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2008 Mazda Tribute Sport Utility Crossover

4WD V6 Auto Touring

Starting at | Starting at 17 MPG City - 22 MPG Highway

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  • $24,315 original MSRP
Printable Version

2008 Mazda Tribute Sport Utility Crossover

Benefits of Driving a 2008 Mazda Tribute Sport Utility Crossover

The 2008 Mazda Tribute mixes a boxy, more traditional SUV shape with a feel behind the wheel that's very carlike. With the four-cylinder engine, the Tribute is one of the most fuel-efficient small sport-utility vehicles, though the V6 is a better choice for those who plan to drive frequently with heavy loads or at high speed.

What's new for 2008?

For 2008, the Mazda Tribute, which is mechanically similar to the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner, gets a revised exterior appearance, redesigned interior, and a number of other improvements.

Model Strengths

  • Ride and handling (compared to other small SUVs)
  • comfortable interior
  • utility
  • fuel efficiency (four-cylinder).

Model Review

The Mazda Tribute has the boxy appearance of a trucklike SUV for 2008, yet it's oriented for on-road use and has a comfortable and very carlike interior. It's now available in three different trim levels--Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. Front-wheel-drive is standard, but there's also an active torque coupling (ATC) four-wheel drive system (available only with automatic transmission) that can react quickly, sending more power to the wheels that have more traction, to altogether avoid wheel slip. The system works especially well in low-traction road conditions.

Printable Version

2008 Mazda Tribute Sport Utility Crossover


2008 Mazda Tribute

Source: New Car Test Drive


The 2008 Mazda Tribute has been redesigned on the outside and inside, although the engines and chassis are the same. Built by Ford with Mazda tweaks, and a fraternal twin to the Ford Escape, the Tribute took model year 2007 off but it's back for 2008 and offers more value than before.

Tribute s models use Ford's Duratec 3.0-liter V6 that makes 200 horsepower and 193 pound-feet of torque. It achieves an EPA-estimated 18/24 mpg City/Highway with 2WD and 17/22 with 4WD. It's a smooth engine that works well in the Tribute with its four-speed automatic transmission. Many competitors have (and need) a five-speed automatic, but we found the four-speed in the Tribute to be adequate.

Tribute i models use Ford/Mazda's proven 2.3-liter four-cylinder, the same engine that powers the Mazda3, and is popular in race cars because of its potential to make big horsepower. In the Tribute, it delivers a modest 153 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque. It gets better fuel economy than the V6 and costs about $2000 less. Tribute i Sport is available with a manual transmission. It's EPA-rated 20/26 mpg with two-wheel drive and the four-speed automatic transmission, 22/28 with the five-speed manual (either transmission is standard), and 19/24 with optional all-wheel drive with the automatic.

The interior has been totally redesigned to be convenient, while affording as much comfort as possible for a $20,000 SUV, and that's plenty. The air conditioning is especially effective. All the controls are at hand and not confusing for the driver. This simplicity makes a safer vehicle, because the driver's concentration isn't stolen by problem solving.

The ride, on a retuned suspension, is excellent. We put 272 miles on an Escape s Touring model over familiar terrain that sometimes jags us in other vehicles, but we forgot about those bumps driving the Tribute, with its wide track and four-wheel independent suspension, using MacPherson struts in front and multi-links in the rear.

The handling is steady, tight and nimble around town. One of the few new mechanical features is electric power rack-and-pinion steering, which helps make the Tribute easy to parallel park. The front fenders are more squared off than before, making it easier to see the front corners when parking; and, out the back, good visibility with no blind spots is another virtue. The turning radius is tight enough to make a U-turn in the width of a city street.

The previous Tribute had four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, but the '08 Tribute uses drum brakes in the rear. It might be an issue if you tow.

Safety equipment has been upgraded for 2008: Electronic stability control, rollover control, traction control, a tire pressure monitor, two-stage frontal airbags, side airbags in front, full-length air curtains, and LATCH safety mountings for child seats are all standard. In government crash testing, the Tribute scores five stars in side impact front and rear, five stars in frontal impact for the passenger, and three stars in frontal impact for the driver.

Model Lineup

2008 Mazda Tribute i models come with Ford's 2.3-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine, Tribute s models come with a 3.0-liter DOHC V6. Each is available in three trim levels: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring.

