home during rush hour traffic over the GWB without stalling once. The previous owner even modded it a bit, but in a tasteful way (clear side markers from an 03, Polk Audio tweeters on all 4 doors and a small bass tube in the hatch, TWM short shift kit with a nicely weighted shifter, and light tints all around). And, for an extra $250.00, I bought his OE set of rims and winter tires. So, all in, it cost me $8750.

    Why I sold it just 16 months later I’ll never know. It’s one of the dumbest decisions I ever made. Maybe it became a chore for my size 13s to work the pedals; maybe the buzziness wore on me; maybe when I became a principal in January of 2009 stupid me felt the need for something more sophisticated and grown-up? In case it isn’t obvious, I do miss that car very much, and it kills me that I sold it even though it was pristine and had plenty of life left in her. I was surprised that the car didn’t garner much interest, but I ended up selling it for $6200 with only 53K miles on it.

    With my previous cars as a reference point, this car was a revelation. It did feel like a go-kart; if I just moved the steering wheel an inch or so, the car responded. I found myself taking corners faster than I ever had. On and off ramps were excuses to show my wife that the brakes were no longer necessary. Even at 6’3″ I found I had plenty of room for my legs (try that with today’s monster-console cars), and my two kids could sit in the back without a problem. Visibility was excellent, and it was just so easy to slice and dice traffic, within reason, of course. Again, what the hell was I thinking?

    Long story short, my wife and I eventually found a lightly used 2010 GTI 4-door which I like to think has a lot of the same attributes of the P5, just in a more refined package. I’ve taken both cars on long trips like Michael did, but there is no comparison with the GTI’s ability to cruise at 80 mph all week long and still get 30 mpg. Long trips in the P5 (especially long trips time-wise in and around the greater NYC metro area) left me exhausted at times.

    As for me, my more “sophisticated” car after the P5 was a leased 2009 GLI that was quite fun and reliable, no, seriously! And when that lease was up, I felt I still had the Mazda itch, so I cured it with the P5’s older brother: a loaded 2006 black cherry Mazda6 GT wagon. My goal is to not make the same mistake I made with the P5.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Great post. I’d much rather read about cars like this, than the latest Whatever-letter-UV blandmobile. When you said “bygone era” I thought, ‘what? That’s only 10 years ago!’ Yep, getting old. I think you have the same affectioon for the Mazda as I do for my Cressida, it’s a car that most people just do not get. and yet what’s not to ‘get’ about a simple sedan or a small wagon? Virtue is virtue. Nice family, kids that smile like that must have great parents.

    • 0 avatar

      The car’s only ten years old, but it’s the very tail end of a platform introduced eight years earlier. So the basic engineering took place about 20 years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        Advance_92

        That’s pretty much how I feel about my 2000 Impreza. All the ones I see these days have rusted out, too.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        From summer 11 – summer 12 I had a 97 Impreza L wagon, in SW Ohio no less, and there was just the tiniest bit of rust starting on the right rear wheel well, where the fender joined the bumper. That was the only place!

        Given it had been car-ported and never garaged, I was very surprised it wasn’t more rusty.

        Sold it though.

  • avatar
    SwingAxle

    Great review and a nice personal touch to include your kids in your last TTAC review – they look awesome! Best of luck with the switch to TrueDelta (I will be following you there; I second that I hope TTAC knows what they are losing). I remember how you once said you really liked the last generation Leagacy wagons and now see in much greater detail why you were not in the market then. To my eye, these two cars are visually similar and share many common traits (good visibility, very utilitarian).

    • 0 avatar

      Some common traits, but the Legacy is significantly larger, and feels it. I’ve yet to drive a midsize car that truly talks to me. One thing I forgot to mention in the review: when I first drove the P5, I was actually at the Mazda dealer to check out the Mazda6.

      • 0 avatar
        SwingAxle

        Having never driven a P5, I’m sure that you are right about the size perception. I came out of a 4X4 truck, so the Legacy was light years ahead in terms of tossability. We cross shopped the M6 when we purchased my wife’s Outback. It was somewhat more fun to drive, but ultimately the AWD (PNW passes and living on a large hill) won out. Interestingly, my wife’s prime criteria for her new car was that it fit her tuba! Ever have that in your Why Not This Car?

