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2011 Mazda Tribute Overview
In 2008, the Mazda Tribute overhauled both the interior and exterior of the compact SUV. The 2009 Tribute improved the performance of the four-cylinder and V6 engines. Since then, the Tribute has rested on its laurels with no significant changes. In fact, Mazda itself tactfully announced that the 2011 Tribute “carries over key specifications and features from the 2010 model year.” Although the 2011 Tribute maintains a reasonable sticker price and offers good fuel efficiency, the vehicle—which shares its platform with the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner—will also carry over a few features that have drawn fire from reviewers in the past year.
The 2011 Mazda Tribute appears in four trim levels: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring, with a Hybrid sold only in California. All the non-Hybrid Tributes come in an “i” version, which uses regular unleaded gasoline in its 2.5-liter, four-cylinder DOHC engine with variable valve timing (VVT). The four-cylinder generates 171 hp at 6,000 rpm and 171 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. The Grand Touring is also available in an “s” edition, with a standard 3.0-liter V6 that generates 240 hp at 6,550 rpm, 223 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm, and can run on E85 ethanol-blended fuel. The i Sport trim comes with a standard manual five-speed transmission and the option of a six-speed automatic that comes standard in the other trim levels. Although the six-speed automatic was praised in the 2010 for smooth and responsive shifting, the engine was critiqued for its noise. The Tribute offers standard front-wheel drive, but all of the automatic transmission trims have an available Active Torque Control Coupling (ATCC) all-wheel-drive option. Mileage estimates for the manual transmission i Sport are 23 mpg city and 28 highway. The front-wheel drive automatic transmission i trims offer 21 mpg city/28 highway, with the front-wheel-drive s Grand Touring rating slightly lower numbers (19/25). The AWD automatic transmission i trims reach 20 city/26 highway, and the s Grand Touring AWD has slightly lower mileage estimates (18 city/23 highway). The Tribute rides on a four-wheel independent suspension with a front MacPherson strut, rear multilink suspension, and stabilizer bars in the front and rear.
Outside, the Tribute offers standard halogen headlights and foglights, power remote outside mirrors (heated in the Grand Touring trim level), and a rear liftgate with an independently opening window. The standard tire for all three trim levels is a 16-inch, seven-spoke, aluminum alloy wheel. In addition, the Touring and Grand Touring provide a roof rack with crossbars (an option for the i Sport) and the Grand Touring comes with a standard power moonroof. A frame-mounted trailer receiver hitch with a trailer-wiring harness is standard for the s Grand Touring (which can haul 3,450 pounds), while the i-level Tributes have an optional trailer hitch with a lower towing capacity (1,500 pounds). Side steps for easier entry and exit are also available for all three levels of the Tribute.
The interior of the Tribute has not been a selling feature in the past. Reviews criticized the 2010 Tribute for a cheap, plastic feel to its interior, with a dated design lacking many now-common features, such as a telescoping steering wheel. Inside, the 2011 Mazda Tribute continues to seat five with standard cloth seats in the i Sport and i Touring, and leather-trimmed seats in the i and s Grand Touring. The i Sport offers manually adjustable front seats, while the i Touring and Grand Touring provide six-way power driver’s seat adjustment with lumbar support (four-way manual adjustment for the passenger). All Tribute rear seats fold in a 60/40 split to increase rear cargo room to roughly 67 cubic feet (31.4 cubic feet when not folded), but were criticized in 2010 for their awkward folding and having no sliding movement to shift them out of the way more easily. Power windows, locks, remote keyless entry, pollen-filtering air conditioning, and cruise control (on automatic transmissions only) round out the list of other standard features found in all three trim levels. The Grand Touring, however, also offers heated front seats and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror with HomeLink (a universal remote control) as additional standard features.
Technology in the 2011 Mazda Tribute includes an AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers in the base i Sport, and an upgraded 190-watt AM/FM 6-CD changer with seven speakers, speed-sensing automatic leveling, and steering-wheel-mounted audio in the Touring and Grand Touring. All trim levels include a standard auxiliary audio jack for MP3 players. Sirius Satellite radio is an available option in the base and Touring trims, but comes with a standard free six-month subscription for the Grand Touring. The Grand Touring also has a standard back-up camera, which projects the image in the auto-dimming rear-view mirror when the car is shifted into reverse. Reviews of the 2010 Tribute noted a lack of some increasingly standard technology offerings—an issue that will continue in 2011. Most notably there is no rear entertainment package or navigation system available even as options. And although the Mazda is the sibling of the Ford Escape, it lacks that vehicle’s Sync system, which allows for multimedia control of portable audio devices and cell phones.
Safety has been a strong suit of the Tribute. The 2010 Tribute received five-star ratings from the NHTSA for front and side driver and passenger crashes (although only three stars for rollover crashes in both the two-wheel- and four-wheel-drive versions) and the highest crash rating from the IIHS. Standard safety features for all Tributes include dual front and front-side airbags (for head and chest protection), side-impact air curtains (protecting the front and rear seats from a side-impact collision) and rollover protection, which automatically inflates the side air curtains in the event of a rollover. Standard antilock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution give extra braking power in an emergency, although the brakes of the 2010 Tribute were criticized for a poor, unresponsive, and downright spongy braking feel. Other safety features include Roll Stability Control (which stabilizes the car when steering to avoid an accident), dynamic stability control (to adjust the throttle and brake level when aggressive steering is detected), traction control (to regulate the throttle to help the wheels to grip better in treacherous driving conditions), and the tire pressure monitoring system (which alerts drivers of low tire inflation to improve both safety and fuel efficiency).
The 2011 Mazda Tribute SUV offers an affordable family ride. Given that it presents the same engines and features as last year’s cars, consumers can expect to see good fuel economy for the class and power in its engines, combined with good handling from the automatic transmission and strong safety features. However, the old adage holds true, and you get what you pay for – so expect to continue to experience a plastic interior, loud ride (from engine, wind, and road noise), as well as longer braking distances and a lack of some technology offered by its competitors.
by Jessica McCombe
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