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2010 Mazda Tribute Overview

If you’re looking at crossovers and need to be frugal in the process, take a look at the 2010 Mazda Tribute. With a base price starting close to $20,000 and 21 city/28 highway mpg, the Tribute will probably make a smaller dent in your bank account – initially and as time passes – than any other vehicle in the crowded and competitive crossover class. The Tribute shares a platform with the Ford Escape and the Mercury Mariner.

Critics praise the Tribute’s safety features and test scores, as well as its smooth handling and surprising power. The exterior is a straightforward design, but many in the crossover market will undoubtedly appreciate the no-nonsense, practical look of the Tribute. On the downside, the interior feels dated, and the braking system (drums in the rear) needs to be updated.

In short, the Tribute is an affordable compact SUV well suited for daily commutes and family trips. The available All-Wheel Drive system makes the Tribute safe in the snow or other poor road conditions, but traversing off-road terrain is probably best left to more rugged vehicles.

Mazda gave the Tribute a significant drivetrain upgrade last year, but there’s not too much new for 2010 other than a few standard features, like an ambient temperature gauge for all trims and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated back-up camera system for the high-end Grand Touring trim.

The Tribute is available in eight different trim levels – the i Sport, i Touring, i Grand Touring and s Grand Touring, all available in either front- or all-wheel drive. The i trims come with a 171-horsepower four-cylinder engine while the s trims get a 240-hp V6.

The i trims’ four-cylinder is a 16-valve, 2.5-liter with Variable Valve Timing that produces 171 hp at 6,000 rpm and 171 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm, and provides a 1,500-pound maximum towing capacity. The s trims' V6 is a 3-liter that churns out 240 hp at 6,550 rpm and 223 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm, and has a 3,500-pound maximum towing capacity.

The i Sport trim comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission (22 city/28 highway mpg) or an optional six-speed automatic Sport transmission with Adaptive Shift Logic that critics love. The i Touring and i Grand Touring come standard with the six-speed automatic and get 21/28 mpg. The s Grand Touring also gets the six-speed and gets 18/26 mpg. All i trims get 19/25 mpg when they come with Mazda’s Active Torque Control Coupling four-wheel-drive system, and the s Grand Touring AWD gets 17/24.

The Tribute offers a pleasant, car-like ride with good road feel, responsive handling, and plenty of power. The compact SUV doesn’t have a soft or floating feel, but it handles bumps and other road imperfections with grace. Most like the touch of the electric power steering, though some find it too mushy. Taking corners at high speed in the Tribute isn’t exactly recommended, but some frisky cornering won’t produce exaggerated body lean. A tight turning radius helps the Tribute when parking or driving in confined, urban areas.

The antiquated rear drum brakes and a soft brake-pedal feel are the two biggest complaints when it comes to the Tribute’s performance, and they are noteworthy negatives. Some also find the amount of road noise that leaks into the cabin unacceptable, but that's not a universal complaint.

Shoppers should sit in the Tribute and get their own feel for the cabin layout, because reviews are mixed. Some critics find the control layout ergonomic, the amount and quality of convenience features to be first-rate, and the back seat to be well shaped and comfortable. Others feel the controls are awkwardly placed, the available features only average, and the rear seat to be lacking cushion and support. Clearly it’s a matter of personal taste.

Most reviewers agree that the front seats are comfortable for long or short trips, the interior build quality is impressive, and the cargo room is only so-so. The Tribute has 29.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and 66.3 cubic feet when the second row is folded flat, a transformation that's more difficult than it should be.

The i Sport trim (both FWD and AWD) comes standard with air conditioning, cruise control (with the automatic transmission only), power accessories, a tilt steering wheel, remote entry, and a four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack. The i Touring trims add a six-way power driver’s sear, roof rack with crossbars, retractable cargo cover and a seven-speaker AM/FM stereo with 6-CD changer, speed-sensing automatic volume control, and steering-wheel mounted controls. The Grand Touring trims (both i and s) get a power moonroof, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, illuminated vanity mirrors, leather trimmed seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a six-month subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio.

The Tribute has all the safety features one would want in a family vehicle – Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control, Roll Stability Control, antilock brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, side-impact door beams, a collapsible steering column, and a tire pressure monitoring system. The Tribute earned five stars in all frontal and side impact crash tests, but it did get just three stars for a rollover rating, which means it has a 20-23 percent chance of rollover, slightly higher than that of the average SUV.


After working at gas stations and car washes in high school, driving across the country more than a dozen times and even living on the road in a well-outfitted truck, Tim O'Sullivan finally started putting some of his automotive knowledge to work when he began writing for CarGurus in 2008. He's also an award-winning journalist and the Sports Editor at the Concord (NH) Monitor.

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