      • 0 avatar

        I doubt it. Your review could be the first!

  • avatar
    CanuckGreg

    Great review and I agree with virtually every point. My wife’s ’02 P5 put in 10 years of reliable, solid service before the tin worm finally won the war.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    I have yet to see a Mazda Protege of this vintage in my area that doesn’t have rusted out rear wheel arches.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Wait, what, today is your last day?

    Say it isn’t so.

    One of the best and most balanced car reviewers on the planet is leaving us???

    *sob*

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I have to add, the exterior/interior styling has aged VERY well on the 5 over the last 10 years. I find both attractive in the pictures a decade later.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I have to disagree. Both the exterior and interior look pretty late-90s dated to me, considering this is an 03. If you check other small cars from that era they aren’t nearly so dated.

  • avatar
    redav

    Thanks for the review. Your thoughts match mine to the T.

    I remember the first time I saw the commercial for the Protege5 (with the bright yellow paint & the boy whispering “Zoom Zoom”). It was spring 2001, and I was preparing to leave college. My previous car, a Honda Accord, was mortally wounded when the transmission gave out, and I was looking for a new car and some worry-free driving. I wanted a wagon because getting stuff in/out of the Accord was a pain. A roommate had a late-’90s Protege, and I liked it, so as soon as I saw that commercial, I decided to give it a look.

    To make a long story short, I ended up driving away in a yellow one just like the commercial, the first new car I’d ever owned. I loved the styling (and still do). I don’t know how many Mazda sold before mine, but everywhere I went, it was the only one I saw. I had people stop me in traffic to talk about it, and they’d gather around it in parking lots. It became my defining characteristic. To this day, when I run into friends I haven’t seen in years, almost always the first thing they say is: “Do you still own that little yellow car?”

    Back when I bought it, I didn’t really know or care a ton about cars. I didn’t appreciate it’s handling, or how much fun it was. One time during a move, I needed my dad to ferry it from the truck rental back to my apt. In what seemed like 50 feet, he already had recognized it was a great car. But for me, it was utilitarian transport. I commuted, hauled my bikes in the back, drove across states to visit family, and moved just about everything I owned. Somewhere along the way I started to have fun. I think it was due in part to how every time I drove a rental–no matter how new–it was always worse than my car. They may have been faster, more efficient, bigger, & more comfortable, but they never felt as good as my P5.

    Then, three years ago (almost to the day), a teenager ran a stop sign. It didn’t look too bad, that is until you lifted the hood. Insurance said it go either way–total it or repair it. Fortunately, they said it wouldn’t need a salvage title. I shopped around for new cars, and I really liked some of them, but none of them were my car, so I decided to get it fixed.

    Before the accident, I assumed it would last forever, sort of like the entitlement of immortality that comes with youth. But I had to accept that it won’t. So I put money away for the eventual replacement and continued to keep up with the latest & greatest cars as they hit the market. But I don’t know if I could ever trade in my car. I can’t think of it being sold at auction to be shipped overseas where someone else who doesn’t care will abuse & trash it. He’s been a good friend; he deserves better than that.

    I remember talking with a girl I dated years ago about how guys don’t have feelings and never cry. Of course that’s not true. I cried on the day my father died. And I know I will cry on the day I let my car go.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    It’s a shame you’re leaving. I’ve always liked your no nonsense approach to writing reviews. Good luck with your future endeavors.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Just like he said, Michael. Even though you’re an excellent writer, your determination to inform us about the car always comes first, and it shows. I’m sure your reviews will be a valuable addition to your site, and like so many of us, I’ll be following your exploits there.

  • avatar
    galloping_gael

    Bon voyage, Michael. We’ll follow you at your not-so-new home.
    You got quite a good deal on that car. Your experiences remind me of those I had with my 1996 BMW 318ti – another highly utilitarian and entertaining vehicle…

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Michael

    I’ve been enjoying your reviews since you posted at epinions before TTAC. Whether at TrueDelta or where-ever, if you keep posting, I’ll keep reading.

