The cars we loved.
Lately it seems that I’ve been on a Mazda rush. It’s built so many quirky, fun to drive cars over the years and continues to do so. One of my favorites currently is the Mazda 3, a car that evolved from the exciting, but short lived Protege5 “sportwagon”. The Protege was always a capable and dependable small car, if not always the most exciting. In 2001 Mazda sport tuning division Mazdaspeed, introduced a short lived variation called the Mazdaspeed MP3. The MP3, called such due to it’s MP3 playing Kenwood stereo, was a tuned 1.8 L putting out 140 hp with a Racing Heart tuned suspension, 17 in wheels and larger 4 wheel disc breaks. The car was further distinguished from regular Protege’s by it’s aero kit and bright color options.
The one off MP3 was followed by a new model that combined many of the sporting attributes of the limited edition car with the practicality of the station wagon form factor. Enter the Protege 5. Sharing it’s chassis with the regular sedan, the new 5 door wagon had a sporting profile, enhanced by tasteful aerodynamics and 16 inch five star rims. It was offered in bright colors, including yellow.
All 5’s were powered by a 2.0 L DOHC 16 valve 4 cylinder engine with 130 hp. The modest power was put to good use with the available 5 speed manual transmission. The cars light weight and independent suspension contributed to it’s reputation as being a real driver’s car, despite being modestly priced. Inside, it was well equipped with tasteful fabrics and plastic surfaces accented with brush aluminum and carbon fiber accents. Mazda’s popular “Zoom Zoom” campaign kicked off with this car and is still in use as of 2009.
In saving the best for last, a second limited edition Mazdaspeed MP3 was introduced in 03, this time using the station wagon body style of the 5. It’s highly tuned 2.0 L turbo engine made 170 hp and ran on premium gasoline. By this time Mazda seemed to be moving away from the Protege name, as the replacements for the 5 were simply called the “3”. Mazda abandoned the wagon look in it’s new design for the 5 door hatchback. Today, the high performance version is only offered in this configuration.