Overview & Reviews
The Mazda Tribute was a compact SUV known for its practical packaging, agile handling, surprising V6 performance and solid value. As a crossover SUV, it was more of a truck masquerading as a car than vice-versa in people packaging, although it also combined all-weather driving utility with a friendly, easy-to-drive character. Introduced for 2001, Mazda marketed the Tribute as the Miata of SUVs, and we found the claim not far off the mark. As with its mechanical twin the Ford Escape, the Tribute featured the most powerful V6 engine in its class and could haul up to five passengers and their gear in a practical, space-efficient cabin.
While our editors found the Mazda Tribute to be one of the best small SUVs on the market when it was introduced, age and plenty of newer competitors dropped its standing considerably. After a one-year hiatus, the Tribute returned with new styling and a snazzier interior. However, its underpinnings remained virtually unchanged, leaving the Tribute still behind other compact SUVs, including the carlike Mazda CX-7. Much like the Ford Escape that it closely resembles, the Mazda Tribute began life as a smaller sort of Ford Explorer only to be supplanted by a more carlike breed of crossover.
After 2011, Mazda discontinued the Tribute and effectively replaced it with the more modern and efficient CX-5.
Most Recent Mazda Tribute
Built from 2008 through 2011, the second-generation Mazda Tribute was offered as the four-cylinder "i" and six-cylinder "s" models, which were each available in three trims: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. All-wheel drive was optional on all trims.
Although nearly identical mechanically to the previous-generation model, this Tribute received significant changes to its styling and interior. The latter in particular was greatly improved, with much better materials. Its design and switchgear were consistent with Ford products, however. Initially, this revised Tribute came with the same engine choices as before, which were the 153-horsepower 2.3-liter four-cylinder and 200-hp 3.0-liter V6, with both running through a four-speed automatic transmission.
The following year brought big improvements in the powertrain department, with a choice of either a 171-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder or a 240-hp 3.0-liter V6, both coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission (except in the i Sport 2WD, which had a five-speed manual). In addition to the standard models, a hybrid model dubbed the Tribute HEV was also available and, as expected, proved to be a virtual twin of the Ford Escape Hybrid. The HEV earned a combined fuel economy estimate as high as 32 mpg.
Handling was respectable, with the Tribute cornering with a controlled amount of body roll and proving composed in quick transitions. The ride was relatively smooth as well, making this SUV a suitable choice for commuting or hauling the family around. However, its trucklike, utility-style packaging didn't match up against a generation of new carlike competitors with more luxurious interior treatments, higher refinement and superior driving dynamics. As such, although a used Tribute would still be a good choice, we'd encourage consumers to consider its rivals as well.
Past Mazda Tribute Models
The Mazda Tribute was originally introduced in 2001, and there were relatively minor changes made over the next few years until the significant 2008 refresh. The Tribute was offered in DX, DX V6, LX V6 and ES V6 trim levels until 2005, when the i and s trims replaced them. These designations represented the engine choice. The 2005 model change also saw a minor exterior face-lift, a revised suspension and the debut of the more powerful 153-hp 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. Previously, the base engine was a 2.0-liter inline-4 that made a paltry 130 hp. The bigger engine was always the 200-hp 3.0-liter V6.
Functional and space-efficient on the inside, practical and tough on the outside and generally fun to drive wherever life took it, the Mazda Tribute was always one of our favorite compact SUVs when it came to utility. If you're looking at this Tribute, we'd recommend a V6-powered version (particularly for pre-2005 vehicles), despite its thirst for fuel, as the four-cylinder is a pretty anemic performer. It should also be noted that the interior isn't nearly as nice as that of the second-generation model.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 943.00
recommend - 2004 Mazda Tribute
By bbbig - December 29 - 2:00 am
fun to drive. great handle and sharp turning.
alex - 2004 Mazda Tribute
By jakeman - December 29 - 2:00 am
Car seems well built and fun to drive
Mazda tribute - 2004 Mazda Tribute
By konajcc - December 29 - 2:00 am
as with previous Mazda's, an excellent auto
zoomzoom - 2004 Mazda Tribute
By Fidge - December 29 - 2:00 am
great fun to drive. easy to make more cargo room. love the sound system.
zoom-zoom = fun - 2003 Mazda Tribute
By trwitte - December 22 - 10:00 am
We bought this vehicle after much research on Edmunds & other sites. Originally purchased to transport our large Rhodesian Ridgeback. However, WE LOVE OUR TRIBUTE! It's fun to drive, turns corners without feeling top- heavy. Test-drove Escape, Honda, Nissan and chose the Mazda Tribute and have not been sorry.
Still Love it - 2006 Mazda Tribute
By likeitquiet - December 14 - 10:06 am
I've had it for a year and love it as much now as on day one. It's made several long road trips around the country at this point, so mileage is quickly increasing but condition, reliability and handling are still superb. This little gem is highly recommended as a keeper - so grateful to Edmunds for aiding in the extensive research process before purchase - not a single regret.
Fun - 2003 Mazda Tribute
By Lee in Canada - December 9 - 2:00 am
We needed a replacement for our minivan. This had the good visibility and enough power to pull a tent trailer. We're thinking about the MPV but it's interior was boring. Miss the room of a minivan.
First SUV - 2009 Mazda Tribute
By Zoner - December 7 - 5:43 am
Test drove 5 other brands and liked the Tribute right away.The contrasting interior color was a plus and the "classy" touch is nice.It handles great and feels positive.I drove a 04' Duramax for 5 yrs. so this feels much better but similar.If you want a softer ride then buy something else.SUV says it all. The performance is outstanding with the new v6 and the fuel mileage is great.I tow a pop-up camper and a small 14' aluminum boat with it and with the 3500 lb rating it's perfect and tows great. I read the early year reviews but this engine and tranny should upgrade them considerably.Overall I'm very happy with it.
A great small suv - 2004 Mazda Tribute
By ddobie - November 28 - 10:00 am
I know the Tribute is classed as a compact,but it feels bigger and more secure than other compacts.
08 Tribute i Touring - 2008 Mazda Tribute
By David - November 27 - 11:10 pm
The wife and I have been doing research on small SUVs and we purchased a great one! The Tribute has a ton of standard features and Mazda did a great job with instilling the "sport" into driving, even in this SUV. We weren't expecting it to go fast since we opted for the 4 cyl but so far we are impressed. It doesn't have a problem passing, merging, etc. Also the interior quality is 10+. It feels like the knobs to turn the vents are wrapped in leather. And the glossy black dash isn't cheap, it's sturdy polished ABS. Love the car! If you are comparing it to other manufacturers this one has a ton of standard features for less cost than the others.