  • avatar
    cc-rider

    I had a 2003 Mazdaspeed Protege for a few years. It has all the positives that Michael mentioned here. The steering and handling of that car were nothing short of sublime. It really was an overachiever of a car let down by the engine. The kartboy shifter bushing helped the action quite a bit from what I remember.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Man this really makes me miss my 2003 P5. I loved that car… schoolbus yellow, sunroof, roof racks, stick shift and nothing else. The cloth was much grippier than leather, but the seats were never all that great. I do not understand the comments about the engine not liking to rev, I loved to blip the throttle on that car, it was so responsive, the ride/handling compromise was perfect for street use, I installed a short-throw shifter and it was then perfect. I did upgrade to 17″ gunmetal rims that looked great with the yellow, I darkened the headlights which gave it a perfect bit of attitude in the front.

    After 80k miles it never gave me any trouble (but did eat rear brake pads a bit), and living in Florida I had zero rust anywhere, it was in showroom condition when I traded it in. We had 3 growing kids and needed a bigger car, and we got a ton of money for it. I regretted it almost immediately, I still regret it and I wish I could have that same car back now. They are impossible to find in good shape, people beat them up or drive them into the ground.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Sorry to see you go, Michael. This is certainly just as heavy loss to this site as losing the Niedermayers (sorry for spelling). Hopefully this is not a case of yet another corporation thinking they know wtf they are doing here.

  • avatar
    Emro

    Great review MK! You touched on all the same observations I had about my 2002 P5 many years ago. It was hoot to drive and I still miss it, but I unfortunately had to trade it in for a Mazda3 with an auto as the other half couldn’t drive stick. The Mazda3 was worlds better in every way, but never as fun to toss around. Ah the memories…

  • avatar
    mtl_one

    All the best, Michael!

    Just lost my 03 P5 this past winter on the way to work as someone slid through their red light and t-boned me. Had picked up my baby from the dealer one sunny fall day back in 03.

    Very surprised how well it absorbed the impact being an 03, but still glad it was only me, and not the wife or child, in the car.

    Still shopping for something that I’ll love as much for another 10-years, even with the minor rust issues (mine was just starting to rust as it died with only 86,000KM and original brakes to boot, must be the stick and lots of engine breaking).

    At least I got $6,500 for it from the insurer.

    Perhaps the new 2014 CX-5 with the 2.5L can be an solid replacement?

    • 0 avatar

      The CX-5 is much closer to a RAV4 than a P5. If you’re spending mid-twenties, why not a Focus ST or MS3? If you don’t need that much power, a Focus SE or Mazda3 SKYACTIV is about as good as it gets. If you want the old school feel, some of it remains in the Mitsubishi Lancer, though I wouldn’t buy one of those without a big discount. For light, agile feel of the P5, the Mazda2 and Yaris SE come closest. Sadly the engine in the Mazda2 is hopelessly gutless even by P5 standards.

    • 0 avatar
      vwgolf420

      I lost mine to a t-bone wreck as well. 18/19 year old kid in his mother’s late 1990s Buick LeSabre doing close to 50 through a red light. My now ex-wife was in the passenger seat. She came through with minor bruises on her ribs and a tiny cut on her right temple. I was unscathed. The car proved itself quite safe. It did bend the frame beyond repair and was totaled out.
      If that hadn’t happened, I would still be driving it. It was tons of fun and yet practical and versatile. It was undoubtedly my favorite car.

      Best wishes to you in your future endeavors.

  • avatar
    campocaceres

    I really enjoyed reading this review of yours. I’ll be honest in saying your typical reviews are comprehensive and informative, but tbh a bit on the vanilla side. Not a bad thing, you seem very cognizant about keeping emotion out of it to a high degree.

    But I could see that coming out more here. There’s a tinge of excitement and I dunno, endearment? to your words when you describe your car. Maybe it’s appropriate you’d review your car on Valentines day, hah.

    Anyway, thanks for all of your contributions to this great site! It’s been nice reason all of your articles and postings through the years.

    • 0 avatar

      If a car gets me excited, this comes through in the review. Today’s review was the last in a six-year string, and covered a car I’ve owned for nearly a decade. If, on the other hand, a car doesn’t excite me (much more typical), then I’m not good at faking it!

      Farago tried hard to change my style initially. To see what one of my early, thoroughly RF’d reviews was like:

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2006/04/saturn-sky/

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2006/05/2006-mazda-5-review/

      When RF got too busy to put me through multiple revisions, my style reverted much of the way to its former state. But not all the way.

