Most bang for the buck for an awd suv, the Kia Sportage would be close behind. 200 hp and still 18-19mpg in town, and 23-25 on the highway is fine by me. In my opinion it is the best looking suv, with the MDX close.
Looks, ride, power, smoothness, comfort, awd, great view.
The Tribute is an excellent SVU. It is perfect to haul the skis, kids, dogs, bikes, etc. with a great sporty look that we were looking for. We tested the Saturn look alike, thought it was too cheap inside. We didn't every let the kids in at the dealership because we were afraid something would fall off in the interior of it. The service at our Mazda dealer was superior to any dealer in the area. Even a year after the purchase our dealer and the Mazda dealership is always there to answer any question we have just as friendly as the date of purchase.
Purchased a Mazda 6 11/04. Not a thing gone wrong to date. Tribute had lock problems from factory, engine failure (plugs and computer) at 9K. You can see the Ford connection in this truck. Also no where near the advertised fuel mileage. First and last Mazda SUV.
I bought my Tribute in Feb 06 with only 6,000 miles on it. In 4 months I have put an additional 10,000 miles on it. The car rides and handles great. The leather seats are comfortable even after putting 1500 miles on in one day. Getting in and out of the vehicle is easy; even my Grandma agrees with me that it's easier to get in and out of then my mom's 02 Ford Explorer. Controls are easily accessible and easy to use even at night. There's plenty of room inside the vehicle for 4 big adults and a child. With the seats down there's plenty of room for hauling stuff. The AWD works great in the snow and on the ice. Drove up the iced cover road to Paradise on Mt. Rainier - no problem in March and driven through heavy mud.
The audio system is a blast. Extremely comfortable on long trips. Handling is great. The head lights and fog lights light up even the darkest roads. The AWD system is superb. The outside looks sporty and the quick steering with all its feedback makes you feel like you're in a sports car. ZOOM-ZOOM!
Put a bigger fuel tank in, at least 18 gallons. Increase MPG. Steering wheel mounted audio controls. Two piece sun visor so I can block both the front and side window. Tire noise but I have read and talked to people who say replacing the tires will make most of the noise go away.
The good: Fun to drive. Good driving visibility. Roomy. Rugged. Good looking SUV. Easy to maneuver in the city. Comfortable when taking road trips. Sufficient power for most needs. The bad: MPG. Another couple of miles per gallon would make me feel better. With the second row seat folded down the center console will not open fully. Duh. Cupholders don't accommodate various sizes and heights. Tall drinks next to the center console latch won't fit and is in the way of your arm resting on the console lid. Further, two cups are tough to hold at the same time. I find 20 oz cups/12 oz cans work best. Drop something between the seats, good luck getting it out! Need more places to store stuff.
Fun to drive. The price is competitive. But really, it is fun to drive!
Get rid of the huge center console. It frees up leg movement and picking up items dropped between the seats. I would place the cupholders down between the seats, have armrests built with the front seats, and include storage space for cell phones, sunglasses, etc. Bigger gas tank and sun visors. Lighted cruise controls.