KBB Logo Expert Review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.

You'll Like The 2008 Mazda Tribute If...

Drivers who prefer car-like ride and handling qualities but want a vehicle with bolder, truck-like visual traits could well find the Tribute more appealing than competitors like the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue or Saturn Vue.

You May Not Like The 2008 Mazda Tribute If...

Riding on the same platform on which it was introduced for the 2001 model year, the Mazda Tribute doesn't match the levels of overall refinement offered by so many of its fresher competitors.

What's New

While far short of a full generational makeover, Mazda gave the 2008 Tribute a comprehensive visual revamping that left it with a more contemporary flavor. Effectively complementing the new look are significant feature upgrades, handling refinements and class-leading safety systems, plus a low-volume, California-only Hybrid variant.

Interior Features

The Tribute's revamped cabin is now even quieter and pairs contrasting light and dark interior trim panels on all models. Gauges are legible, stow-space generous and key controls well-placed and logically arrayed, but bright sun conditions tend to create annoying reflections on the glossy Piano Black accent bits and frequently overpower the already marginal clock-and-radio digital display readout. Adults can fit comfortably in both front and rear quarters, while the Tribute's 60/40-split rear bench seat easily folds and tumbles to create a flat floor that expands its cargo bay from 29.2 to 66.3 cubic feet.

Exterior Features

The new Tribute puts classic SUV sheetmetal cues into a contemporary context that effectively mixes rugged with refined. Squared-off primary lines resolve into nicely rounded edges while a prominent glass area gives the cabin an open, airy feel. The Tribute's large, pentagonal grille imparts a distinctive Mazda flavor to the front fascia and its crisp shoulder ridge is effectively reinforced by large fender flares that house not-so-large 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped with P235/70R16 all-season tires. At the rear, a one-piece hatch with a bumper-level cutout simplifies loading and incorporates a pop-up glass element that permits carrying longer items, from ladders to surfboards.

Driving Impressions

Like many of its compact peers, the Tribute is easy to drive and easy to live with on a daily basis. While the suspension never feels overly soft or "floaty," spirited cornering does elicit noticeable, but not unexpected or extreme, body lean. However, the standard Roll Stability Control system does an exemplary job of maintaining confidence, even on twisty roads. Those who place a premium on fuel economy may find the four-cylinder engine sufficiently energetic, but it gets a bit stressed when matched with the heavier all-wheel drive system. Anyone who plans major towing or toting on a regular basis in any Tribute would be better served by the more powerful V6. Those desiring an extra measure of traction should definitely consider the optional Active Torque Control Coupling (ATTC) all-wheel drive. This slick computer-commanded system can transfer up to 50 percent of the available power to the rear wheels almost instantly, as well as shift it left-to-right to optimize overall traction.

Pricing Notes

With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price for all but the Hybrid in the $20,000-$27,000 range, the Tribute sits squarely in the middle of the affordable, compact crossover utility vehicle segment. Interestingly, it can command several hundred dollars more than a comparably-equipped Ford Escape. The Fair Purchase Price indicates that the new Tribute will retain slightly less of its original selling price over time than many of its higher-volume Japanese competitors, the most notable being the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 - as well as the aforementioned Ford Escape.

Notable Equipment

Even the entry-level Tribute Sport models offer an excellent set of features, including numerous power assists, keyless remote entry, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD sound, cruise control (with automatic transmission) and alloy wheels.

The Touring trim level adds a power driver's seat, privacy glass and roof rack, while the primo Grand Touring variant includes leather upholstery, power moonroof and a premium audio with a six-disc CD changer. All Tributes have anti-lock disc/drum brakes and traction/stability control plus a sophisticated Roll Stability Control system (except the Hybrid). There are now six airbags, with the dual front units now supplemented by front-side and side-curtain bags.

Notable Options

Save for engine/drivetrain choice and the specific feature enhancements that constitute each of the three trim levels, Tribute options are relatively few. Tribute Sport buyers can opt for roof rails that are standard on the Touring and Grand Touring, while all offer a trailer hitch, side steps and a rear spoiler. The Tribute Hybrid Grand Touring also offers an optional DVD-based navigation system.

Favorite Features

Superb central storage

In addition to its lesser storage areas, the Tribute has a huge center console bin that can hold a standard-size laptop computer and lots of smaller accessory items.

