Full 2011 Mazda Tribute Review
What's New for 2011
The Mazda Tribute carries over unchanged for 2011.
It must be tough for the 2011 Mazda Tribute at family get-togethers. Like the red-headed stepchild, this compact crossover sticks out as the oddball among its fellow Mazdas with their rakish profiles, beefy fender flares and wide-mouth grilles. That's because the Tribute has been adopted from a different family. Remove the badges from the Mazda Tribute and what you have is a Ford Escape, except without the Ford's many appealing high-tech features.
The Tribute and its Ford twin date back to the turn of the millennium, and you can tell, as this vehicle's blocky shape and upright driving position are indicative of the truck-based SUVs that used to rule back in Y2K. The Tribute has been thoroughly updated since then with refreshed styling, dramatically improved interior quality and more potent engines, but the underlying vehicle has remained the same. That means it lacks new, now-common features like a telescoping steering wheel or a reclining and sliding rear seat. And it drives with a truck-ish demeanor that seems very un-Mazda-like.
More important, it's also a little hard to fathom why someone would opt for a 2011 Mazda Tribute instead of a Ford Escape, since the Ford can be equipped with a state-of-the-art navigation system, excellent self-parking technology and the innovative Sync electronics interface, which includes cell phone and iPod connectivity along with voice controls.
However, note that the Escape is far from a top pick among compact crossovers. It might have the admittedly appealing option of Sync, but it's still an aging design that lacks many of the beneficial attributes of competitors like the Chevy Equinox, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV-4. Either way you cut it, though, this 2011 Mazda is a Tribute to neither its adopted nor birth families.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Mazda Tribute is a compact SUV available in i Sport, i Touring, i Grand Touring and s Grand Touring. (These "i" descriptors don't indicate a partnership with Apple; rather they represent the Tribute's four-cylinder engine, whereas the "s" indicates a V6.)
The i Sport comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglamps, keyless entry, full power accessories, cruise control (with automatic transmission), air-conditioning, tilt-only steering wheel and a four-speaker sound system with CD player and auxiliary audio jack. The i Touring adds a roof rack, privacy glass, a six-way power driver seat, a cargo cover and a seven-speaker sound system with six-disc CD changer and steering-wheel audio controls. The Grand Touring trims add heated mirrors, a sunroof, heated front seats, leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror and satellite radio. The s Grand Touring gets a V6 and a towing prep package.
There are no factory options available, but it's possible to purchase a portable navigation system and an auto-dimming mirror from the dealer.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Mazda Tribute i models are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 171 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the i Sport, while the six-speed automatic is optional on the i Sport and standard on all others. Front-wheel drive is standard on all Tributes, while all but the i Sport can be equipped with all-wheel drive. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 20/26/23 with all-wheel drive.
The Mazda Tribute s Grand Touring gets a 3.0-liter V6 good for 240 hp and 233 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard. In Edmunds performance testing of the identical Ford Escape, a 0-60-mph sprint was dispatched in 8.1 seconds, which is rather slow for a compact crossover with an upgraded engine. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 18/23/20 with all-wheel drive.
The 2011 Mazda Tribute comes with standard antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum), stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing of the Tribute's twin, the Ford Escape, we found that it came to a stop from 60 mph in an unacceptably long 154 feet, which is about 30 feet longer than it should be.
Thankfully, the Tribute and Escape's crash ratings are strong. The government gave them a perfect five stars in all front and side crash categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Tribute the top mark of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side crash tests, but the second-lowest rating of "Marginal" in the roof strength test.
Interior Design and Special Features
For the most part, the Tribute's cabin is virtually identical to that of the Ford Escape. This isn't really a bad thing, as the control layout and build quality are generally impressive. The straightforward climate and stereo controls are split, with readouts placed high atop the dash in legible blue and white characters. Unfortunately, the Tribute does not offer the Escape's excellent available navigation system or the innovative Sync electronics interface, which includes Bluetooth, iPod interface and voice controls.
The Tribute's front seats are well-bolstered and comfortable, though a tilt-only steering wheel might prevent some from finding an ideal driving position. The rear seat, although roomy enough for adults, has an uncomfortably flat bottom cushion in order to create a flat load floor when the seatback is laid down, and the seat itself is devoid of reclining and sliding adjustments. Folding down the seat is a bit of a chore, as the headrests must be removed and the bottom cushions tipped forward before the seatbacks can be lowered (it's that flat load floor thing again).
Cargo space stands at 31.4 cubic feet behind the second row and 67.2 cubes with the 60/40-split second row folded. This is a bit larger than Mazda's own CX-7 and smaller crossovers like the Hyundai Tucson, but the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 are bigger.
In general, the 2011 Mazda Tribute is pleasant to drive. The electric-assist power steering system delivers good road feel and response, and around corners, this compact crossover SUV provides a good amount of driver confidence. However, if you're looking for the sort of dynamic driving experience indicative of Mazda's other vehicles, you won't find it with this aging, rebadged Ford. At least the Tribute's ride is reasonably smooth. Acceleration from both engines is adequate, though the V6 isn't as energetic as the more powerful upgrade engines found in its many competitors.