By KBB.com Editors
Designed for people who prefer more car-like styling in their compact SUV, the 2009 Mazda Tribute attempts to place as much emphasis on "sport" as it does on utility. As in the past, the Tribute continues to share its unit-body design, powertrains and fully-independent suspension with its corporate cousins the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner. To help ensure broad appeal, the Tribute offers seating for five, both four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines, front or all-wheel drive and three different trim levels. The Tribute HEV Hybrid model is available in limited numbers and only in the state of California.You'll Like This Car If... You May Not Like This Car If...
Driver's who place a strong emphasis on car-like ride and handling, as well as need a third-row seat, might find the Toyota RAV4 a better choice. If you're looking for Ford's SYNC audio system or DVD navigation, you'll have to go with the Escape over the Tribute.What's New for 2009
For 2009, base models receive an all-new 2.5-liter four cylinder engine that has more power and better fuel economy than last year's 2.3-liter unit. The 3.0-liter V6 also sees improvements in horsepower and fuel economy. An all-new six-speed automatic is standard on all but the front-drive Tribute "i" trim.Driving It Driving Impressions
Like many of its compact peers, the 2009 Mazda Tribute is easy to drive and easy to live with on a daily basis. While the suspension never feels overly soft or "floaty," spirited cornering does elicit noticeable, but not unexpected or extreme, body lean. However, the standard Roll Stability Control system does an exemplary job of maintaining confidence, even on twisty roads. Those who place a premium on fuel economy will find much to like with the new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which delivers good off-the-line acceleration and passing power and excellent fuel economy. Anyone who plans major towing or toting on a regular basis in any Tribute would be better served by the more powerful V6. Those desiring an extra measure of traction should definitely consider the optional Active Torque Control Coupling (ATTC) all-wheel drive. This slick computer-commanded system can transfer up to 50 percent of the available power to the rear wheels almost instantly, as well as shift it left-to-right to optimize overall traction.Favorite Features
Superb Central Storage
In addition to its lesser storage areas, the Tribute has a huge center console bin that can hold a standard-size laptop computer and lots of smaller accessory items.
Roll Stability Control
This outstanding safety standard helps prevent a potential rollover from occurring by automatically using selective applications of the throttle and anti-lock brakes.