Roll Stability Control

This outstanding safety standard helps prevent a potential rollover from occurring by automatically using selective applications of the throttle and anti-lock brakes.

Under the Hood

Gasoline-powered Tributes are fitted with either a Mazda-designed 2.3-liter 153-horsepower four-cylinder engine or a 3.0-liter 200-horsepower Ford Duratec V6. Only the front-drive, four-cylinder base Tribute Sport in the "i" trim level offers the choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. All others come standard with the automatic. Tributes with the four-cylinder engine have a 1,500-pound maximum towing capacity, while Tributes with the V6 can pull a 3,500-pound trailer. Official EPA numbers give the four-cylinder engine a consistent two-miles-per gallon edge over its V6 counterpart in all configurations. The California-only Tribute Hybrid uses Toyota-sourced technology and pairs a 2.3-liter, 133-horsepower in-line four-cylinder engine with a 94-horsepower electric motor and a four-speed automatic. It has a clear advantage in overall fuel economy, but is rated for trailers of no more than 1,000 pounds.

2.3-liter In-line 4

153 horsepower @ 5800 rpm

152 lb-ft of torque @ 4250 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy 22/28 (FWD, manual), 20/26 (FWD, automatic), 19/24 (AWD automatic)

3.0-liter V6

200 horsepower @ 6000 rpm

193 lb-ft of torque @ 4850 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy 18/24 (FWD, automatic), 17/22 (AWD, automatic)

2.3-liter In-line 4 with 70-kilowatt Permanent Magnetic Synchronous Electric Motor

133 horsepower @6000 rpm/94 horsepower @ 5000 rpm (203 net horsepower)

124 lb-ft of torque @ 4250 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy 34/30 (FWD, automatic), 29/27 (AWD, automatic)

Editors' Notes

Aimed at folks shopping for a crossover utility vehicle, but one with perhaps a flavor of a sport utility vehicle, the Mazda Tribute compact crossover has returned after a one-model-year hiatus, smartly restyled inside and out and bristling with an enhanced roster of standard and optional features. As in the past, the Tribute continues to share its unit-body design, powertrains and fully-independent suspension with its corporate cousins the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner. To help ensure broad appeal, the 2008 Tribute offers seating for five, both four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines, front or all-wheel drive and three different trim levels. The 350 Tribute Hybrids to be made available in California only will be differentiated by an available navigation system, the unavailability of stability control and driving dynamics that are effectively identical to the Escape and Mariner hybrids.

Road Test Video Reviews

2008 Mazda Tribute Owner Reviews

39 Reviews
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Lasts a long time, but it does feel like it is aging quickly now that it has gone in a decline. Otherwise I love this car and it is very reliable.

2008 Mazda Tribute

I love my Mazda Tribute. Most of the issues it has / I have with it are related to old age and use (i.e. needing oil changes more frequently, needing new windshield wipers, transmission checks etc). The hinges on back trunk door appear like they weren't coated or protected well because they completely fell apart into dust when I opened the window one day. The window had to be taped to the door. I think most of the features are intuitive, but as the car is ten years old it is not up to date on technology. This doesn't bother me much, but for someone who wants the latest feature this might be an issue. It has lots of room in the front and passenger seats. The trunk is not huge, but it is decent sized. The passenger seats fold down, but they don't fold down flat so they're at a weird angle that does not give you more room in your car (like you would think).

- Addy V

Wonderful 4 door family car

2008 Mazda Tribute Sport

The Mazda Tribute is a four door vehicle perfect for families with five or less people. Has great four wheel drive with comfortable seating all around. Dislikes about the vehicle is that the AC blows really high or you can barely feel it. I love that the vehicle is fully carpeted and that the seating is cotton and not leather. I have had it for over 10 years so the lining of the top is coming off near the windshield. The steering wheel has its wear and tear. Great feature is that the vehicle does have is putting the whole back seat down for extra room. It has a great big trunk area. This vehicle is perfect for families of all ages.

- Tara M

It does not get good gas mileage.

2008 Mazda Tribute

Overall, my 2008 Mazda tribute is a great car! It does not have many of the modern updates most cars have today; especially from the same year. No power seats or heated seats. My CD player does not work and neither does my cruise control. The gas mileage on the car is far from perfect (I also travel 60+ miles per day for work. ). I love my tribute, but am seriously considering a new vehicle. My previous vehicle was year years older and had more amenities and updates to offer.

- Kaila M

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