To some they’re a lifestyle statement but for many urban-shackled Aussies, SUV’s are a practical alternative to hulking off-roaders in their quest to escape the daily rodent relay.
Mazda entered the soft-roader market segment in February 2001 with the Tribute five-door wagon.
Models and features
Tribute was jointly developed with Ford and with 4WD system engineering work provided by Dana Corporation. Development partner Ford simultaneously sold its own version, the Ford Escape, though with significantly less sales success than Mazda.
They shared the same basic monocoque platform and mechanicals, but few body panels, despite a clear resemblance. Mazda buyers could opt for a 3.0 litre quad-cam V6 with auto transmission or the less popular four-cylinder engine with manual gearbox. Escape models were all V6 and auto.
Tribute specification levels started with the Limited, ascending through Classic to the well-equipped Luxury. A Limited Sport model joined the ranks in 2003 also. Standard kit on the Classic included ABS with EBD, dual airbags, 16” alloys, tilt steering column, power steering, windows and mirrors, cruise control, remote central locking, sunroof, split fold rear seats, roof rails, CD stacker, cloth trim and front foglights.
Cosmetic changes, plus standard side airbags on all specifications featured from 2004. Outputs of V6 models also rose by 2kW to 152kW and torque increased by 10Nm to 276Nm.
On The Road
Based on Ford’s Duratec engine, Tribute’s V6 is smooth and punchy delivering good performance. The four-speed auto is smooth and responsive and feels coherent with the V6. The column-mounted gearshift is old fashioned and can be snagged when reaching for the radio controls, but frees up floor space.
Mazda’s suspension tune offers a firm but car-like ride and handling that is, in class terms, competent and responsive. A spacious interior and split fold seats add to practicality.
Overall finish is sound but Tribute blots its copybook by only providing a temporary use spare wheel. It managed a three-star rating in ANCAP crash tests.
Off-road the Mazda’s torque proportioning all-wheel-drive system works well. There’s an auto mode that detects slip and splits torque from the front axle to the rear as needed. Or lock mode can be selected to fix torque split at 50/50 front to rear for harder going such as loose sand.
The Tribute surprises off-road but suspension travel, road tyres, clearances and lack of low range see proceedings grind to a halt in tougher conditions.
Reports of reliability issues are few and far between. But check carefully for oil and coolant leaks and for proper transmission operation. Brake pad and excessive disc wear also seem to be common. Check for a thorough service history as problems including engine valve lifter noise could result. Excursions off-road can result in rust and underbody damage, so ensure proper inspections are performed.
From 10 to 16 litres/100km, depending on model and conditions.
For an indication of what you would pay for this vehicle please go to RACQ's online car price guide or contact our Motoring Advice Service on 07 3666 9148 or 1800 623 456 outside the Brisbane area.
Hyundai Santa Fe
V6 2000 – 2005 5dr wagon
V6 2001 – 2005
Land Rover Freelander
V6 2000 – 2004 5dr wagon