Sporty Protegé hatchback blends utility with performance
The 2002 Mazda Protegé5 is the first of a new group of sporty hatchbacks coming onto the market over the next couple of years that will include the Hyundai Elantra GT, Ford Focus ZX5, Pontiac Vibe, Honda Civic SiR, and Toyota Matrix. These well-equipped hatchbacks are aimed at younger buyers who want a sporty compact car that also has room for their friends and their stuff.
Unlike previous hatchbacks, though, these new hatchbacks are not entry-level models. The Protegé5 for example, starts at $19,895, and that doesn’t include air conditioning, moonroof or automatic transmission. Still, automakers believe these sporty hatchbacks will provide an alternative to other youth-oriented cars like sporty coupes which are already in the $20,000 + price range but lack the practicality of a hatchback.
Key to the Protegé5’s youthful appeal is its sporty styling and bright exterior colours. Performance-oriented bodywork includes a large, front wraparound air dam with two large fog lamps, side skirts, rear roof spoiler, and a rear skirt with an opening for a single, chrome-tipped exhaust pipe. The extra bodywork makes the car look lower than it actually is, adding to its sportiness.
In addition, the Protegé5 has standard low-profile 50-series Dunlop tires and alloy wheels, unique taillamps, and a sporty interior with metallic and carbon fibre-like trim.
Protegé5’s are available in five exterior colours: Sunburst Yellow, Classic Red, Midnight Blue, Black Mica, and Sunlight Silver Metallic.
My test car was painted in bright Sunburst Yellow which, I have to admit, looked very attractive, and is very easy to find in a parking lot. But if I actually had to live with one for a few years, I think I’d go for the silver metallic.
Inside, the Protegé5’s driver’s seating position offers a clear view of the gauges and controls, and outward visibility is very good. In particular, the rear side window offers a clear view when changing lanes and the rear window’s lower edge is low enough to allow easy backing and parking.
Equipped with the same 130 horsepower 2.0 litre DOHC 16 valve four cylinder engine as the Protegé ES sedan, the Protegé5 offers similar performance – 0 to 100 km/h in about 10.5 seconds and the quarter mile in 17.5 seconds – however, the Protegé5 weighs about 37 kg (81 lb.) more than a Protegé ES sedan, so straight-line performance is a little slower.
The engine growls during acceleration, but settles down to a mild buzz at freeway speeds. I registered 2,900 rpm on the tachometer at a steady 100 km/h and 3500 rpm at 120 km/h in fifth gear.
Fuel consumption is 9.6 l/100 km (29 mpg) in the city and 7.3 l/100 km (39 mpg) on the highway, or about the same as the Protegé ES sedan. The 2.0 litre engine uses Regular fuel rather than the more expensive Premium grade.
My test car had the standard five-speed manual transmission which was easy to reach and offered minimal shifting effort. Clutch pedal effort was also light. A large ‘dead’ pedal to the left of the clutch pedal allowed me to rest my foot when not changing gears.
Handling is very good – like the Protegé sedan, the Protegé5 has a fully independent suspension that provides nimble though firm handling characteristics. In front, the suspension is a strut-type with coil springs, stabilizer bar and a strut tower brace – at the rear are struts with twin trapezoidal links, coil springs and stabilizer bar. I found cornering to be flat and balanced, but as with the Protegé ES GT sedan that I tested last month, the Protegé5 tends to bob up and down at highway speeds – I think it needs slightly less sensitive shocks to improve the ride. The standard Dunlop Super Sport P195/50 VR-16 inch all-season radials offered excellent grip in the dry, though I didn’t have a chance to test them in the wet.
It’s worth noting that though the Protegé5 weighs more than the sedan and has a higher rear body structure, it doesn’t feel any bulkier or less nimble than the sedan. In addition, the Protegé5’s body and drivetrain feel very tight – there’s no looseness or jerkiness when you hit the accelerator – the Protegé5 feels like a very well built car.
I found the Protegé5’s variable-assist power steering quick and responsive and its tight 10.4 metre (34 feet) turning circle useful when making turns. The standard four wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD (electronic brake differential) offered more than adequate braking power for this comparatively lightweight 1231 kg (2714 lb.) car.
Interior has roomy cargo area
The Protegé5 has almost exactly the same amount of interior legroom, headroom and hiproom as the Protegé sedan, but it offers 53% more cargo room behind the rear seats: 19.8 cu. ft. vs 12.9 cubic feet (in the Protegé’s trunk). The Protegé5’s extra cargo space is due mainly to its extra height – the Protegé5 is actually 119 mm (4.6 in.) shorter in length than the sedan.