  • avatar
    Tifighter

    It’s funny to read how many of the B&B had one of these. I bought a leftover 02 in 03, red 5MT with cloth seats, sunroof. I also had a Z3 with the 2.5 inline 6 at the time, and honestly, the P5 was more fun to drive. Eager and tossable; it made the roadster feel really heavy. I liked how the bottom rear seat cushions were removable to flatten the load floor and allow storage in the footwell…good maximization of the space. My ex still had the car until about 2 months ago, no rust (no salt in the PNW), no issues. Another friend bought a Protege EX sedan about a year later and still has it with no issues. Great car…big reason why I have a Miata PRHT today.

    Best of luck to Michael, I’ve enjoyed your insights over the years. Visit us in the comments some time.

  • avatar
    jbltg

    Thank you Michael for this wonderful article that I’d always hoped you’d write after many interesting references to the car.

    You will be sorely missed on TTAC.

    I see several of these Protege per day here in LA. People hang onto to them like I did my ’95 Miata for the very same reasons that you cite, although I think I had less issues with the Miata and certainly no rust.

    The Protege is so handsome, minimal and well-packaged that I still wish I had one, NVH and all.

    • 0 avatar
      PINKY

      Totally agree with you! I have post model of Protege (and prior model of smiling), Mazda 3. Love it, nothing wrong with it, but Protege looks way better than 3. Everytime I find it on the street, I am kind of regretting that I totally missed the chances to own one!

  • avatar
    boxelder

    Michael, thanks for your dedication to producing truth in automobiledom. Your reviews have always been detailed and fair. Looking forward to seeing your future work as well. As the owner of a 2002 WRX Sport Wagon, I always feel a bit of kinship with the Protege5 owners, and will continue to give a bit of a wave of acknowledgement in passing. Tailwinds.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Wherever you go or whatever you do, I wish you the best of luck and I thank you for this last, brilliant article.

    Your comments on the Mazdas responsive steering and great outward visibility really truck with me, they’re some of the more prominent traits that I enjoy on my Volvo 240 and always felt were lacking in modern cars.

    I’ve tried on several modern cars and all felt refined, quiet, and cushy, cars that are fine to ride in but boring to drive. After seeing the simplicity of your Mazdas interior and exterior I wouldn’t mind trying one out myself. We need more cars that aren’t a pain in the foot to operate.

    At this point I want to be snarky and say “Looks like those old American barges were ahead of their time”, but then I remembered that you could often hear their V8s gurgling in front of you, and their interiors weren’t so crazy compared to something like the new Mini.
    Oh, and most of them weren’t bent on achieving the maximum gas mileage possible.

  • avatar

    Why are you going? This just ruined my dinner.

    Please tell me. I hope you keep writing for websites.

    I love your reviews!

    Take Jack next!

  • avatar
    kkt

    I have the Protege5’s sedan cousin. It’s a lot of fun to drive, and I agree with your observations, except that in Seattle mine doesn’t suffer from rust. There are more than its share of dash rattles, and it does eat suspension bushings. Yes, a 6th gear set up for highway cruising would be a huge help both to noise and mpg. Despite that, it’s a good city car and adequate on the highway and I’ll miss it when it’s time to replace it, especially given the current choices.

    Thanks for all your reviews, and best wishes for your future.

  • avatar
    Caraholica

    Thanks for all the genuine and thorough reviews, Micheal. I’ll be moving with you to your new review site. You still write the most comprehensive detailed and relevant car reviews anywhere. I always have a sense of what a car is like to live with rather than a repeat of the statistics that magazines have devolved into.

    Champagne all around, you are one of the good ones that TTAC is letting get away.

    Cheers.

  • avatar

    TTAC owes you a giant link to TrueDelta!

  • avatar
    vertigo

    This article makes me want to hang on to my ’05 Mazda3 GT hatch. I haven’t driven a Protege5 but in my mind this article could easily say “Mazda3″ where it says “Protege5″ when it comes to driving dynamics. The rest of the description is pretty damn close, especially the rust. It was Krown-rustproofed from day one and still the rear fenders are rotting right out. Good thing the lava orange paint closely matches the colour of the rust!

