In most respects, the 2010 Mazda Tribute appears to be a fully modern compact crossover SUV. As a clone of the Ford Escape, it shares the same basic set of strengths and weaknesses. In its favor, it has handsome exterior styling, a choice of a powerful four-cylinder or V6 engine and top-notch safety scores. But the Tribute also has a number of small failings, and overall they add up to keep this SUV from truly matching other competitors.
Number one on the list is an outdated interior. The Tribute lacks a few basic features now common among its newer competitors, such as a telescoping steering wheel and an easy-to-fold backseat that reclines and slides fore and aft. Also damning, though, are brakes (discs in front but antiquated drums in the rear) that simply don't have the power to bring the Escape to a stop as effectively as other small SUVs. One other disappointing quality is that the Tribute lacks its sibling's useful "Sync" multimedia interface that allows easy voice control of cell phones and portable audio devices.
In this segment, there are a lot of very good choices, such as the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4 and Mazda's own sporty CX-7. They all have the edge over the Tribute when it comes to overall refinement, braking performance and functionality, while also providing similar performance and crash test scores. And if the Tribute still tickles your fancy after all this, then we'd suggest at least opting for a Sync-equipped Ford Escape instead.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The 2010 Mazda Tribute is a compact crossover SUV broken down into i and s models that correspond with the four- and six-cylinder engines. The i variant is offered in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels, while the s version is offered as a Grand Touring only.
The base-level Sport comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, air-conditioning, full power accessories, an ambient temperature gauge, cruise control, a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The Touring adds a roof rack, tinted rear windows, a power driver seat and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. The Grand Touring gains a sunroof, heated side mirrors, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a back-up camera (with the display shown in the rearview mirror) and an upgraded sound system (with a six-CD changer and satellite radio).
Satellite radio is optional on the Touring, while remote engine start and a towing package are among the items that are optional on all three trim levels.
Powertrains and Performance:
All Mazda Tribute models can be equipped with either front- or all-wheel drive. The Tribute i gets a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 171 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the Sport trim; a six-speed automatic is optional on the Sport and standard on the others. The Tribute s versions have a 3.0-liter V6 (good for 240 hp and 233 lb-ft) that comes paired to a six-speed automatic.
Fuel economy with the 2.5/automatic powertrain and front-wheel drive rates 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. All-wheel drive drops that to 20/26/23 mpg. With the V6 and front-wheel drive, the numbers stand at 19/25/21. The V6 with all-wheel drive rates 18/23/20.
The 2010 Mazda Tribute comes with an impressive portfolio of standard safety equipment including front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control and traction control. Unfortunately, the Escape is hampered by poor braking performance. From 60 mph, the last Escape we tested stopped in a lackluster 128 feet.
In government crash tests, the Tribute scored five stars in all frontal and side impact categories. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Tribute scored the top rating of "Good" for frontal offset and side impact crash protection.
Interior Design and Special Features:
For the most part, the Tribute's cabin is virtually identical to that of the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner. Unless you're a devout Mazda fan, this isn't really a bad thing, as the control layout and build quality are generally impressive. The climate and stereo controls are split, with readouts placed high atop the dash in legible blue and white characters. Unfortunately, the Tribute does not offer the innovative Sync electronics interface system that is such a strong selling point in the Escape and Mariner.
The Tribute's front seats are well-bolstered and comfortable. The rear seat, although roomy enough for adults, is flat and devoid of recline and fore-and-aft adjustments. Folding that seat down is a bit of a chore, too, as the headrests must be removed and the bottom cushions tipped forward before the seatbacks can be lowered. Cargo space stands at 29 cubic feet behind the second row and 66 cubes with the second row folded. This is more than what's available in competitors such as the Nissan Rogue and Saturn Vue but less than what's offered by the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
In general, the 2010 Mazda Tribute is pleasant to drive. The electric power steering system delivers good road feel and response, and around corners, this compact crossover SUV remains relatively flat and inspires driver confidence. The ride quality is also smooth, making the Tribute a suitable choice for commuting or hauling the family. Acceleration from both engines is adequate, though the V6 isn't as energetic as the more powerful mills in the Equinox and RAV4.