Says the teenager:
This car feels really old.
Without immediately jumping on her for being spoiled by a different car in the driveway each week, I had to think about the statement for a moment. To be fair, we had just come off a week with the rather sexy CX-7 so the Tribute certainly did seem a bit geriatric when compared to its more curvaceous younger sibling. To put a bit of a TV culture spin on this, it is a bit like comparing Desperate Housewives and the Golden Girls. The sexy Mom down the street does everything in her power to draw you in, while the Granny next door just wants you to be comfortable. Ok, so maybe that’s a bit creepy, but you get the idea.
While a few of Mazda’s offerings share some skeletal resemblance to their Ford cousins, the Tribute is pretty much a rebadge Escape. The shape is what it is: An old school, light weight SUV. There is no pretention to be anything else. While the rest of the Mazda lineup share interior styling cues and predictable Japanese control placement, the interior of the Tribute largely comes from the Dearborn parts bin. Imagine, a Japanese vehicle with wiper controls on the left stalk and headlight controls on the dash. Not that there is anything wrong with the placement, they just aren’t where one would expect them to be after driving everything else in the stable. Interior surfaces are largely hard plastic and durable fabrics. The black plastic console surround drew mixed reviews from passengers. Some thought it looked cheap, while others (myself included) thought it looked a tad more sophisticated than the rest of the dash. One guy even called it cool.
The seats are basic buckets up front, again nothing to blow your socks off but comfy enough. The read seat offers good space for 3 kids & looks like it would accommodate adults in relative comfort. Out back, the Tribute passed our 3 hockey bag test with ease.
Our tester was a GX model with the 2.5L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder mated to the optional 6 speed automatic transmission. While I’m sure the V6 version might feel a bit more sporting, the 4 was really more than adequate for the daily commute. It won’t win the stoplight wars, but it felt just right.
I have to say that I truly loved the CX-7, so I was quite surprised to find that I began to feel quite at home with the Tribute. I actually found myself sitting in traffic one day, looking around the cabin and thinking that I could be quite happy living with Mazda’s less zoomy SUV. Looking up, I can see that this isn’t one of the more comprehensive reviews I’ve cobbled together over the years which may be because there isn’t an awful lot to say about the Tribute. From the styling to the creature comforts and the driving experience, the Tribute is Mazda’s old standard. While you might choose the CX-7 based on passion, the Tribute would be a safe but fun choice. Just like Bea Arthur and the girls.