    I’m new around here, but have been reading for quite some time. I enjoyed your writing, and good luck with growing Truedelta!

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    My only experience with a Protege was a sedan back in the nineties that I had as an insurance loaner car for a month , also red and black but with an automatic . I remember being extremely unimpressed with it . I mainly remember the key breaking off in the trunklock , two flat tires , and, as you mention , crappy highway fuel economy for a small car and being it was a loaner car , I took it on a pretty long trip, Houston to New Mexico. But, even tho at the time I knew that it was obviously an abused rental a year later when I decided to buy a used wagon with a stick for the wife I looked for a Corolla or Saturn instead . I totally agree tho, for most people a small wagon like this is really the best compromise vehicle , and a small wagon with a stick is much less frequently seen and a lot heavier than it than a few years ago .

  • avatar
    RS

    I’d love to see a review of the ‘big wagon’ in your picture.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    Very very sorry to see you leaving Michael. Have always enjoyed reading your reviews. One of the unique things about this site and about you was your engagement with your readers. I’ve enjoyed the many back and forths that we’ve had over many of your reivewis, and I’ve always appreciated you actually taking the time to reply and answer questions and engage in discussion with the masses on here.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Well written as always. I will miss your contributions to reviews here. You are one of my faves here. I will make it a point to vist TD more often.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    What about your epic family road trips? I really enjoy how you tell us about a car (Mazda RX-8) by telling us about the countryside. Ah well, all the best, and see you over at TrueDelta.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Funny, my wife and I were just talking about our old Protege5 the other day. She is still pissed at me for selling that car. We had an early one, 5-speed, black, no real options other than a sunroof though I recall that they came fairly loaded in base form anyway. I don’t recall is being unrefined though the road noise at speed was tiring. We replaced it with a Mazda5 with a manual transmission, so at least we stayed in the Mazda family. Here in California I am immune from the rust issues (I grew up near Detroit, though, so I feel your pain). Even so, I rarely see Protege5s on the road considering how popular they were in their day.

    • 0 avatar
      Speedygreg7

      Rather than the current Mazda3, I think the closest thing to this that you can buy today is the Subaru Impreza 5-door. Useful shape, good visibility, sorta weak powertrain but somewhat fun and nothing fancy.

      • 0 avatar

        The new Impreza does have the best steering of any Subaru I’ve driven. Not as fun as a P5, but it does share a lack of refinement and consequent more direct feel. A Lancer GTS might be a closer fit overall, though, despite being a little larger and heavier.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Why do Mazdas rust so badly? I see plenty of other similarly priced cars (even at older ages) which don’t have rust on them. Where are they sourcing their steel that other companies aren’t?

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Although I’ve neither driven nor owned the car reviewed, the review is a perfect example of your style which I would characterize as “sober.” I’m a TD member, so I noticed your announcement about doing more reviews there, which is good to know.

    I’ll miss seeing your point of view here. There are several other reviewers here whom I also think are very good and part of the strength of this site has been the different styles of the reviewers, and their different points of view. I especially liked it when more than one reviewer wrote up the same car, and I hope that practice continues.

  • avatar

    Michael – Thanks for all of your contributions, and for the review on the P5. I’ve always enjoyed Mazdas for their quirkiness, but rented one of these ten years ago and was so impressed with the rental that I tried to get a friend to buy one. The local dealer was, unfortunately, the opposite of the car and did their best to get my friend to buy a Golf (they were successful). I was so mad that the car was so poorly represented that I wrote to Ford to say that they were screwing this car by allowing such crappy dealers to survive. Sadly, the same dealer is still in business and still doing his best to sell people on other brands. Best of luck with True Delta!

  • avatar
    wstansfi

    My wife’s family had one in Montreal – great car for around town and reasonable for road trips. Montreal rust gobbled it up…

    Sorry to see you go – have really enjoyed the reviews over the last few years!

    Thank you and good luck!

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “I got a great deal ($18,900 MSRP, paid $13,400) …”

    This is why Mazda doesn’t make the P5 anymore. No business can make a living selling at a loss. They are not a charity for enthusiasts.

    “Can’t at least one manufacturer take a chance on the possibility that the hand raisers would actually pull out their checkbooks?”

    Not if there are no buyers. I bet this P3 sat on dealer lot for months, and they were glad to unload it before the New Year, 9 some years ago.

