Mazda Tribute 2001-2011 review
2005 Mazda Tribute. Photo: Mazda Canada
As the SUVs became more popular during early 2000s, Mazda came up with the Tribute, which was developed in association with Ford; Ford Escape is built on the same platform. The Tribute is a functional mid-size car-based SUV. It's one of the few old-school tall upright SUVs with good visibility and truck-like feel. Mazda Tribute is available as a front- or four-wheel drive, with a 4-cylinder or V6 engine. The Tribute's interior is plain, but roomy and fairly comfortable. Tall driver's position offers excellent view of the road. The split rear seat can be easily folded flat (with headrests removed). The rear liftgate glass opens separately The Tribute drives comfortably, although the ride is not very quiet.
2005 Mazda Tribute Photo: Mazda Canada
Mazda Tribute 2.3L DOHC 16-valve engine
Engine: Earlier 4-cylinder models came with the 2.0L Ford Zetec motor. The 2005-plus models are equipped wiith the 2.3L Mazda MZR engine. The V6 Tribute comes with the 3.0L Ford Duratec engine. Only the 2.0L Zetec engine has a timing belt that according to the owner's manual, needs to be replaced every 144,000 km (90,000 miles). Both the 2.3L engine and the 3.0 V6 have a maintenance-free timing chain that does not require regular replacement. All three engines, although not completely trouble-free, are fairly reliable. The 3.0L V6 is known to last over 200K miles with good maintenance.
Mechanical: Transmission choices included a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. Antilock brakes (ABS) were optional (standard from 2006). Mazda Tribute has disc brakes in the front, drums in the back.
Handling and ride: Mazda Tribute handles very well for an SUV; it feels more like a car than a truck. The ride is firm and a bit noisy at highway speed, but otherwise comfortable. The 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine is responsive, but may feel a bit underpowered with a full load. The 3.0L V6 is smooth. The available four-wheel drive system will help improve traction on slippery roads, although it's not designed for heavy off-roading.
In the NHTSA frontal crash test, the 2001-2004 Mazda Tribute has received five stars for the driver and four stars for the front passenger. The 2004-2006 Tribute got four stars for both the driver and the front passenger. In the NHTSA side crash tests, the 2001-2006 Tribute has received five stars.
Pros: Perfect size, spacious interior, visibility, handling, maneuverable, reasonably priced, powerful V6, rear seat folds flat, liftgate glass opens separately
Cons: Poor gas mileage for V6 models, early models have transmission shifter blocking the radio controls, ignition switch location, road and wind noise at highway speeds, interior materials could be better, conservative styling, some problems could be expensive to repair.
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Overall: Mazda Tribute is a reasonable option if you are looking for a used truck-like SUV. It's not as cramped as Toyota RAV4, it offers an optional V6 that you won't find in Honda CRV and it's not as thirsty and bulky as larger truck-based SUVs. On top of that, a 4-cylinder front-wheel drive Mazda Tribute offers one of the best fuel economy among SUVs.
However, quality and reliability are not at the top. Issues like oil leaks, excessive brake wear, cupped tires and some minor engine and suspension problems are not uncommon. An extended warranty might be a good idea to protect yourself from unexpected repairs. Read about common problems and what to look for on the next page.