2009 Mazda Tribute SUV Review | Edmunds.com

2009 Mazda Tribute SUV

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Mazda Tribute Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.5 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 6-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 171 hp @ 6000 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 20/28 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2009 Mazda Tribute

  • Last year's extensive interior and exterior revisions combine with this year's stronger engines to create a thoroughly improved 2009 Mazda Tribute. Nevertheless, this Ford clone struggles against newer, more modern competitors.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Comfortable interior, engines offer good balance of power and fuel economy, smart interior controls, strong safety scores.

  • Cons

    Mediocre braking, second seat doesn't recline or slide or easily fold, Sync system not available as on Ford/Mercury competitors.

  • What's New for 2009

    After last year's exterior and interior overhaul, the 2009 Mazda Tribute gets significant mechanical upgrades. The four- and six-cylinder engines now make more power, and a new six-speed automatic improves fuel economy. The front and rear seats have been redesigned, a new capless fuel system has been introduced and more standard equipment shows up on each trim level.

Full 2009 Mazda Tribute Review

What's New for 2009

After last year's exterior and interior overhaul, the 2009 Mazda Tribute gets significant mechanical upgrades. The four- and six-cylinder engines now make more power, and a new six-speed automatic improves fuel economy. The front and rear seats have been redesigned, a new capless fuel system has been introduced and more standard equipment shows up on each trim level.


Last year, the Mazda Tribute got a brand-new wardrobe for Christmas. The exterior was thoroughly overhauled and the interior was freshened with better materials, smarter controls and a more pleasing design. Unfortunately, the vehicle underneath mostly remained the same, including its pair of inefficient and weak engines. So for 2009, the Tribute gets a gym membership to bulk up against an always expanding array of tough competitors.

The four- and six-cylinder engines found in the 2009 Mazda Tribute have been improved. The inline-4 now displaces 2.5 liters (versus 2.3) and produces a more robust and class-competitive 171 horsepower. This makes the base engine a more attractive choice and should make some buyers question the need for the V6. Should they go for it anyway, the 3.0-liter V6 has been pumped up to make 240 hp (versus 200). Best of all, a new six-speed automatic transmission means that both engines' fuel economy has actually gone up for 2009 despite the power increases. Unfortunately, nothing was done to correct the Tribute's mediocre braking distances.

So the Tribute has finally completed its transformation, but is the end result worthy of your consideration over newer crossover competitors? After all, this is still an aging platform introduced in 2001, regardless of its new clothes and new engines. Other crossover SUVs like the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Saturn Vue, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 are more refined, brake better and in most cases are more versatile. Mazda's own CX-7 is sleekly styled and more in keeping with the brand's typical sporty driving dynamics.

Furthermore, the Tribute is a virtual clone of the popular Ford Escape, sharing the same body, interior and powertrains. The Tribute also shares the same pros and cons as the Escape -- except for one. One of the Ford's key selling points is its Sync system that smartly integrates cell phones and media players into the car's controls. The Mazda doesn't have it, and although we suggest looking at the above set of crossover competitors, if the Tribute appeals to you, we'd opt for the Escape with Sync instead.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2009 Mazda Tribute is a compact crossover SUV broken down into i and s models that correspond with the four- and six-cylinder engines. Both are offered in three trim levels -- Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. The base-level Sport comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The Touring adds a roof rack, tinted rear windows, a power driver seat and steering-wheel audio controls. The Grand Touring gains a sunroof, heated side mirrors, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an upgraded sound system with a six-CD changer and satellite radio. The latter item is optional on the Touring. Remote engine start and a towing package are among items that are optional on all three trim levels.

Powertrains and Performance

All Mazda Tribute models can be equipped with either front- or all-wheel drive. The Tribute i gets a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 171 hp and 171 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the Sport trim; a six-speed automatic is optional on the Sport and standard on the others. Fuel economy with the automatic and front-wheel drive is 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. All-wheel drive drops that to 19/25/21 mpg.

The Mazda Tribute s gets a 3.0-liter V6 good for 240 hp and 233 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard. Fuel economy with front-wheel drive is 18 city/26 highway and 21 mpg combined, and 17/24/20 mpg with all-wheel drive.


The 2009 Mazda Tribute comes with an impressive portfolio of standard safety equipment including front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control and traction control.

In government crash tests, the Tribute scored five stars in all frontal and side impact categories. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Tribute scored the top rating of "Good" for frontal offset and side impact crash protection.

Interior Design and Special Features

Like the 2009 Tribute's exterior, the interior has little Mazda family resemblance apart from the badge on its steering wheel. For the most part, the Tribute's cabin is virtually identical to that of the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner. Unless you're a devout Mazda fan, this isn't really a bad thing, as the control layout and the build quality are generally impressive. The climate and stereo controls are split, with readouts placed high atop the dash in legible blue and white characters. Sadly, the Tribute does not offer the innovative Sync electronics interface system that is such a strong selling point in the Escape and Mariner.