    Now, Mazda is making more profits selling CX-7 and 9.

    Again, it’s called the “Car Business”, not “The Endowment for the Art of Fine Driving”

    • 0 avatar

      P5s sold pretty well without the huge discounts. It was only just before the 3 arrived that they threw a bunch of cash on the hood. I actually thought this was a bad idea at the time, as quite a few people had paid about $4,000 more than I did only a couple months earlier, and they couldn’t have been happy to read about the rebates. But I did benefit from it. Usually I buy used, but because of the rebates I paid about $1,500 less than used ones were selling for!

  • avatar
    AnsonYu

    What are the good and bad of this era 323/Protege? I am looking to buy a 2000 sedan model and 5spd-stick. I live in a non-salt area so rust isn’t much of an issue.

  • avatar
    niky

    Missed this one… Sayonara, P5Kid, was nice knowing you here and elsewhere. Wish you the best with TrueDelta!

  • avatar
    Augie the Argie

    As another zoomzoom driver I personally want to thank MK for your down to earth and brandishing the love for driving writing in all your reviews, you will be sorely missed at TTAC! You write about cars in a way I can fully relate, we share same views so I will be reading you on TD. Keep up your professional work!

  • avatar
    replica

    At the time I was driving a supercharged 94 Civic, my first real car, that was burning a quart each way to work. To the rescue, my parents offered to cosign on a $10k car and whatever I sold the Civic for would go toward principle. Being a Honda kid, I looked at Integras, and then the insurance. That quickly removed them from the running, especially in theft happy Harris county. I even looked at a few Mustang GT’s and Preludes. Again, the insurance was murder and the driving experience wasn’t great. Neither were bad cars, they just didn’t fit.

    The weekend my parents set aside for car hunting was coming to an end so I looked at an unlikely candidate, a little Protege5 sitting, unloved at a GMC dealership in San Antonio. I was interested, but was really there because they’d throw me the keys to test drive a random car. What 20 year old wouldn’t want to drive damn near anything for free? It turns out it was a great little car. It’s a bit hard to explain what’s great about the P5. On paper, it’s pretty underwhelming. 130hp, it doesn’t rev, it’s not terribly light. What makes it great is it’s “Mazdaness.” Anyone who’s driven a Miata knows what that’s like. To everyone else, they’ll shrug and think it’s a Mazda version of the Toyota Matrix.

    $10,900 and the deal was done for what was basically a new car (14k miles). I had so many adventures in that car. The most important was meeting my ex-wife in college and taking her on our first date in it. I can’t shake that feeling of being in a car that makes me feel great, a beautiful woman next to me smiling with her hair being tossed around by the sunroof’s breeze, and the endless possibilities the future held for us.

    I’ve probably owned about 15 cars since then, many of them significantly better. But there’s something about that P5. Even now, I get a swelling sensation of happiness, loss and hope when I see one.

  • avatar
    acmedrygoods

    I’ve just returned from driving my 2002 P5 (sadly automatic) on some beautiful twisty Northern SF Bay Area roads on a gorgeous day. I bought this in 2008 with 44kmiles on it.

    I concur with all the above. The steering and handling of this car are amazing and it is fun fun fun. The design and interior room/exterior styling The noise and underpowered engine are a constant dissapointment but things I have learned to live with. The burn rate on low beam headlamps, pads, rotors, tires, bearings is ridiculous.

    I’m 50 and have never owned a new car. Yeah I know. I could drive this p5 forever but at this point I’d really like something with one feature this excellent review pointed out the p5 completely lacks – refinement.

    The number one contender is the Subaru Crosstrek VX (I do soft road to get to MTB trailheads etc). I dream of a bmw x1 which I could afford if I could justify it but I can’t.

    I be grateful to hear the collective wisdom on a replacement for my p5. Again…I could drive it forever into the ground but I’m ready to move up.

    Any input much appreciated.

    • 0 avatar
      replica

      The lack of “refinement” is the charm of the P5. A good replacement, with more refinement, would be a Mazda3 hatch. It’s quieter, faster, softer and so on.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    I can’t say Mazda’s seem that exceptional. I like them better then the Japanese rental competition. But with automatics they weren’t terrifically quick – that’s for sure. No doubt the manual helps alot to make them more enjoyable.

