2001 Tribute New Car Test Drive
Mazda's commercials show its new Tribute zooming around with a pack of Miatas. This new sport-utility, we are led to infer, is just as prepared to zoom around a twisting road racing circuit as it is to veer off into the woods on a primitive two-track. Fortunately, it's an accurate characterization.
Sporty handling, luxurious refinement and brisk V6 performance make the new Mazda Tribute the best small sport-utility vehicle sold today (assuming most of your driving is done on pavement). Mazda and Ford worked jointly on developing the Mazda Tribute and Ford Escape and together they outclass the other small utilities.
The Mazda Tribute ES, the top model, comes loaded with leather seating, a six-disc in-dash CD player and other luxury features. It has been considered by some to be a poor man's Lexus RX 300, which costs another $12,500. Nearly 6 inches longer than a Jeep Cherokee, the Mazda Tribute comfortably seats four people. Indeed, the Mazda Tribute delivers an excellent value for people who want the image and versatility of a sport-utility coupled with refinement and better on-road handling than truck-based utilities.
Three trim levels are available: DX ($17,005), LX ($20,820) and ES ($21,825).
The base Tribute DX is powered by a 130-horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission; it is not available with an automatic.
All other models are fitted with a 200-horsepower V6 and a four-speed automatic transmission. In fact, 90 percent of all Tributes will come with the V6 and automatic, including the DX-V6 ($19,140).
All models are available with either front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive; four-wheel drive adds $1200-$1400 to the above prices.