The front seats are well bolstered and comfortable. The rear seat, although roomy enough for adults, is flat and devoid of recline or fore-and-aft adjustments. Folding that seat down is a bit of a chore, too, as the headrests must be removed and the bottom cushions tipped forward before the seatbacks can be lowered. Cargo space stands at 29 cubic feet behind the second row and 66 cubes with the second row folded. This is more than what's available in competitors such as the Nissan Rogue and Saturn Vue but less than in the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

Driving Impressions

The revised engines and new six-speed automatic for 2009 are welcome changes to the Mazda Tribute. The newfound power, along with an increase in fuel economy, make this aging entry more competitive and a better vehicle to drive. Elsewhere, the electric power steering system delivers surprisingly good road feel and response. Around corners, this compact crossover SUV remains relatively flat and inspires driver confidence. The ride quality is smooth, making the Tribute a suitable choice for commuting or hauling the family. Nevertheless, many competitors are more refined and more fun to drive. In testing, we've found panic braking distances to be disappointing, the rear drum brakes being a likely culprit.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

Brake failure for no reason

by on
Vehicle: 2009 Mazda Tribute i Sport 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl 6A)

We own a 2009 Tribute, and thought it was a really good car, until yesterday, 3.5 years after we bought it. I was out with my kids, the car went "ping--." A red light indicates "brake." I thought my parking brake was on, but it wasn't. The display says "check brake system." I tried to brake, there was no traction. The car kept going. I stepped on the brake all the way, still no traction. I managed to roll the car back to our house. I called Madzda and Mazda refuses to take responsilities and wants me to pay for checkup just because the car is "out of warranty." If we got killed yesterday, who'd pay for the checkup? Mazda refused to allow us to speak with management.

Fun while it lasted.

by on
Vehicle: 2009 Mazda Tribute i Sport 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl 6A)

I bought my Tribute with 7300 miles on it and I loved it. I traded it in with 35500 miles on it because the transmission had gotten really sluggish over the last 15000 and I was having problems with the breakes. It had been in the shop 5 times within the last 6 months and they still squeaked loudly. As far as the transmission I've read numorous reviews on the tribute/escape/mariner regarding the transmission issue and consumers needing new ones so i traded mine before it could give me problems. I loved the layout and the look of the vehicle. the 12v outlet in the back came out of its compartment and the one up front was loose. I got about 22-25 mpg city and 26-28 hwy.

Tribute on tough road

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Vehicle: 2009 Mazda Tribute i Touring 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl 6A)

I bought my Tribute in June 2009 at Puerto Rico where drive conditions are rude and rush. So far my Tribute have 47000 miles and I just had to change the CV shaft, both of them. I drive an average of 50 miles daily and fuel usage is good, a fuel tank last almost 6 days. Music system is great and interiors are really cool. Safety systems on the Tribute are reliable.

Does the job

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Vehicle: 2009 Mazda Tribute i Sport 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl 6A)

I have this SUV for more than a year now and i am very happy with it. Very reliable in any conditions. Roomy enough to go around and do some winter and summer activities out in the woods. Original tires are Michelin and they are great.I choose this one over ford's only due to looks. Did not want the fake Bling bling shiny look. Front end is sportier looking.

Good overall

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Vehicle: 2009 Mazda Tribute s Grand Touring 4dr SUV (3.0L 6cyl 6A)

I had a 2001 Tribute with a V6 that was a gem. The new 2009 has all the goodies and is a fun ride. It performed very well on a 200 mile trip getting 25 mpg.The only fault I have,so far,is the use on black plastic trim used ont the center console and the placement of the center storage compartment. Compartment is very difficult to reach into because it is too far back from the driver. I only have 1,950 miles on the vehicle.

Function and style

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Vehicle: 2009 Mazda Tribute i Sport 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl 6A)

Bought the Tribute for me and my wife, it has been great, lots of cargo space, fuel economy is exceptional from the 4 cylinder; and it has lots of power considering the other models we looked at with comparable engines. We typically see 29-30 mpg on road trips in West Texas it is primarily flat so cannot speak much of hills but out here it is a great combination of function, fuel economy and style

Talk About The 2009 Tribute

2009 Mazda Tribute Discussions See all Started By

I own Mazda Tribute 2005 AWD. Just after 105,000 and over having it for five years I had transmission problems. I was able to drive with it like that for a few months, I just couldn’t do any ...

Got my new CX-5 two weeks ago, in replacement of my 2009 Tribute GT 4WD, which was totaled in an accident in late June. By the way, I have to take my hat off to my Mazda Tribute, the truck did what it...

New or enhanced for 2009(Tribute):...

Gas Mileage


  • 20
  • cty
  • 28
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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