The Mazda Tribute is a compact sport utility vehicle with a good choice of powertrains, trim levels, and features that recommend it to a wide audience. It is mechanically and structurally identical to the superb Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner, but is differentiated by its features and its appeal. The Tribute is generally sportier than the Escape. Overall, it offers an excellent value among compact SUVs.
The Tribute has four doors and will seat five passengers in good comfort. The engine choices are a thrifty and responsive four-cylinder available with a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, a strong V6 that comes with an automatic, and a hybrid that teams an electric motor and battery pack with a four-cylinder engine to deliver impressive fuel economy, particularly in city driving.
Tribute is available with front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, the latter designed primarily for bad weather and slippery surfaces rather than off-road use.
Fuel economy is one of the Tribute's strong points, with an EPA rating of 22 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway for the four-cylinder engine and manual transmission. Even the strong V6 with four-wheel drive delivers reasonable fuel economy, 18 mpg City, 23 mpg Highway, which is more than just decent, considering the Tribute so equipped is also capable of towing 3,500 pounds. And the hybrid is rated at 34 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway, which should appeal to those who do a fair amount of driving in and around town.
The four-cylinder dohc engine is 2.5 liters and is rated at 171 horsepower, and is available with either the five-speed manual or six-speed automatic, but four-wheel drive is available with the four-cylinder only when it has the automatic. The 3.0-liter dohc V6 is quite strong and is rated at 240 horsepower and 233 lb-ft of torque; it is available only with the automatic. The Hybrid has a version of the four-cylinder engine that is rated at 153 horsepower, but the combined output of the engine and the electric motor can be as much as 177 horsepower.
Inside is a comfortable cabin and generous cargo space.
Underway, we found the Tribute offers a good blend of a comfortable ride and responsive handling, with a well-tuned fully independent suspension.
Safety equipment includes two-stage frontal airbags, side airbags in front, side-curtain head-protection airbags for front and rear outboard passengers, Dynamic Stability Control (which helps maintain control on slippery surfaces), Traction Control, Roll Stability Control, anti-lock brakes, and tire-pressure monitoring.
For 2010, Mazda Tribute has few changes. The trim level choices are somewhat streamlined, the V6 engine is Flex-Fuel compatible (meaning it will run on E85), and there are some new color choices. There are also some additional features that have been added to various trim levels.