Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2002 Mazda Tribute Overview
Good Things Come in Mid-Sized Packages Too
The Mazda Tribute is the sister car to Ford's popular Escape SUV. The two share the same body, engine and safety features and are separated mainly by cosmetic differences. Mazda's spin on the SUV platform adds a bit more style, with a hint of sporting intention that stays true to the Mazda mission. The Tribute is now in its second year of production, and after hurdling a few snags that resulted in some recalls early in the 2001 model run, seems to have found its footing. Mazda has made great strides in stepping up the quality control of its many suppliers and the fit and finish of our 2002 test vehicle seemed to be proof that the Tribute is back on track.
The Tribute's greatest asset is its size. It shares the same 103-inch wheelbase dimension as the Honda CR-V and Hyundai Santa Fe, but its overall length is much shorter due to its short front and rear overhang. The Tribute's shorter hood and tail mean you'll have an easier time maneuvering it when parking or off-roading. Interior room is practically neck-in-neck with the Honda and Hyundai, but more generous than the RAV4, especially in the back seat where the Tribute adds an additional four inches of legroom.
The Tribute is available in three trim levels: DX, LX and EX. DX models are powered by a 2.0-liter, 130 horsepower 4-cyl. engine that lags behind its competition in both power and refinement. Luckily, a 5-speed manual comes standard on the DX, helping somewhat to improve its modest acceleration. DX models are available in both front and on-demand four-wheel drive. The LX and EX models come standard with a 200-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 that is much better suited to the Tribute's 3200 pounds (that number increases as options and the all-wheel drive are added). The V6 completely changes the Tribute's personality; it accelerates quickly, has a nice, husky growl when you stomp on the gas and is fairly reasonable when it comes to fuel consumption. There is no 5-speed manual for the V6 models, but the 4-speed automatic does a good job of distributing the engine's power.
If you plan on getting the four-wheel-drive version, the V6 is really the right engine for the job. The Tribute uses an on-demand four-wheel-drive system that automatically sends power to the rear wheels when it senses one or both of the front wheels slipping. During normal driving, the system depends on the front wheels to pull the vehicle. This system saves on fuel because the engine is not constantly powering all four wheels. Though Mazda's advertising may be guilty of taking some license when they show the Tribute running with a pack of Miatas, the Tribute's fully-independent suspension does do a good job of helping it to track straight and true on the open highway and remain composed and level in the turns.
Inside the Tribute, you'll find Mazda's interior treatment to be rather pleasing. On the LX and EX models, upscale fabrics adorn the seats and door panels, and the dash receives the signature Mazda diamond-shaped console (the same shape is used in the front grille). The front bucket seats are among the most comfortable we've experienced in this class. A power driver's seat is an option on the LX and standard on the EX; the front seats also include adjustable lumbar support. The dash is conservatively styled, but in a handsome sort of way. There are four cup holders (five on the DX)so there should be no fighting over who has to hold the extra beverageand a dozen places to stash odds and ends. The only complaint you may find is with the long, column-mounted gear selector that when pulled into the "D" position partially blocks the radio and heating controls. You'll appreciate that there are adjustable headrests at all outboard seating positions and the front seatbelts have pretensioners that help remove any slack in the seatbelt in the event of an accident.
Standard equipment on all Tributes includes power windows, anti-theft engine immobilizer, AM/FM/CD audio, power door locks, remote keyless entry, roof rack, intermittent front wipers, tilt-steering wheel, tachometer and rear-window defogger. The option list is long, with many of the LX's optional equipment being standard on the EX. You can fully deck-out a Tribute to include leather seats, power glass moonroof, a 7-speaker premium audio system with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer and powered subwoofer.