The Tribute i Sport ($19,495) comes with cloth interior, air conditioner with pollen filter, all the usual power things, 16-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, halogen headlights and foglights, flip-up rear window, cargo hooks, rear heater ducts, reclining front seats, 60/40 split folding rear seats, AM/FM/CD player with four speakers, remote entry, cruise control and tilt steering wheel.

Touring ($21,090) adds a roofrack with crossbars, tinted glass, six-way power driver's seat with lumbar support, overhead console with bins.

Grand Touring ($23,280) adds leather seats, heated front seats, 190-watt sound system with six-disc CD player and seven speakers, a moonroof, heated mirrors, automatic headlights, and a cargo cover.

Tribute s Sport, ($21,555), Touring ($22,400) and Grand Touring ($24,520) are equipped exactly like those three models but with the V6 and associated equipment.

There's also a Mazda Tribute Hybrid coming soon, joining the similar Ford Escape Hybrid. It uses two electric motors with the 2.3-liter engine, and Mazda says it should get as much as 35 miles per gallon while having the performance of the V6, and costing about $3000 more.

The only major stand-alone options are the sound system, tow package and electronic all-wheel drive. Bike racks and other accessories are available from the dealer.


Almost all of the changes to the 2008 Mazda Tribute have been to the exterior styling and the interior. It's much cleaner and better looking than the previous model. It no longer tries to sell itself with cladding and an over-done grille, like the 2006. It's also better looking than its fraternal twin, the Ford Escape, which looks like it's trying to copy the nose of the Nissan Xterra, or at least the front bumper. Our Touring test model came in Redfire Pearl, a metallic maroon red, and we got a number of compliments on the rig's good looks, which doesn't happen every day with your basic small SUV.

The grille is black egg-crate, in Mazda's wedge shape that suggests a grin, with a chrome Mazda gullwing logo centered in a chrome strip across the top. The halogen headlights, small and simple trapezoids, complement that shape. Under the nose there's a slim valance, either flat black or flat gray, containing the halogen foglamps that are standard with the Touring and Grand Touring models, and an opening for more air to the radiator.

The seven-spoke alloy wheels are okay, neither eye-catching nor detracting from the overall looks of the SUV. The Tribute's clean sides would be a nice canvas for great looking aftermarket wheels, though. The waistline has been raised by 1.5 inches, making taller doors and a safer cabin. The flares around the wheelwells are just right, and the gratuitous cladding of previous models has been erased. The flat black or flat gray of the plastic valance carries along the rocker panels, and the door handles are body colored. There's no chrome for the sake of the chrome, except for one wide strip over the rear license plate indent, matching the strip over the grille.

The B-pillar slopes back with a small angle to give the side windows some angularity, but there's no attempt at fancy shapes as with, for example, the Honda CR-V, a competitor to the Tribute. This allows a practical sized rear cargo window, for better visibility and safety. The liftgate window opens separately, a nice feature that used to be common but is less so, nowadays. The taillights, like the rest of the Tribute, are no-nonsense: big and blocky enough to be safe, with just enough shape to be handsome.

The rear bumper has a flat shelf having a rubber strip, making climbing up to the roofrack easier; that rack, with crossbars that easily adjust by fingertip knobs, is standard on all models but the Sport. It's little things like this that indicate the thoughtfulness behind any vehicle; you have to pay extra to get the crossbars on most SUV roofracks today, and many of them are a challenge to slide forward or rearward for the size and shape of the load.

Interior Features

The interior of the 2008 Ford Escape has been totally redesigned to be convenient and not confusing, while affording as much comfort as possible for a $20,000 SUV, and that's plenty.

The interior color scheme of our Touring model was two-tone black and cream, on the dash and cloth seats. The material is sturdy and stain-resistant, with a ribbed texture on the cream-colored part in the middle of the seat bottom and seat back. It's nice enough, and we have no complaints about comfort, but we wonder why the Tribute doesn't use the rugged sporty material of the Mazda3.

We drove our Escape into the city to see a pro soccer game, one hour each way, loaded with passengers. Three passengers were in the back seat, one adult, two children; they had enough legroom, even enough kneeroom behind the driver whose seat was slid back, and the elevated seating gave them visibility out the windshield, plus the view out the rear windows is broad and open.

The cabin was quiet enough for easy conversation during the trip, without much road noise from tires nor from the V6.

