2008 Mazda Tribute Hybrid Preview – Detroit Auto Show: From a business standpoint, it makes sense: Start with one of your partner’s vehicles, in this case the Ford Escape Hybrid, rework the styling a bit, add your own badges, and introduce yourself to shoppers everywhere as a brand invested in gas/electric technology. Talk about taking the easy way out. With the stylish and turbo charged CX-7 and seven-passenger CX-9 gracing the Mazda stables, one can see little reason to carry on with the Tribute, unless it’s just cheap and easy to re badge a Ford and, of course, if it lets you tap into the hybrid market. That’s what we’re betting.
Why it matters
Taking advantage of its relationship with Ford, Mazda finally enters the hybrid scene, which opens it up to a growing number of environmentally-aware buyers. The company hasn’t released fuel economy data for the 2008 Tribute Hybrid, but we can borrow numbers from Ford. The 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid, which shares its power train with the 2008 Escape and 2008 Mazda Tribute hybrids, was estimated by the EPA to return 36 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway in front-wheel-drive trim, and 32/29 mpg in four-wheel-drive guise. We have found those numbers to be a bit optimistic, but they're useful for comparison, and even with a fudge factor rolled in, real-world fuel economy is usually better than gas-only competitors.
What's Under the Hood
At the heart of the 2008 Mazda Tribute Hybrid is a 2.3-liter, 16-valve, dual overhead cam four-cylinder engine that’s good for 133 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 124 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm. That doesn’t sound like much for an SUV, but the numbers get better when you factor in the hybrid system’s 70-kilowatt battery and the 330-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery under the rear load floor. It adds up to a combined 155 horsepower, and with that electricity comes instantaneous off-the-line oomph. The Tribute Hybrid is a full hybrid, meaning that it can operate solely on electric power in certain situations (up to 25 mph), and allows the gas engine to shut down while coasting or stopped. A CVT transmission is standard.
What it looks like
If you've seen the 2007 Mazda Tribute, chances are the 2008 model wont shock you with its styling. It is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, carrying the same general shape with a bit more flair here and a reworked angle there. Up front are fog lights and a contoured hood that feeds off the outer edges of an egg crate grille, which itself is set off by a chrome bar and sizeable Mazda badge. The flanks include noticeably arched wheel wells housing 16-inch alloys, while the tail features a bumper pad to assist with loading and glass that opens separate from the tailgate.