Mazda Tribute 2008-2011 problems, pros and cons, photos

Updated: October 1, 2021
The Mazda Tribute has been developed in association with Ford and is a mechanical twin of the Ford Escape. The 2008-2011 Tribute is available with front- or four-wheel drive and is powered by a Mazda 4-cylinder or Ford V6 engine.
Mazda Tribute interior 2010 Mazda Tribute

The Tribute offers excellent visibility, spacious practical interior and easy driving experience. The split rear seat folds flat (with headrests removed) and the liftgate glass opens separately. Maintenance costs are moderate. What are the common problems? Which engine is better?

Common problems: A faulty liftgate release switch can cause the liftgate or the liftgate glass not to open. The liftgate release switch is located in the trim bezel above the license plate; the part is not very expensive and is fairly easy to replace.
A leaking left axle seal can cause loss of transmission fluid that may result in various transmission issues. If you have this problem, it's best to take your Tribute to a Mazda dealer for repairs, as they have updated parts and special tools. The inner CV-joint and bushing might also need to be replaced if worn out.
Mazda Tribute 2010 Mazda Tribute

Corroded liftgate glass hinges can break off causing a safety hazard. If your liftgate glass hinges look corroded, have them checked out and replaced before one of them breaks.
Parts are not very expensive and are fairly easy to replace.

Problems with an immobilizer chip in the ignition key may cause a no-start issue. Your dealer can help you with that problem.

If your blower motor only works at the highest speed settings, it could be caused by a bad blower motor resistor; the repair is not very expensive, the blower motor resistor must be replaced. It is located behind the glove box.
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Rust damage around rear quarter panels is fairly common to see in Salt Belt states. When buying a used Mazda Tribute, it must be carefully inspected for rust damage, especially the areas around rear shock absorbers.

Knocking in the front end when driving at slow speeds over small bumps could be caused by bad front sway bar links; have your front end inspected. Replacing sway bar links is not very expensive.
There have been several recalls; check at NHTSA website.

Pros: Perfect size, reasonably priced, spacious interior, visibility, handling, maneuverable, available V6, rear seat folds flat, liftgate glass opens separately.

Cons: Poor gas mileage for V6 models, road and wind noise at highway speeds, interior materials could be better, conservative styling, some problems could be expensive to repair.
Mazda Tribute cargo area 2010 Mazda Tribute cargo area

Overall: A used Mazda Tribute is one of the few truck-like small SUVs that offers a roomy interior and good visibility. The 2009-plus 2.5L 4-cylinder model is the best option for reliability and fuel economy. The 2010 Tribute with the 2.5L 4-cylinder engine and automatic transmission is rated at 21/28 mpg city/hwy (402 miles to a tank). The V6 engine was reliable in earlier models, however the 2009 V6 Tribute had problems with the variable timing system. The 2.5L 4-cylinder engine is responsive, but may feel a bit underpowered with a full load. The 3.0L V6 is smooth but thirsty. The available simple four-wheel drive system will help in bad weather, but is not made for off-road adventures.

Related reviews:
Ford Escape 2008-2012 review
Subaru Outback 2005-2009 review
Toyota RAV4 2006-2012 review
Honda CR-V 2007-2011 review

Engine: The 2008+ 4-cylinder models are equipped with a solid 2.3L (2.5L from 2009) Mazda MZR engine. The V6 Tribute comes with the 3.0L Ford engine.
Mazda Tribute engine 2010 Mazda Tribute 4-cylinder 2.5L engine
All three engines have a maintenance-free timing chain that does not require regular replacements.

Mechanical: The Tribute has a frameless construction with front and rear independent suspension. Rear brakes are drums.

What to look for when buying a used Mazda Tribute: When checking the vehicle, watch out for leaks underneath the engine and transmission and burned oil smell under the hood. Warning lights staying on while driving indicate a problem. Test the hand brake and the rear wiper operation. Check if both key fobs work and if the liftgate glass and the liftgate open and close properly. Watch out for rust, especially around the rear wheel wells. During the test drive, see if the engine holds idle well and runs smoothly when accelerated.
Mazda Tribute interior 2010 Mazda Tribute rear seat
Pay attention to the way the transmission shifts; abrupt shifting or slipping indicate transmission issues. Any issues with electric steering assist should tell you to avoid the car. Read more: How to inspect a used car - illustrated guide. Before buying, have the vehicle properly inspected by a mechanic. Read also: What mileage is OK for a used car?

Maintenance: Check your transmission fluid level regularly. The low transmission fluid level indicates a leak that needs to be repaired as soon as possible. A flashing Service Engine Soon light is an indication that the engine is misfiring. If your engine misfires due to a bad ignition coil, change all the spark plugs too. In a V6 engine, if one of the rear ignition coils failed, it's a good idea to change all three rear coils at the same time. If your Tribute stalls unexpectedly, visit your dealer, there might be an engine computer software update available to address this problem.