I've owned my 2003 P5 for about 5 years now, and I have to say it's by far the most reliable car I've ever owned. Other than routine maintenance, it has never (and I mean NEVER) broken down, left me s...
I've owned my 2003 P5 for about 5 years now, and I have to say it's by far the most reliable car I've ever owned. Other than routine maintenance, it has never (and I mean NEVER) broken down, left me stranded, or otherwise disappointed.
The Protege 5 has a lot going for it. It's amazingly versatile when you fold down the rear seatbacks. Actually, the rear seats can be removed entirely with no tools and in about 3 minutes. I've been amazed at how much stuff I've been able to load into this car. With the roof rack, I've managed to get home a stunning array of flat-packed furniture from Ikea.
Mine is a 5-speed manual, and I routinely get about 28-29 MPG of mixed city/highway driving. On roadtrips, I've topped out at 32 MPG.
The engine is surprisingly gutsy for a 2.0 liter. It's no torque-monster, but the car is pretty light, so 148 HP goes a long way. I was really surprised the first time I poped open the hood and saw that it comes stock with a front strut tower brace. Nice little gift from Mazda, and much appreciated by driving enthusiasts. I have to say, this car handles incredibly well for a small front-driver. The steering is precise and weighted well, and the car stays flat as a pancake no matter how hard you throw it into a corner.
The stock sound system is pretty impressive too, with its 6 speakers and separate subwoofer.
Of course, no car is perfect, and there are definitely a couple of blemishes on what is otherwise an amazing little car. First and foremost, this car is really loud. I have to assume that to save weight and cost, Mazda dropped a significant amount of the sound-deadening material that otherwise goes into its other models. At highway speeds, the road and engine noise are pretty spectacularly loud.
Secondly, the manual transmission is a little sloppy. The first-to-second shift, in particular, is a loooong throw. Forget any scorching 0-60 runs, because you'll lose half a second or so just making that shift. I've been driving manual transmission cars exclusively for 20 years, and this car has vexed me because I just can't figure out the magic formula to driving it smoothly. Maybe I've just been spoiled by the slick transmissions in my Hondas/Acuras.
That's really it when it comes to negatives. Overall, I've been very happy with my decision to buy this car. It had 29k miles on it when I bought it used in 2006, and it's now at 118k. In that time period, I've only had to change wear & tear items like tires, brakes, spark plugs, air filters, and a timing belt (proactively, not because it broke). The one and only time in 5 years that the check engine light came on was due to a small crack in an air intake pipe, which was a $50 fix.
In summary, if you're looking for a great value in a small, versatile, reliable package, look no further.