You can find two-wheel and four-wheel-drive models with two engine choices: a 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder or a 3.0-litre V6.
Standard equipment level is representative of vehicles in this category. The GX, for example, comes with power windows, air conditioning, cruise control, power door locks, 60/40 folding rear seat and so on.
You can also find six-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmissions, but only with the front-drive model. Power output for the four-cylinder is 171 horsepower, while the V6 develops a healthy 240.
The four-cylinder is somewhat less than civilized. Compared to Honda CR-V, for example, the Tribute four banger makes a lot of racket and features a much less refined power delivery. This could be because of inferior sound-deadening material, but the V6 engine is much smoother and only marginally thirstier on the highway (8.0 litres/100 km versus 8.3 litres/100 km). The V6 also has a considerably greater towing capacity: 1,588 kg versus 680.
The all-wheel-drive system in the 2011 Tribute is found with the automatic transmission models only and is of the slip-and-grip variety, with a slight variation: an on-board computer detects any lack of traction and redirects the engine accordingly, up to a 50/50 split. According to Mazda, the computer predicts slippery conditions and switches to all-wheel before you actually need it.
Like its more reliable Ford stablemate, the Tribute is all about practicality and appealing to mainstream buyers. Although not the best in this class, it offers a decent amount of cargo space: 1,877 litres with the back seat folded down. This vintage of the Honda CR-V is good for 2,064 litres, while the Toyota RAV4 had 2,074 litres of room back there. The second row folds flat without having to remove the headrests, and the back door is a one-piece affair that folds upward.
There are no safety recalls from Transport Canada or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but the latter organization has 22 technical service bulletins on file for this vintage of Tribute. They range from “white flakes” resembling snow emanating from the air conditioner to a “clicking or rubbing noise” from the front wheels to “harsh” shifting patterns with the manual transmission to a warning to those buyers who want to tow their Tribute behind an RV. Said NHTSA: “If the vehicle is incorrectly towed with all four wheels on the ground, the driver could experience possible damage to the transmission, harsh or erratic shifts and engagements or loss of transmission function.”
The review from Consumer Reports is pretty much thumbs-down. They like its power and practically but feel that “a stiff ride, a noisy interior, and flimsy plastic trim” are the car’s weak points. Problem areas include the transmission, four-wheel-drive system and fuel system, as well as “squeaks and rattles.” As a result, it garnered a “worse than average” used car prediction from this group.
Comments from owners included: “paid substantially less than the Honda or Toyota” and “does exactly what it’s supposed to do.”
From a base price of $23,000 to $32,000 in 2011, the Tribute has dropped to around $6,000 or $7,000 these days for a four cylinder with front-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive adds about $1,000 to the price tag.
2011 Mazda Tribute
Original base price: $22,550
Engine: 2.5-litre four cylinder or 3.0-litre V6
Horsepower: 171 and 240
Torque: 171 and 223 foot pounds
Transmission: five-speed manual or six-speed automatic, with front-wheel or all-wheel drive
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.9 city and 8.0 highway, with V6 with automatic transmission and regular gas
Alternatives: Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Jeep Compass, Suzuki Grand Vitara
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). For interview requests, click here.
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