Sunday, September 30, 2007

2008 Mazda Tribute Review

Knocked by some critics as an unnecessary addition to the Mazda line because of its chunky lines, especially when compared to the brand's much sportier CX-7, the 2008 Mazda Tribute, which is a re-branded, co-developed version of the Ford Escape with a few cosmetic differences (specifically the grille, bumpers and head- and taillights) returns the model to production after a year off.

Even with the hiatus, however, the 2008 Tribute is almost the same size as the previous models (2001-2006) with nearly identical power trains and interior space. It also still has seating for five, and four doors plus a back lift-gate with a glass window that flips open separately from the rest of the door.

This year's Tribute comes in i and s models and three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring, with a gas/electric hybrid model to be offered in the latter two trims late in 2007. All the standard models are available with either front-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive, though the latter does not include low-range gearing. The i models come with a 2.3 liter, 153 horsepower, 4 cylinder engine, and the standard engine on the s model is a 3.0 liter, 200 horsepower V6. The front-wheel drive Sport version of the i model has options for either an automatic or manual transmission, while the others are all automatic.

The 2008 Mazda Tribute Hybrids come with a 2.3 liter, 133 horsepower, 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor (no plug required), as well as a CVT - continuously variable automatic transmission.

Safety features on the Tribute include the expected array of airbags (front, side curtain) as well as an anti-lock braking system, an anti-skid system, and traction control, the latter two items not available on the hybrid. Available upgrades include a sunroof, heated front seats, and leather upholstery, as well as optional advanced sound packages that go over and above the standard AM/FM radio/CD player/MP3 jack, 4-speaker system.

Where the 2008 Tribute excels is with storage space. The center console in the standard-engine models holds 10 CDs under the arm rest, and the hybrid's is rumored to be large enough to store a laptop. Aside from that, there are 29.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seats when they're up, or 66.3 when they're folded down.

The starting MSRPs of the 2008 Mazda Tribute (gas versions only) range from $18,900 to $26,270 depending on the model, and (again depending on trim level and transmission) estimated mileage varies between 17 and 20 mpg in the city, and between 22 and 28 mpg for freeway driving.

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