I bought my Mazda Tribute new in December 2002. I live at 6,000 ft elevation on a mountain. For the first 9 years of owning my Tribute, I commuted 100 miles a day, mountain road all the way. My Tribute had no trouble pulling the grade going up the mountain. It performs great in the snow with snow tires. It is a very stable vehicle. I now have 306,000 miles on my Tribute!! The only major repairs I have done is a new alternator at 175,000 miles, at 280,000 the radiator blew. When having the radiator replaced I had the coil packs and spark plugs replaced since they were still original!!! Other than those repairs it was just the normal stuff .. batteries, brakes and oil changes.
I bought my 03 Tribute LX 4WD at 95,000 miles and I've been happy with it every single day. It's amazing in the winter and even better in the summer! Everything still works at 106,000 miles a year later. The wheel bearing on the front right passenger side was broken when I bought it, unfortunately, and it wasn't until much later that I found that problem and the dealership paid for it. The crash test ratings are spectacular on this SUV! I was just hit a week ago by a drunk driver going 70 mph and I walked away without a scratch. My Tribute is in great condition save for a few cosmetic repairs. If I had been in a lighter SUV I would have rolled over. Definitely worth every penny.
I've owned and driven a lot of vehicles in the past 40 years including a 63 Corvair, 2 67 Corvettes, big Plymouths, Mercurys and Cadillacs, and a Dodge Ram truck. My 2003 Tribute is clearly the best ever on an overall basis. The other ones did some things a lot better than the Tribute, but none did everything to the same good level. It has the most driver leg room of any car I've owned. I have used the temporary 4WD to go through some really hairy places. Put the rear seats down and it can carry a surprising amount of stuff. And it is surprisingly kind of fun to drive in most situations.
Truly the best vehicle I've ever owned! If they still made the tribute I would buy one immediately. We have had no problems with this car. We bought it new in 2003. The only problem with it now is that has developed a very slight oil leak; we lose very little oil and never have to replenish it between oil changes every six months. The only reason we are buying a new car is that the safety features of newer cars are important to have.
I am sad to say that I recently totaled my tribute and am now shopping for a new one. I bought my 03 used with 25k miles on it. I was super impressed with its reliability in the 6 years I owned it. Bought new tires once. Major tuneup before a trip at 100k. Other than that - just oil changes. Ran perfectly. It did have some wind noise which was slightly annoying, but certainly tolerable. Other than that, no complaints. It was the perfect size for our family of four..not too big, not too small. Pretty good mpg. And super fun to drive..very peppy lil guy! I'll miss my trib!