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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.