For the passengers in the rear seat, there are two fixed cupholders on the console between the front seats, a small storage bin, an AC outlet, map pockets on the front seatbacks, and door pockets. There are no reading lights for them, however. The rear doors close easily with a solid notch for the hand.

The rear seats fold easily enough, although not totally flat. The seat bottoms slide forward, and the seatbacks then flop down. We carried a bunch of windsurfing equipment without a problem, including masts that extended between the front seats to the dashboard, and one sailboard that was nine feet long, which obscured vision out the right front window, but still fit. It could have easily been strapped to the roofrack, but we were tired after windsurfing and too lazy.

Everything is at hand and not problematic for the driver. The gauges are clean and easy to read, with a neat tach and speedo, split by small gas and temp gauges. Clean and simple. The center stack contains everything that's needed, with dials for the main controls of the sound system and climate system, and buttons that have simple standard icons and are big enough to see and use. It's a blessed relief, nowadays, to find a panel that isn't unnecessarily challenging. This simplicity makes for a safer vehicle, because the driver's concentration isn't stolen by confusion or problem solving.

The air conditioning is powerful. We drove off on a 100-degree day and the cabin was comfortable within two miles. We recently tested a $60,000 Audi Avanti in Phoenix in July, and its AC system couldn't come close to matching the Tribute's.

Under the center stack, there's a forward tray with a grippy rubber liner, the right size for CDs. The shifter has positions for 1, 2, and D, and a button that turns Overdrive off, for towing (there's an optional towing package). Beside the shifter there's a slot for a pen, and behind it there are two deep fixed cup holders. The center console compartment is a deep box, with a small removable tray and three slots for coins. It's covered with grippy ribbed rubber that works for an armrest. Rubber liners in the cup holders and front bin keep things in place and quiet and are removable for easy cleaning.

The trim for the center console is a hard shiny black plastic, same as on the doors, where again the buttons are simple and all you need: lock and unlock, four windows up and down, rear window locks, and remote mirror adjustment.

The only thing about the interior we found inconvenient was the parking brake release, tucked so low that your chin nearly hits the steering wheel when you stretch for it.

Driving Impressions

Ford's all-aluminum 3.0-liter V6 Duratec engine has been around for a while, and it still gets the job done. Two hundred horsepower is plenty for the Mazda Tribute, never mind that the Nissan Xterra and Toyota RAV4 have quite a bit more. Although if you tow anything, you might need more than the Tribute offers.

We didn't, not even with our load of people. The Tribute cruised at freeway speeds, even up long grades, without straining. The engine is smooth, quiet, and doesn't fall back on the transmission kicking down a lot. This is almost surprising, given that it's only a four-speed automatic, and that the full 193 pound-feet of engine torque comes at a relatively high 4850 rpm. We often find that cars with four-speed automatics need a fifth gear, but the Tribute's four-speed is adequate, and smooth.

Regrettably, we didn't have the opportunity to drive a Tribute with the 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine. This is Mazda's bread-and-butter engine, and is well proven. Its 153 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque at 4250 rpm might be enough for your needs in the Tribute, although it can only tow 1500 pounds. It gets two more miles per gallon and costs $2000 less.

We have no complaints whatsoever with the ride. We put 272 miles on the Tribute, over familiar terrain that sometimes jags us in other vehicles, but we were able to forget about those bumps driving the Tribute, with its wide track and independent suspension, using MacPherson struts in front and multi-links in the rear. The suspension tuning has been refined for 2008, as well. There's no tipping, wallowing, weaving, shaking, or anything like that.

The handling is steady, tight and nimble around town. One of the few new mechanical features is electric power rack-and-pinion steering, which helps make the Tribute easy to parallel park. The front fenders are more squared off than before, making it easier to see the front corners when parking; and good visibility with no blind spots out the back is another virtue. There's a tight enough turning radius, which we tested once to catch a parking space on the opposite side of the street.

In terms of brakes, Mazda has taken a technological step backwards. The previous model had four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, but the '08 Tribute uses drum brakes in the rear. It's disappointing, and apparently a cost-cutting move. It might be an issue if you tow.

The tradeoff is that, despite a decrease in the price of the Tribute by about $650, there's more safety equipment, and it's significant. Electronic stability control, rollover control and traction control, a tire pressure monitor, side front airbags and full-length airbag curtains all come standard. None of these things were standard on the 2006.


