Used Vehicle Review: Mazda Tribute, 2001 2011 used car reviews reviews mazda
2008 Mazda Tribute. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase; photos by Greg Wilson

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2008 Mazda Tribute

The Mazda Tribute was introduced in 2001 as Mazda’s first compact SUV, and the brand’s first SUV, period, in Canada (the Mazda Navajo, an SUV based on the Ford Explorer, preceded the Tribute in the U.S. market). The Tribute was a close cousin to the Ford Escape, with styling touches to set it apart.

Tribute engine choices were the same as the Escape’s: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder (130 hp/135 lb.-ft. torque) and a 3.0-litre V6 (200 hp/200 lb.-ft.). The four-cylinder came exclusively with a five-speed manual transmission, while the V6 used a four-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive was standard, with all-wheel drive being optional in all but the top-line ES, which came standard with four driven wheels.

The Tribute’s first major update came in 2005, when the four-cylinder was upgraded to a 2.3-litre producing 153 hp and 152 lb.-ft. of torque. The extra power meant Mazda was finally comfortable offering the automatic transmission as an option with the smaller engine. Now, however, all-wheel drive could not be ordered with the stickshift. These 2005 models also got a firmer suspension and revised exterior styling. Other upgrades included interior ergonomic improvements, like relocation climate controls and a floor-mounted automatic shifter to replace the previous year’s steering column-mounted lever.

Used Vehicle Review: Mazda Tribute, 2001 2011 used car reviews reviews mazda
2008 Mazda Tribute. Click image to enlarge

In 2005, a base (GX-I4) Tribute got such standard features as anti-lock brakes, alloy wheels, heated power mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, a two-speed rear wiper/washer, four-speaker CD stereo, air conditioning, power locks with keyless entry, power windows, tilt steering and a 60/40 split folding rear seat.

The move up to the GX-V6 model added four-wheel disc brakes, while the GS-V6 got painted wheel arch mouldings, privacy glass, roof rack, fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, cargo cover, power driver’s seat and side curtain airbags. The top-end GT-V6 scored a full-size spare tire, power sunroof, six-CD stereo with seven speakers and heated leather seats.

There were no changes for 2006, and then no Tribute at all for 2007 (the same year the stylish and much sportier CX-7 crossover joined the Mazda line), pending a redesign, along with its Escape platform-mate, for 2008. Mazda followed up the restyle with new engines for 2009. Four-cylinder models were now powered by a 2.5-litre making 171 hp and 171 lb.-ft., and while the V6 remained a 3.0-litre, it now made 240 hp and 223 lb.-ft. The base transmission remained a five-speed stick, but the automatic was an upgraded six-speed. As before, four-cylinder/AWD Tributes came only with the automatic.

Used Vehicle Review: Mazda Tribute, 2001 2011 used car reviews reviews mazda
2008 Mazda Tribute. Click image to enlarge

Standard kit remained similar, save for the addition of Ford’s capless fuel filler and automatic door locking/unlocking with the automatic transmission. The interior got a new overhead console with storage, and the GS added steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Trim lines were revised too, so that the GX was four-cylinder only, and GS and GT models used the V6.

In 2010, an exterior temperature gauge, automatic locking doors and automatic stereo volume control were made standard across the line, and the GT added a standard auto-dimming rearview mirror with backup camera, sliding illuminated vanity mirrors and garage door opener.

The Tribute was unchanged for 2011 and disappeared in 2012, as Mazda prepared for the arrival of its all-new compact crossover, the CX-5.

While Ford sold a hybrid version of the Escape, Mazda never offered an equivalent Tribute.