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2004 Mazda Tribute Review
Likable and fun small SUV with style.
Reviewed by Automotive on
The 2004 Mazda Tribute is a sport utility vehicle (SUV), and a small and basic one at that. Based on Ford’s Escape platform with a few cosmetic alterations, this Mazda has an option for four-wheel drive on all trims, car-like handling, an optional V-6 with solid power and a comfortable, if not luxury looking interior. It offers some real style, especially for this price-range/segment. It may not be a class leader, but the Tribute is fun to drive and has a reasonable sticker price, making it a solid choice for a small SUV.
Engines: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 3.0-liter V-6
Transmissions: five-speed-manual, four-speed automatic
Models: Mazda Tribute DX, Mazda Tribute LX-V6, Mazda Tribute ES-V6
For 2004, the Tribute gets new body-colored door edge guards as an available option. Homelink and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a built-in compass are added to the options list.
The 2004 Mazda Tribute SUV comes in three trims: DX, LX, and ES. The DX is equipped with a four-cylinder engine, while the other trims sport a V-6. The DX trim offers 16-inch alloy wheels, fully independent suspension, rear window wiper, roof rack, and a rear liftgate. Moving up to the higher trims upgrades engines and transmissions, and not much else.
The exterior of the Tribute is very similar in structure to its Ford sibling, the Escape. There are cosmetic differences, such as body moldings and the grille. The Tribute has a nice look for a small SUV: sporty and sleek, but not stylized into silliness.
The DX trim offers cabin gear like cloth seats, basic power features, tilt steering wheel, air-conditioning, and an audio system with a CD player. The LX upgrades to premium cloth upholstery and cruise control mounted on the steering wheel. The ES trim adds leather seats and leather trim on the steering wheel along with a power driver’s seat. The Tribute’s cabin isn’t the largest, but it offers a respectable amount of space for a small SUV. The interior is comfortable and ergonomic, but the design and materials give it a cheap look. This is certainly not a luxury SUV, nor does it have any intentions of trying to masquerade as such.
Performance & Handling
Due to a partnership between Mazda and Ford, their respective SUV’s share powertrain options. The base model DX starts off with a 130 horsepower, two-liter four-cylinder that produces 135 lb-ft of torque. A 201 horsepower, three-liter V-6 that makes 196 lb-ft of torque powers all LX and ES models. A five-speed-manual transmission is the only gearbox available for use with the four-cylinder engine, while a four-speed automatic mates with the V-6, regardless of model. All models of the Tribute may be equipped with front drive or a four-wheel-drive system made by Ford that engages automatically but lacks a Low-range gearing. The V-6 offers enough power to handle traffic situations, but may not be the towing beast some buyers will need. The four-cylinder mostly gets basic jobs done, but not quickly. The ride is solid, not too stiff, but not a luxury SUV style either. The handling is much closer to that of a car than an SUV. Balanced and confident, the Tribute will display the occasional SUV handling tic like nose plow or body lean in a fast and sharp turn. But the overall handling is similar to a car making this small SUV a good choice for buyers that want some space and utility without having to adjust to driving a truck.
Safety equipment varies noticeably on the three trims. The base DX trim is a picture of economy, but unfortunately, that means almost no safety gear to speak of other than bare-bone basics like child-seat anchors. Even the rear brakes are the inferior drum variety. The LX-V6 trim offers the option for anti-lock brakes and side-impact airbags for the front seats. On the ES-V6 trim anti-lock brakes are standard, and the airbags are still optional. Crash test scores are a mixed bag. In NHTSA tests, the Tribute earned five out of five stars on all but one test where it received four out of five stars. Yet in IIHS tests, the Tribute received the lowest rating of ""poor"" for side-impacts, and the next lowest rating of ""marginal"" for frontal-offset crashes.
EPA Fuel Economy
Mazda Tribute LX-V6: 17/23 mpg city/highway
Mazda Tribute ES-V6: 17/23 mpg city/highway
- Comfortable interior
- V-6 engine power
- Handles like a car
You Won't Like
- Under-powered four-cylinder in base model
- V-6 fuel economy
- V-6 driving range
- Interior’s cheap appearance
Likable and fun small SUV with style.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Honda Element
- Suzuki Grand Vitara
- Ford Escape
- Subaru Forester
- Toyota RAV-4