In 2003 Mazda is deleting the Millenia sedan and replacing the mid-size 626 with a new Mazda6. Built on a new platform, the Mazda6 comes with a choice of a four-cylinder or V-6 powertrain. The two-seat Miata roadster returns for 2003 in two editions with an optional sport suspension package with a limited-slip differential. The sporty Mazda Protégé5 and the four-door Protégé sedan offer a manual mode for the optional automatic transmission. Mazda’s Tribute sport-utility vehicle is back as a front- or all-wheel-drive vehicle, with side-impact airbags standard on the deluxe ES edition. The MPV minivan has a souped-up engine, as does the B-Series pickup.

The Mazda6, Mazda’s new mid-size sedan, rides atop a new platform with a new double-wishbone suspension in front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear, big disc brakes at all four wheels and an electronically-controlled brake assist system. The 6 offers either a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine good for 160 hp or a 3.0-liter V-6 rated at 218 hp. Both are available with manual or automatic transmission. The spacious cabin, with two front buckets and a rear bench for three with split folding seatback, gets titanium-finish trim on the dash with round dials and chrome accents. The telescopic steering wheel tilts, too. Option packages include a Bose sound system and in-dash CD changer; the SE gets 17-inch alloy wheels and V-rated tires, twin exhaust tips plus clear-lens halogen foglamps and a spoiler.
Preview: 2003 Mazda 6 by Marty Padgett (10/22/2001)

Mazda's roadster comes back for 2003 as the Miata and Miata LS. Both have new 16-inch alloy wheels mounted with 205/45R16 V-rated tires standard. The Miata's engine, a twin-cam 1.8-liter in-line four, makes 142 hp. A strut tower brace has been added to the suspension for more support. Also, the upscale LS gains simulated aluminum trim on the vent bezels, the center panel, the shift plate bezel and the door handles. A new suspension option specifies Bilstein shocks and a Torsen limited-slip differential. The Miata LS adds leather seats in either black or parchment, plus power door locks and a Bose sound system with a six-disc CD changer option, along with a six-speed manual transmission. The base Miata has power steering, windows and mirrors, air conditioning, foglamps, and an audio system with CD player.

Mazda builds the Protégé in three versions: entry DX, plush LX and sporty ES. All rely on a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 122 hp. A new four-speed electronically controlled sport shifter for the Protégé ES enables the driver to switch between fully automatic and clutch-less manual modes. Air conditioning becomes a standalone option for the base DX, and a moonroof and six-disc CD changer come in an optional package for LX and ES. The Protégé's new color chart blooms with the additions of Sand Mica and Garnet Red Mica.

This five-door wagon has a low stance and sport tuning to make it more than an average economy wagon. It feels zippy, thanks to a 2.0-liter in-line four with 130 hp. A manual five-speed gearbox is standard. Mazda builds it in only one version, but options include a moonroof, a six-disc CD changer, plus anti-lock brakes and side-impact airbags. Standard equipment ranges from a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an electronic climate system to a premium audio system with four speakers and a CD player. The optional four-speed automatic sport shifter with manual mode is new for 2003, as is a six-speaker sound system with new tweeters and new silver faces on instrument cluster gauges.

For 2003 the Tribute DX is Mazda’s SUV price leader, though it offers standard features like a four-cylinder engine, a roof rack, a tachometer, a tilt steering wheel, and power windows with one-touch down for driver's window. The Tribute LX adds a V-6 and upgraded cloth seat fabric, while the deluxe ES has leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and power driver seat. The Tribute DX gets power from a twin-cam 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 130 hp. The LX and ES editions move up to a dual-cam 3.0-liter V-6 that produces 200 hp. Optional four-wheel drive eliminates the conventional viscous coupling in favor of a rotary blade coupling senses when front wheels begin to slip and automatically redirect engine torque to all wheels in equal measure.

The nimble MPV has a sporty edge, thanks to its new 3.0-liter V-6 with 200 hp. Up front, two bucket seats are separated by floor to ceiling consoles. The second row seats split and slide laterally to form either a continuous bench for two or two stand-alone chairs. The third-row bench, sized for three but more comfortable for two, folds down and disappears into a flat floor to increase rear cargo space. The MPV LX edition adds power equipment, while the deluxe ES adds on leather upholstery and premium audio equipment. Power sliding rear side doors are now optional for both MPVs, and side-impact airbags and traction control can be had in an LX package.

Three cab configurations make up the B-Series range in 2003. The two-door Regular Cab comes in B2300 and B3000 iterations; the two-door extended CabPlus is classified as a B3000; the CabPlus4 can be either a B3000 or a B4000 model, with twin rear-hinged back doors; and the four-door CabPlus4 is only a B4000, equipped with with four-wheel drive and push-button shifting. The numbers stand for engines; the B2300s have a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine worth 140 hp, the B3000s a 3.0-liter V-6 rated at 150 hp, and the B4000, a 4.0-liter V-6 with 207 hp. On the B2300, the SE-5 package adds 15-inch wheels, air conditioning, a CD stereo and front seatbacks split 60/40. The B4000 CabPlus4 can be ordered with an Off-Road Package with 4WD and 15-inch alloy wheels, bucket seats, a stereo with CD and MP3 players, side steps and tie-down rails. The special edition Dual Sport has the raised suspension of a 4WD truck but is rear-wheel drive. Lapis Blue, Chestnut and Sandstorm are new color options on the trucks.

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