THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2008 Mazda Tribute S Touring compact SUV.
DOWN THE ROAD: Sharing its design with the Ford Escape and the Mercury Mariner, the redesigned Tribute offers carlike handling with all the practical attributes of an SUV. The ride is sporty and fun, whether you are navigating sharp turns or cruising down the highway. Available in as many as 12 trims, this front-wheel-drive vehicle is an incredibly athletic ride.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: Power comes from a 3.0-liter V-6 engine, which puts out a decent 200 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 193 pounds-feet of torque at 4850 rpm. Mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission, this uni-body-based SUV gets an electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system for easy maneuvering at any speed. You can attribute the Tribute's first-rate ride and sound handling capabilities to an independent front suspension made up of MacPherson strut with coil springs, shock absorbers and stabilizer bar. The rear is equipped with a multilink suspension of dual lateral links, trailing arms, coil springs and shock absorbers. When you need to stop, the 11.9-inch front disc and 10-inch rear drum brakes take over the job. Grip from the all-season, 16-inch tires is firm.
LOOK & FEEL: The exterior and interior of the Tribute have been redesigned. The front fascia sports a black grille with a chrome-plated bar and a centered Mazda emblem, and halogen headlights and fox lights. Step over to the side and you will notice body-colored door handles, 16-inch alloy wheels and a roof rack with crossbars. The chrome bar on the tailgate with the Mazda insignia just under the flip-up liftgate window looks tasteful. Peek inside and you will find a roomy and functional cabin with separated audio and climate controls on the dashboard. I liked the ice-blue appearance of the gauges. The seats, though trimmed with cloth, are airy. Space is in abundance, from a center console that can consume a laptop to an overhead storage area as well as pockets in the doors. The 60-40 rear seats fold flat to afford good cargo space.
SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain for both rows, stability and traction control, antilock brakes, tire pressure monitoring system and front and rear crumple zones.
OUT THE DOOR: $22,330, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P235/70R16 all season; wheelbase, 103.1 inches; length, 174.9 inches; weight, 3,355 pounds; fuel capacity, 16.5 gallons; highway, 24 mpg; city, 18 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: Since its introduction in 2001, the Tribute continues to have a loyal following. It offers a comfortably compliant ride, generous cargo capacity and a functional cabin. Potential buyers who are looking for a little zest in their drive will be attracted to this competent SUV.