    But still Volkswagen offer similiar dynamics (even better steering sometimes I think) and a similiar lack of power if that’s your thing. I have to say I don’t buy a slow car fast is more fun then a fast car slow (outside of extreme cases like a Ferrari.).

    What helps a car feel fun is a good weight balance and good drive train layout and low overall weight. Sure Miata’s are fun but so are BMW 1 series. Power doesn’t kill a cars fun..That’s just silly.

  • avatar
    katapaltes

    Here’s my advice on some of the issues mentioned here and elsewhere about the P5.

    Headlight Bulbs: Two words: Dielectric grease. Put it all over the bulb prongs and in the sockets for both the bulb and its (black) adapter; it won’t short anything out. It will make the bulbs last longer and aid in their removal when they do die, and perhaps also keep the endpoint of the (white) wiring harness from turning black from heat. I went through a set of bulbs a year until I started applying the grease. NB: In 2002, the MP5’s headlights were called out by Consumer Reports as being the best on any car that year in terms of distance and drop-off.
    Brakes: Get a manual and downshift properly. I replaced my factory brakes and trued the rotors at 86k miles. Funny thing is, just 10k miles later, the dealer is saying that my pads are halfway used up on the back wheels. They must have put some crappy pads on there.
    Tires: Kumho. Period. They’re cheap, they fit, and they stick.
    Lack of Power: Get a manual and/or exploit the power the car does have. Power has never been a problem for me in town or on the highway, and I have fun while driving. This is a balanced car and not meant to be a top fuel dragster.
    Noise: Ugh. The car is loud on the highway. If you have a sunroof and a roof rack, you can remove the crossbars on the roof rack and fill the gaps with the spacers provided with the car when new. Completely deleting the rails that run the length of the roof would be a PitA, as mentioned by 69firebird.
    Motor mounts: I hear they die, but mine never have. I do not brake suddenly, nor do jack-rabbit starts. I just drive the car spiritedly while it’s moving and take my foot off the gas well in advance when I know I’ll have to stop at a light, etc.
    Rust: Texas. Live in Texas. However, that has other challenges (see below).
    Vandalism: Don’t live in Texas if you have lefty bumper stickers. My car has been egged, smeared with lip gloss, and had all three wiper ARMS ripped off at a cost of $400 damage. A student caught jacking with my bumper stickers was sent to the campus’ judicial department. His defense: His family was friends with the Bush’s.
    Stupidity, mine and others: Never leave anything in sight inside any vehicle, even if it has no value. A homeless person busted into my car to steal a workout bag filled with sweaty clothing causing $500 damage. An oil change place left my filler cap off and I discovered it two months later. The entire engine was covered with a fine mist of oil and the insulation under the hood had to be replaced at their cost, but the dipstick indicated that the oil never dropped below full. Another oil change place broke my dipstick and cracked the air intake hose all within one visit, then tried to cover it up by taping the dipstick handle together.
    Air Conditioning: It does the job, but just barely. Get window tint from a reputable dealer. Do not get darker tint on back passenger windows, because that’s just ghetto. :) Do get darker tint on the back hatch window, however, to cut down on headlight glare.
    Clouded headlights: If you can, garage it day and night and this won’t happen. Mine are crystal clear. Garaging a car will literally add years to its life.
    Mileage: Try hypermiling in city driving if you have a manual.

    What I, MK, redav, and replica understand – and what CelticPete clearly does not – is that Mazdas actually ARE viewed as exceptional by their owners. The satirical newspaper The Onion seems to understand this (Google “Man With Strong Brand Loyalty Willing To Kill For Mazda – The Onion”).

    When I bought my P5 in 2002, there were few hatchbacks available. I test drove a P5 without knowing they even existed. It made me smile and I bought it one week later after reading about how reliable they were. The first thing broke on my P5 two months ago after over ten years of ownership was a door lock actuator and I fixed it myself for less than $100. The car has aged very well in terms of looks and design, but it probably doesn’t hurt that it’s black and garaged.

    Reading this article about the P5 is making me feel really uneasy about my plans to trade it in on BRZ/FRS… :( The car has always amazed me for what it offers, and every day it literally makes me feel smart for having bought it.


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