2011 Mazda Tribute
It must be tough for the 2011 Mazda Tribute at family get-togethers. Like the red-headed stepchild, this compact crossover sticks out as the oddball among its fellow Mazdas with their rakish profiles, beefy fender flares and wide-mouth grilles. That's because the Tribute has been adopted from a different family. Remove the badges from the Mazda Tribute and what you have is a Ford Escape, except without the Ford's many appealing high-tech features.
The Tribute and its Ford twin date back to the turn of the millennium, and you can tell, as this vehicle's blocky shape and upright driving position are indicative of the truck-based SUVs that used to rule back in Y2K. The Tribute has been thoroughly updated since then with refreshed styling, dramatically improved interior quality and more potent engines, but the underlying vehicle has remained the same. That means it lacks new, now-common features like a telescoping steering wheel or a reclining and sliding rear seat. And it drives with a truck-ish demeanor that seems very un-Mazda-like.
More important, it's also a little hard to fathom why someone would opt for a 2011 Mazda Tribute instead of a Ford Escape, since the Ford can be equipped with a state-of-the-art navigation system, excellent self-parking technology and the innovative Sync electronics interface, which includes cell phone and iPod connectivity along with voice controls.
However, note that the Escape is far from a top pick among compact crossovers. It might have the admittedly appealing option of Sync, but it's still an aging design that lacks many of the beneficial attributes of competitors like the Chevy Equinox, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV-4. Either way you cut it, though, this 2011 Mazda is a Tribute to neither its adopted nor birth families.
The well-equipped, entry-level Sport trim offers all the convenience, safety and utility today�s young SUV buyers demand. Standard features include automatic headlights, 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD audio system, ambient temperature gauge, remote keyless entry system and power mirrors, door locks and windows. Cruise control is standard on vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions. A roof rack and auto-dimming rear view mirror complete with compass, or Homelink� are also available.
The mid-level Touring trim builds on the Sport trim with the addition of privacy glass, a standard roof rack, six-way power adjustable driver�s seat with manual adjustable lumbar support, overhead console with dual storage bins and front seatback map pockets.
Offering the highest level of comfort and convenience found in the Tribute lineup, the fully loaded Grand Touring trim comes standard with everything found on the Sport and Touring trims, plus Satellite radio and much more. Additional standard exterior features include heated side-view mirrors and a power-sliding moonroof. A more sophisticated and cozy interior features leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, garage door opener, electrochromatic mirror with rearview backup camera display and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
For the most part, the Tribute's cabin is virtually identical to that of the Ford Escape. This isn't really a bad thing, as the control layout and build quality are generally impressive. The straightforward 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 Escape's excellent available navigation system or the innovative Sync electronics interface, which includes Bluetooth, iPod interface and voice controls.
The Tribute's front seats are well-bolstered and comfortable, though a tilt-only steering wheel might prevent some from finding an ideal driving position. The rear seat, although roomy enough for adults, has an uncomfortably flat bottom cushion in order to create a flat load floor when the seatback is laid down, and the seat itself is devoid of reclining and sliding adjustments. Folding down the seat is a bit of a chore, as the headrests must be removed and the bottom cushions tipped forward before the seatbacks can be lowered (it's that flat load floor thing again).
Cargo space stands at 31.4 cubic feet behind the second row and 67.2 cubes with the 60/40-split second row folded. This is a bit larger than Mazda's own CX-7 and smaller crossovers like the Hyundai Tucson, but the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 are bigger.
The Tribute�s sporty behavior also comes from its unibody construction and the fully independent coil-sprung suspension, as used on many sports cars. Many rival SUVs use truck-like body-on-frame chassis, which flex more and provide a much less stable platform for the suspension. The Tribute�s unibody construction provides superb structural rigidity, improving ride and handling, as well as contributing to fewer rattles and a much tauter driving feel.
The fully independent coil-sprung suspension � MacPherson struts at the front, multi-link at the rear � ensures each wheel responds independently to road conditions, increasing the sure-footedness of the vehicle, improving handling and road holding. It gives the vehicle more poise in difficult conditions, including at high-speeds and on unpaved surfaces, and also improves ride comfort.
The track, front (60.7 inches) and rear (60.2 inches) is wide, which also benefits stability, handling and road holding. Nitrogen gas-charged shock absorbers give superb wheel control, on- or off-road, and maintain their composure even after tough use. The Tribute handles like a well-sorted sedan, but with all the extra benefits of an SUV.
Another sports car touch is the use of rack-and-pinion steering for greater steering precision and response. Variable power assistance means low-speed maneuvering, such as parking, is easy. Yet at higher speeds, reduced power assistance preserves road feel and steering feedback. Electric Power Steering (EPS), which improves vehicle sensitivity, is standard, and, improves NVH and fuel economy by eliminating the power steering pump.
All Tributes have ventilated 11.9-inch front discs for strong heat dissipation which improves braking performance after repeated use, such as a long downhill stretch with many bends. Both Tribute i and s models are equipped with standard Anti-lock Brakes (ABS) to prevent wheel lock-up and skids, and to help maintain steering control under braking. The four-channel system is more advanced than a conventional three-channel set-up, as every wheel has its own sensor to provide individual braking control. Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) varies the distribution of braking force between the front and rear wheels depending on the load to stop the vehicle as quickly as possible.
The Tribute takes some naming queues from the Mazda6 utilizing " i " and " s " monikers to designate which engine is under the hood. Perspective Tribute owners have their choice between a 171 horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine which comes with models dubbed " i " and an " s " model which comes with a 3.0-liter V6 model providing 240 horsepower.
Most other vehicles in this small SUV segment have similar four-cylinder or V6 engine options available. The Tribute's main competition comes from the Toyota RAV4, the Hyundai Tucson, and of course its Ford and Mercury half-brothers.
Like other Mazda models the Tribute has three trim levels available. A base "Sport" trim, an upgraded "Touring" trim, and the top of the line "Grand Touring" trim are offered.
The standard drive train for the Tribute is front-wheel drive. An electronic four-wheel drive option is available with any trim level as well. Standard safety features consist of six airbags, stability and traction control systems, and Anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution.
The 2011 Mazda Tribute comes with standard antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum), stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing of the Tribute's twin, the Ford Escape, we found that it came to a stop from 60 mph in an unacceptably long 154 feet, which is about 30 feet longer than it should be.
Thankfully, the Tribute and Escape's crash ratings are strong. The government gave them a perfect five stars in all front and side crash categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Tribute the top mark of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side crash tests, but the second-lowest rating of "Marginal" in the roof strength test.