Mazda is producing a compact CUV with a production code of J14 since 2001. It was a result of joint venture between the Ford and Mazda Motor Company. This front-wheel drive vehicle is based on Mazda 626 platform and in turn led the basis for the Ford Escape built on CD2 platform. Compared to Ford’s CD2 range, the Tribute is relatively low-priced than the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner.
Both Tribute and Escape appeared in 2001, available both as front-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive configurations. The engine options available were the 2.0-L transversely mounted Ford Zetec 4-cylinder and a 3.0-L Ford Duratec V6 engines. In European market, the Escape was marketed as Ford Maverick with an option of Ford 2.0-L I4 mated to manual transmission or a 3.0-L Duratec mated to automatic transmission.
The stiffer and rigid suspension of Tribute is the only difference between the Escape/Maverick and Tribute. The stiffer suspension in Tribute intended to offer solid ride being a part of Mazda’s sports car lineup. The Tribute is also regarded as one of the oldest Mazda’s SUV still in Mazda plants. The rival automakers has introduced many upgraded similar class versions but Mazda’s Tribute is still been appreciated for its superb handling and matchless performance equipments.
First Generation (2000–2007)
The first generation Tribute was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2000. It filled up the gap between the Mazda Navajo and a rebadged Ford Explorer in the US market. However, in majority of the markets it was introduced as the first Mazda-based SUV. Before the launch of Tribute, Mazda already was offering the Mazda Proceed Levante (rebadged version of Suzuki Escudo) in the Japanese market. The Ford plant in Claycomo, Missouri produced Mazda Tribute and Ford Escape for the local market. Similarly, the Mazda’s Hofu plant in Japan and Ford Lio Ho plant in Taiwan manufactured the Tribute and Escape for their concerned markets.
In 2004, the Tribute and Escape received mild restyling for the 2005 model. The 2.3-L MZRI4 engine was now offered as standard, while the high performance 3.0-L Duratec V6 engine was retained. The floor mounted automatic transmission shifter was overtaken by the column shifter in North American-based models, while the Japanese versions still offered with column shifter.
Second Generation (2007–Present)
The second generation Tribute was launched in 2007 as a completely renewed model similar to Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner. Mazda’s plans were to rename the model as CX-5, but the name was later retained as Tribute. The second generation Tribute is based on the same CD2 platform and also carried over the engines from previous generation, i.e. a 2.3-L MZR I4 and a 3.0-L AJ V6 unit. The prominent notable changes from previous generation could be seen in interior as well as in the form of all new sheet metal. Other differences laid in Front fenders, hood, front fascia taillights and detailing of the car. Distinct wheel arches and raised belt line were other features. Mazda opted for drum brakes on its rear with a view to avoid high costs on production.