Fold down both of the Protegé5’s split folding rear seats, and the cargo area expands to 24.4 cu. ft. The design of the folding rear seats allows an almost flat loading surface: first, the seat cushion flips up against the front seatbacks, then the rear seatbacks fold down flat, almost flush with the floor. The rear head restraints have to be removed first, and they can be stored in the cargo area or under the front seats. With the rear seatbacks folded down, the cargo area measures 147 cm (58″) long X 95 cm (37 1/2″) wide X 81 cm (32″) tall.
To help secure cargo, there are two cargo hooks on the backs of the rear seats, and two hooks with straps on the cargo floor. The cargo area includes a privacy cover which lifts out of the way when the rear hatchback is raised.
The rear hatch door can be unlocked with a key or with the keyless remote – one push on the remote unlock button unlocks the driver’s door, and two pushes unlocks the passenger doors and the hatchback. There is a door handle above the license plate to grip the hatchback and the hatch is quite light and lifts easily. An average-sized adult can stand underneath the hatch.
The rear hatch door includes an intermittent wiper (a necessity for clearing snow, slush, and condensation in the winter), and an electric rear defogger. However, there isn’t a washer nozzle.
Like the Protegé ES with the optional GT package, the Protegé5 has an attractive, sporty interior. Behind the thick-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel are three round, white-faced gauges: fuel and coolant gauges on the left, speedometer in the middle, and tachometer on the right. Metallic-look trim on the instrument panel, gearshift gate, armrest and door handles and ‘carbon-fibre’ trim on either side of the centre control panel add to the Protegé5’s contemporary, sporty appearance. The dash, doors and steering wheel also have sections with a dimpled finish that adds a look of quality.
The seats have a soft, cloth material with patterned inserts, and the front seats offer good side and thigh bolstering. The driver’s seat features seat-cushion height adjustment for the front and rear of the seat cushion. Interior legroom and headroom for both front and rear passengers is generous for a compact car, but the rear seat is better suited to two adults rather than three.
The centre console includes an AM/FM stereo with a single CD player and four speakers – a 6-disc in-dash CD changer is available as an option. Below the stereo is the heater with three large round dials which are easy to operate. One complaint though, the fan is noisy in speeds 2, 3 and 4.
Behind the shift lever is a storage bin, but it’s small and too far back to be used as an armrest. There is an open storage tray on the lower left dash near the door, and a small coin holder. Two cupholders, hidden under a folding cover, are located just ahead of the gear lever, but rear passengers do not have cupholders. There are small map pockets in the rear doors, but not pockets on the back of the front seats.
Other noteworthy Protegé5 features include power windows with a one-touch automatic driver’s window and cruise control buttons on the steering wheel hub. My test car had the optional tilt/slide glass moonroof with sunshade.
Pricing and features
For a manufacturers suggested retail price of $19,895, the Protegé5 includes the 130 horsepower 2.0 litre four cylinder engine, a five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD, variable power-assist steering, 195/50VR-16 inch radials and a temporary spare tire, alloy wheels, front and rear spoilers, side skirts, and rear skirt; front fog lamps, and single chrome-tipped exhaust.
Standard interior features include sport cloth bucket seats with driver’s seat height adjustment, white-faced gauges including a tachometer, AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers and clock, power windows with driver’s auto-down feature, tilt steering column, cruise control, central locking for the front doors, keyless entry, power mirrors, dual front cupholders, fixed intermittent wipers and rear intermittent wiper, rear defroster, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, and rear cargo cover.
Standard safety features are driver and front passenger de-powered airbags, five three-point seatbelts with driver and front passenger seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters and adjustable front seatbelt anchors, height-adjustable front and rear head restraints, child-proof rear door locks, and integrated child seat anchor brackets.
Available options on the Protegé5 include an automatic transmission ($1,000), air conditioning ($1,000), power moonroof ($600), 6-disc CD changer ($699.99), roof rack ($296.06), and block heater ($41.16).
|2002 Mazda Protegé5|
|Type||4-door, 5 passenger compact hatchback|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||2.0 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves|
|Horsepower||130 @ 6000 rpm|
|Torque||135 @ 4000 rpm|
|Transmission||5 speed manual (4-speed automatic)|
|Curb weight||1231 kg (2714 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2610 mm (102.8 in.)|
|Length||4331 mm (170.5 in.)|
|Width||1705 mm (67.1 in.)|
|Height||1420 mm (55.9 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||561 litres (19.8 cu. ft.) (rear seats up)|
|691 litres (24.4 cu. ft.) (rear seats down)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 9.6 l/100 km (29 mpg)|
|Hwy: 7.3 l/100 km (39 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/80,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|