A compact SUV, the Mazda Tribute is famed for its carlike ride, sporty handling and impressive V6 performance that made it a great value for its price. Introduced in 2001, the Tribute has undergone very few changes over the year until 2008 when the model underwent a significant refresh. Mazda marketed the Tribute as the 'Miata of SUVS'. Able to haul up to five passengers, the Tribute featured the most powerful V6 engine in its class.
Until 2005 the Tribute was available in DX, DX V6, LX V6 and ES V6 trim levels and then the ‘i' and ‘s' trims replaced them. The trim levels represented which engine was aboard. In California only a hybrid version of the Mazda Tribute is offered.
For 2008 the Tribute received a minor exterior face-lift, an updated suspension and the introduction of a more powerful 153-hp 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. The base engine before had been a 2.0-liter inline-4 that offered an unimpressive 130 hp. The V6 engine has continued to remain a 3.0-liter unit that produced 200 hp.
The Tribute is both comfortable and roomy, and showcased a very stylish and appealing exterior. The 2009 Tribute ranks 26 out of 27 Affordable Compact SUV's and received a larger four-cylinder engine and revised V6 along with a new six-speed automatic transmission for this year. Also for this year, the Tribute featured an improved stronger fuel economy. As gas prices were climbing up to record highs in 2008, the Tribute featured a very impressive 22/28 mp rating that placed it near the top of its class.
Critics have claimed though that the Tribute visibly favors the Escape both inside an outside a bit too much and new competition is leaving the Tribute in the dust. The current Tribute is nearly identical mechanically to the previous-generation model, though it did feature an updated interior with better materials. The switchgear and design of the Tribute is more consistent with Ford products than Mazda ones.
On all trims levels, all-wheel drive is optional and the available engines are a 2.3-liter 153-horsepower four-cylinder and a 3.0liter 20-hp V6 which was joined to a four-speed automatic transmission. The only exception to this is the ‘I' Sport 2WD which is joined to a five-speed manual. A hybrid model named the Tribute HEV is now available, and is basically the twin of the Ford Escape Hybrid and has estimated fuel economy in the high 20's. The Tribute received a new electric power steering system that delivered great road feel and response. The SUV featured smooth ride quality and capable handling.By Jessica Donaldson