You can't go wrong with the 2008 Mazda Tribute. For the price, it offers all you can expect from a small SUV, with excellent engineering and mechanical execution. Both the four-cylinder and V6 engines are proven, and gas mileage is good. The four-speed automatic transmission is smooth. The suspension offers a tight and comfortable ride, and the handling is nimble and steady. The interior has been carefully redesigned to be comfortable, with good headroom and legroom in the rear, and the instrumentation is intelligent and easy to understand and operate. Maybe best of all, the price is lower than in 2006, while offering all the latest standard safety features.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses test drove the 2008 Mazda Tribute around Oregon's Columbia River gorge.


Copyright © 1994-2007 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

Printable Version

2008 Mazda Tribute Sport Utility Crossover

Safety Ratings help

What do the Safety Ratings mean?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performs independent crash testing of new vehicles and then assigns them a score based on their performance. The overall crash test rating is based on how a vehicle performs in the following tests:

Driver Crash Grade:

Measures the chance of a serious injury to a crash test dummy that is placed in a driver's seat and driven into a fixed barrier at 35 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less chance of injury.

Passenger Crash Grade:

Similar to the driver crash grade, only now the focus is on the passenger.

Rollover Resistance:

Simulates an emergency lane change to measure the likelihood of a vehicle rolling over. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less risk of rollover.

Side Impact Crash Test - Front:

Focuses on the front side of a vehicle. It simulates crashes that can occur in intersections by striking a 3,015-pound weight against the side of a vehicle at 38.5 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 5 percent or less chance of injury.

Side Impact Crash Test - Rear:

Similar to the front side impact test only now the focus is on the rear passenger.

Driver Crash Grade

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Passenger Crash Grade

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Rollover Resistance

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Side Impact Crash Test - Front

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Side Impact Crash Test - Rear

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Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Std
Traction/Stability Control Std
Tire Pressure Monitoring System Std

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std
Side Air Bag Std
Side Head Air Bag Std
Rear Head side Air Bag Std
Child Safety Locks Std

Road Visibility

Fog Lamps Std
Electrochromic Rearview Mirror Opt
Intermittent Wipers Std
Variable Inter. Wipers Std


Alarm Std
Anti-theft System Std
Printable Version

2008 Mazda Tribute Sport Utility Crossover

Original Warranty  help
Original Warranty
An original warranty is the warranty associated with a vehicle when it is brand new. In addition to the original warranty, select items, like tires, are typically covered by respective manufacturers. Also, an act of Federal law sometimes provides protection for certain components, like emissions equipment.
The original warranty is often broken down into multiple sections, including:
Basic Warranty:
Typically covers everything except for parts that wear out through normal use of the vehicle. Examples of non-covered items are brake pads, wiper blades and filters.
Drivetrain Warranty:
This warranty covers items the basic warranty does not protect. Wear and tear items such as hoses will not be covered, but key items like the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft often will be.
Roadside Assistance:
The level of service differs greatly with this warranty, but many manufacturers offer a toll-free number that helps provide assistance in case you run out of gas, get a flat tire or lock your keys in the car.
Corrosion Warranty:
This warranty focuses on protecting you from holes caused by rust or corrosion in your vehicle's sheet metal.
Please check the owner's manual, visit a local dealership or look at the manufacturer's website to learn more about the specifics of the warranties that apply to a vehicle.

Basic 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Drivetrain 5 Years/60,000 Miles

Mazda Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

Each Mazda Certified Pre-Owned vehicle comes with a 12-Month / 12,000 Mile Vehicle Limited Warranty with no deductible on covered components, which begins when the factory warranty ends. If it's out of warranty, the 12-month/12,000 miles warranty begins on the certified retail date.

Coverage begins on the limited powertrain warranty from the original retail sales date and covers 7-Years /100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Age/Mileage Eligibility 2008-2014 model years and less than 80,000 miles
Lease Term Certified No
Point Inspection 150-Point Detailed Inspection

Autocheck® Vehicle History Report with 3-year buyback protection from Experian, subject to all Experian & Experian Automotive buyback terms and conditions.

Return/Exchange Program No
Roadside Assistance 24hr Roadside Assistance for the life of the Powertrain Limited Warranty offers confidence on the road around the clock.
Special Financing Yes, see your Mazda dealer for details.
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible $0

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

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2008 Mazda Tribute Sport Utility Crossover

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