Mazda and Ford jointly developed a compact SUV called the Mazda Tribute and the Ford release as the Escape. Based on the FWD Mazda 626 platform, the new Mazda tribute differed from the Explorer as the former's suspension and drivability were tuned to provide a firmer and sportier ride.
The Mazda Tribute has a transversely-mounted engine available in either front-wheel or all-wheel drivetrain. Production only lasted from 2000-2011, eventually retiring in favour of the new CX class of crossovers from Mazda.
First Generation Tribute, 2000-2007
Revealed at the 2000 Los Angeles Auto Show, the first-generation Tribute was pitted against Toyota's RAV4, which has been enjoying popularity since its release in 1994. This was Mazda's entry into the SUV market, paving the path to the development of the popular CX series that we know today.
Engine options were initially limited to the 2.0L YF I4 (95 kW/ 183 N⋅m) and the 3.0L AJ V6 (150 kW/ 265 N⋅m) and were available either with a 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual gearbox. For the 2005 model year, the 2.3L MZR I4 (114 kW/ 206 N⋅m) was added to the lineup.
In Japan, a limited-edition version known as the Mazdaspeed Tribute was released with an upgraded 2.3L MZR I4 (147 kW / 254 N⋅m) and was only available for one year.
A facelift was incorporated in 2006 which included a larger grille border, more prominent Mazda badge, restyled bumpers and headlights. The transmission shifter was moved from the column to the floor, similar to what was done on the US models in 2005.
The Mazda Tribute ended sales in Japan in 2007, and Australia discontinued selling it in 2008 in favour of fully marketing the new CX-7.
Second Generation Tribute, 2008-2011
The second-generation Tribute was a completely new vehicle based on its mechanical components. It was still built on Ford Escape’s CD2 platform.
Higher quality materials and an overall better interior design marked this new generation. The exterior styling didn't vary much from the previous version except for the new front fascia and the plainly-designed side panels that extended to the rear.
The range of engines still included the 3.0L AJ V6, but a new engine was available as an option, the 2.5L MZR I4 (128 kW/ 232 N⋅m). Transmission choices included the 4-speed automatic, 6-speed automatic and the 5-speed manual gearbox.
Also, with the 2008 model release, a hybrid version was introduced powered by an Atkinson-cycle engine coupled to a continuously variable transmission. This model wasn't received very well because of the substantial increase in price, although it gave decent fuel mileage and ran quietly at 40 km/h.
The Mazda Tribute ceased production in 2011, at a time when the CX crossover series was receiving enthusiastic reception from the public. The CX-5 2012 model year eventually replaced it.
The Tribute, an Alternative to the RAV4 and CR-V
Although marketed for a short time, the Mazda Tribute offered a glimpse into Mazda's SUV future and afforded an alternative to the RAV4, CR-V and its twin, the Ford Escape. Although not as exciting as the newer CX crossovers, the Tribute still has a place as a reliable and affordable compact SUV.
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