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Old 09-28-2007, 01:00 PM
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Arrow Tribute remains functional, family-friendly

In the sales brochure, Mazda says its 2008 Tribute sport-ute is "retooled, re-cooled." The first is more or less a given. The compact SUV's freshened exterior design includes new front and rear fascias, hood, liftgate, power side-view mirrors, alloy wheels, headlamps, tail lamps, fog lights and a raised beltline. The thing is that unless there's an original 2001 to 2006 Tribute nearby with which to compare, most consumers would be hard pressed to distinguish the new from the old.

This is either a bold corporate statement or a serious under-estimation of the changing nature of the sport-utility market. As would be expected, Mazda's take is skewed to the former, the company stating the entry-level Tribute offers "more traditional sport-utility vehicle styling" than its CX-7 and CX-9 crossovers. Can you say old school?

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Though it lacks the distinctiveness of some of its rivals - notably the Honda CR-V and the more radical Jeep Compass, Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan Rogue - the Tribute is cleanly styled in a way that imbues it with a solid profile without appearing too chunky.

The same conservatism applies to the interior, which is nicer and more comfortable than before, but it is really about new colour combinations and ergonomic enhancements, not a wholesale makeover. The most interesting aspect of the tester's cabin is its two-tone black/cream trim scheme, with the latter shade on the seat inserts as well as the dashboard panels in front of the driver and front passenger. Other than the fact it doesn't quite match the beige roof liner, the cabin is a welcome relief from the monotony of dark interiors found in many competitive models. Too bad Mazda says it will drop the combo next year.

Anyone looking for innovation won't be overwhelmed by what's under the hood.

Mazda has retained the optional 200-horsepower, 3.0-litre DOHC V6 - a 2.3-litre four-cylinder is the standard engine - coupled to a four-speed automatic and, in the case of the tester, sending power to all four wheels via the available Active Torque-Split all-wheel-drive system.

So, in reality, the Tribute is pretty much status quo in the compact SUV segment, not busting out in looks, powertrain or high-tech features. How "re-cooled" is that?

The answer is: not very.

There are, however, a lot of improvements to the SUV that aren't readily apparent unless one reads the sales brochure or owner's manual. Take safety, for example. For 2008, dual front-side airbags and side air curtains, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Rollover Stability Control (RSC) and traction control are standard across the Tribute range. ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution is also standard, though Mazda has not seen fit to upgrade the Tribute to four-wheel disc brakes, sticking with a front disc/rear drum setup.

Fuel economy is still something of an issue. My week with the tester generated an average of 12.5 litres per 100 kilometres, and this with a fair amount of highway use.

In mid-level GS trim, the Tribute comes standard with the V6 and four-speed automatic, roof rack with cross bars, six-way power adjustable driver's seat, overhead console, leather-wrapped steering wheel, retractable cargo cover and trailer towing package. This is on top of the standard features found in the entry-level GX - 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD audio system, remote keyless entry system, heated power side-view mirrors, power windows and door locks, and cruise control - which, with a suggested retail price less than $30,000, represents good value.

Source: [url=http://autos.canada.com/news/story.html?id=ec3c0128-611c-475a-8f14-62548794621e]Driving.ca[/url]
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