One main difference between the Tribute and the Ford Escape/Maverick is that the Tribute's suspension is tuned for a firmer ride than the Escape/Maverick, in order to correspond with Mazda's sporty image. It is also Mazda's oldest SUV still in production.
The Tribute made its debut at the 2000 Los Angeles Auto Show. In the United States, it somewhat filled the gap left by the Mazda Navajo, a rebadged Ford Explorer, (which was retired in 1994), while in most other countries it was the first Mazda-badged SUV ever sold. Also, in Japan, Mazda had an SUV called the Mazda Proceed Levante, a rebadged Suzuki Escudo prior to the SUV's debut. The Ford plant in Claycomo, Missouri assembled Tribute for the North American market, alongside Ford Escape. The Mazda plant in Hofu, Japan and the Ford Lio Ho plant in Taiwan assembled Tribute for their respective markets. The 2001-2006 Mazda Tribute featured plain-looking but comfortable roomy interior. It had decent hadling and car-like ride.
- 2.0L YF I4, 129PS (95kW)/183N·m (135ft·lbf)
- 3.0L AJ V6, 203PS (150kW)/265N·m (195ft·lbf)
The 2.0L 4-cylinder engine had Timing belt driven Camshafts, while the 3.0L Duratec V6 featured a maintenance-free timing chain.
Revisions for 2005
Both the Escape and Tribute were refreshed for 2005. The base engine became the Mazda 2.3L MZR 4, and the top remained the 3.0L Duratec V6. In North American built models, a floor mounted automatic transmission shifter replaced the column shifter. However, Japanese-built models continued with a column shifter. Mazda decided to halt production after the 2006 model year for the Tribute, and a hybrid version of the Tribute has been introduced alongside the next generation Tribute as a 2008 model.
- 2.3L MZR I4, 153PS (114kW)/206N·m (152ft·lbf)
- 3.0L AJ V6, 203PS (150kW)/261N·m (193ft·lbf)
A significantly face-lifted version of the Tribute was released in the second half of 2006 for Asia Pacific markets. The updated Tribute featured a larger, bolder grille, with an enlarged Mazda emblem, as well as restyled front bumper and headlights. Side mirrors featured integrated indicators.