2008 Mazda Tribute GT
2008 Mazda Tribute GT. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Michael Clark

Photo Gallery:
2008 Mazda Tribute GT

Innovation appears to be in full swing in the Mazda camp, especially when you start denting your penny loafers on the radial cords of the CX-7 and the beefier CX-9 crossovers. But when it comes to Mazda truckdom, I want to remove one of those penny loafers to perform my 1959 Khrushchev impression. There have been good times in the past with the Mazda/FoMoCo truck swaps, such as the Courier, as long as you didn’t add salt. The last of the true B-Series Mazda trucks have been gone since the early Nineties, replaced with rebadged Ford Rangers – my favourite import wrench sums up those B’s as ‘bombproof’. As the years have passed, the Ford spackle used to patch the holes in the Mazda truck/’ute program has been little more than cladding ridges and an oversized belt buckle emblem.

Such is the case with the 2008 Mazda Tribute GT, which tips the scales this week at an MSRP of $32,150. It is simply a Ford Escape, with the absolute minimum requirement of Mazda-branding DNA. However, the Flying Fickle Finger of Interior Debate cares little for the whims of the segment marketeers. Whatever it is, it simply has to work inside.

2008 Mazda Tribute GT
2008 Mazda Tribute GT
2008 Mazda Tribute GT
2008 Mazda Tribute GT
2008 Mazda Tribute GT. Click image to enlarge


Cabin

Controls: The four-spoker steering wheel gets manual tilt angle, with an overall column placement that dismisses concerns for a telescopic function. The FoMoCo steering wheel-mounted cruise control tabs are large and easy to punch. Delay wiper control and rear wiper swish is found on the turn signal stalk. Auto headlamps are a GT trim exclusive. The four-speed slushbox gets a shifter-mounted overdrive cancel switch.

Break-away exterior mirrors are both power and heated, with the control switch found high and sensible on the inner ‘A’ pillar. Is there such a thing as knob overload? There are more controls than could be possibly imagined for the six-CD changer audio system, with the LCD eye-level display seeming small and distant from the driver. The HVAC controls are similar in appearance, with the exception that the look works.

The traction control cancel switch is found at the lower base of the IP stack. The parking brake is foot-operated, without being a pantaloon snagger. Power window lifts receive an Auto descent for the driver only. The gauge pod is minimalistic, with coolant temperature as the only non-idiot light indicator. Of particular note is the lack of a dash-mount display to indicate that the cruise control is engaged in the ‘On’ position. In keeping with the ‘Zoom-Zoom’, the gauge pod gets red backlighting.

2008 Mazda Tribute GT
2008 Mazda Tribute GT
2008 Mazda Tribute GT. Click image to enlarge

Convenience: Let the cubbies commence! There’s ample room for the what-have-you in the ‘Bute, though most of it is in need of some rethink. Front and rear doors get storage slots, with no water bottle accommodations. The front row cupholders have removable rubber inserts for cleaning ease, which you’ll be doing a lot of, thanks to no cinchers. The rear cupholders are mounted at the top level of the rear of the console, with good grab access, no cinchers, and no insert. Front seatbacks receive dual storage pockets. Below the HVAC dials are the front 12-volt powerpoint and the adjacent MP3 player jack.

The rear seat is serviced by a 12-volt powerpoint on the console rear, with a pocket destined for skinny cell phones. The front overhead console has one of the tiniest sunglass holders to date, not worth putting the crush on my Maui Jim’s. The glovebox lives up to its name; one glove. That little cavity must be designed to send your eyes to the centre console configurable cavern.

There are two removable inserts; one sock drawer, one tiny cubby. Each insert can be placed into slotted grooves on the side of the console tunnel, or at the rear of the console. The theory is that road warriors will jam their laptops into the unlined cavity, with no inner powerpoint. Another concern is that the creation of the mondo cavity removes a security panel at the front of the console, which could allow a prying eye to peek. Add to this exercise the display of the cavities in their outer grooves, and you can practically hear the sound of safety glass raining down.

The console system has provisions for spare change, as well as CD organization, with only the larger cubby having a removable flock-lined floorbed. Beneath the HVAC controls is a removable rubber tray. The only coat hook is found in the cargo bay area. Driver and passenger get unlit vanity reflections.

2008 Mazda Tribute GT
2008 Mazda Tribute GT
2008 Mazda Tribute GT. Click image to enlarge

Fit and Finish: It’s the Piano Black, Jack, which adds a smidge of class to a sea of well-fitting hard plastics. Gaps are minor, with panels securely attached. I could do without the mouse fur headliner fuzz.

Safety: The Trib gets dual frontal airbags, front seat side airbags, and side curtain airbags for front and rear seating positions. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety pegs the Tribute at a frontal crash mark of ‘Acceptable’, with the top rating of ‘Good’ occuring in side impact tests. Seat/head restraint geometry is rated as ‘Good’ overall.

Seats: Yipe! I feel a Yosemite Sam-style description of my scorched backside coming on, especially with the blistering front heated leather seats. There is only one heat setting, best described as ‘Painful’. The leather hides are of exceptional grain for this segment. I would prefer shingle-style rear headrests for maximized visibility.

2008 Mazda Tribute GT
2008 Mazda Tribute GT
2008 Mazda Tribute GT
2008 Mazda Tribute GT. Click image to enlarge

Driver’s seat gets a six-way power servo, with recline remaining lever-flipped. The driver’s lumbar is a manual dial control, found on the inner seatback bolster.


Spare/Trunk/Cargo

A flat cargo floor can be achieved by flipping the bottom rear seat cushions forward, and sandwiching in the rear seatbacks. There is a retractable cargo cover, spring loaded for easy removal. The cargo tether points are disappointing; nylon straps that fit through gashes in the rear cargo carpet. The cargo area carpet has a thick rubber backing, though it doesn’t appear to be robust enough for a reversibility nod.

Like the Escape, the Tribute gets the swing-up tailgate, with a glass gate that can be used independently. Release on the glass portion appears to be a fob function only. The jack is floor stowed, with the space-saving spare lowered to the ground via cable. Mazda will change it for you, for the first 36 months, with no mileage limit.


Engine

The 200-horsepower 3.0 litre V6 is a tight fit, though none of the fluid levels have any fill issues. Headlamp bulb replacement can actually occur in your driveway. My concern for the long haul is the cost that will be associated with component replacement, especially with the tight fit of the 3.0 litre.


Clarkey Rating

The changes to the Escape/Tribute platform have been minor, but what concerns this scribe the most is the lack of vision within. There are some fantastic concepts afoot, such as the Road Warrior Console. The good news is that the fixes needed are minor. 3.5 stars.

Next week: Saab 9-3 Combi

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