2009 Mazda Tribute Review

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Mazda Tribute model years
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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • Comfortable interior, engines offer good balance of power and fuel economy, smart interior controls, strong safety scores.
  • Mediocre braking, second seat doesn't recline or slide or easily fold, Sync system not available as on Ford/Mercury competitors.

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.

Vehicle overview

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.

2009 Mazda Tribute models

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.

2009 Highlights

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.

Performance & mpg

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.


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.


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.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2009 Mazda Tribute.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

4.88 out of 5 stars
Function and style
Lots of Utility,10/22/2009
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
4 out of 5 stars
Overall good/bad ignition problem
i Sport 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl 6A)
We have been very impressed with the reliability of the Tribute, but an extremely annoying ignition problem that does not allow the car to crank was aggravating. After countless hours of online research and several attempts at repairs, it appears we have conquered the problem. All stemming from an inferior designed ignition module that wears out. Happens with Ford Escape and Ford Focus also. Should have been recalled. UPDATE, the ignition module did not solve the problem, so I changed the starter. Even though the car would start fine for days, it would still not crank at times. After weeks it seems the new starter did the trick. It must has been something faulty in the starter that made it work intermittently.
3 out of 5 stars
fun while it lasted.
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.
2.5 out of 5 stars
Brake Failure for No Reason at 28K Miles
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.


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover3 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
  • Roof Strength Test
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2009 Mazda Tribute

Used 2009 Mazda Tribute Overview

The Used 2009 Mazda Tribute is offered in the following submodels: Tribute SUV. Available styles include i Sport 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl 6A), i Touring 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl 6A), i Grand Touring 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl 6A), i Sport 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl 5M), s Touring 4dr SUV (3.0L 6cyl 6A), s Grand Touring 4dr SUV (3.0L 6cyl 6A), i Touring 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl 6A), s Sport 4dr SUV (3.0L 6cyl 6A), i Grand Touring 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl 6A), s Touring 4dr SUV AWD (3.0L 6cyl 6A), i Sport 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl 6A), s Sport 4dr SUV AWD (3.0L 6cyl 6A), and s Grand Touring 4dr SUV AWD (3.0L 6cyl 6A). Pre-owned Mazda Tribute models are available with a 2.5 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 171 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2009 Mazda Tribute comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed automatic. The Used 2009 Mazda Tribute comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2009 Mazda Tribute?

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Which used 2009 Mazda Tributes are available in my area?

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Can't find a used 2009 Mazda Tributes you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Mazda Tribute for sale - 11 great deals out of 19 listings starting at $9,220.

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Should I lease or buy a 2009 Mazda Tribute?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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