Created as a follow-up to the limited-production MP3 model that appeared in 2001, the Mazdaspeed Protegé is an action-packed offshoot of the compact Protegé sedan and is the first model to wear the new Mazdaspeed badge in the United States. In fact, the idea for this car was initiated by enthusiastic Mazda engineers in the United States.
The Mazdaspeed Protegé went on sale in the fourth quarter of 2002, with only 2,000 units produced for the U.S. and Canadian markets. Mazda took the prize for flamboyance when it introduced the Mazdaspeed nameplate during a rousing, youth-oriented presentation at the New York International Auto Show in March 2002
Callaway Cars Inc., which is well known for engine and systems development, has beefed up the Protegés 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an intercooled Garrett T25 turbocharger. A five-speed, close-ratio, short-throw manual gearbox is installed, along with a heavy-duty clutch and limited-slip differential. Sending that power to the pavement are 17-inch Bridgestone Potenza Z-rated unidirectional tires that feature an ultra low profile. Euro-spec, all-disc antilock brakes come with electronic brake-force distribution.
Buyers of these cars are the enthusiasts, the racers, says Mazda spokesman Jay Amestoy. In addition to performance-focused cars, the Mazdaspeed line includes accessories, performance parts and clothing some of which were seen during the preview at the New York auto show. They will be available from select racing parts dealers.
This special Mazdaspeed Protegé exhibits a more aggressive appearance than the regular sedan, but the main differences are technical. The five-spoke 17x7-inch Racing Hart wheels are made of alloy with an aluminum Super Silver finish; they hold P215/45ZR17 tires. Racing Hart is a well-known tuner of Mazda vehicles, and the company also contributed to the chassis refinement, suspension upgrades and the cars high-performance rear muffler.
Specially engineered front MacPherson struts are accompanied by a strut tower brace, higher-rate springs and revalved Tokico dampers. Racing Beat-tuned struts and a large stabilizer bar are equipped at the rear.
The Sparco organization contributed to the sedans interior, which includes such racing-inspired components as drilled aluminum pedals with rubber inserts and an aluminum shift knob. Like the regular Protegé, the Mazdaspeed edition seats five occupants. Silver-faced analog gauges are installed. A leather-wrapped Nardi steering wheel and suedelike seat bolsters round out the distinctive features.
The 450-watt Kenwood stereo system features an in-dash CD/MP3 player and six speakers, and it is prewired for an optional Sirius Satellite Radio. The units face turns around and disappears as a security measure.
Under the Hood
Fitted with an intercooled Garrett turbocharger, the Mazdaspeed Protegés 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine develops 170 horsepower and 160 pounds-feet of torque. Its five-speed-manual transmission features close-ratio gearing and short throws to suit driving enthusiasts.
Antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are standard. The front seat belts include pretensioners with force limiters, and the rear seats come with LATCH child-safety seat anchors.