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The Mazda Tribute is really is an all-wheel drive wagon with an intelligent all-wheel drive system and reasonable ground clearance that will capably handle some pretty rough conditions. But, in essence, it's an urban wagon conceived for family transport rather than belting around the bush.


The Tribute fits into the compact SUV class, a medium-sized wagon that delivers quite roomy and comfortable accommodation for a family of five along with the gear they need to carry.  Its high ride height provides a broad view of the road, and its safety benefits are one of the appealing features of this type of vehicle.

The Mazda's four-wheel drive system, better described as all-wheel drive, is an on-demand system, which is biased towards the front wheels in normal use but sends drive to the rear wheels when it senses the front wheels slipping.

For off-road use there's a dash-mounted switch that activates a coupling that locks the system in four-wheel drive with the torque split 50:50 front and rear.  The system, along with generous ground clearance and approach and departure angles, gives the Tribute the capacity to go quite a long way off the black top.

Power was delivered by either a 2.0-litre double overhead camshaft, 16-valve four-cylinder engine or a 3.0-litre double overhead camshaft, 24-valve V6.  Running at its peak, the four-cylinder produced 97kW at 5400rpm, while the V6 boasted 149kW at its 6000rpm peak.

Tribute buyers had the choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed auto, and all had the on-demand all-wheel drive system. Under the skin, the Tribute had a combination of MacPherson Strut front suspension and multilink rear, along with power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, giving it good road manners and a comfortable ride.

Mazda offered the Tribute in four models, the Limited 2.0 and 3.0 models, and the Classic and Luxury 3.0 versions. The Limited 2.0 got the four-cylinder engine and manual gearbox, along with steel wheels, tilt steering wheel, velour trim, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, airconditioning, power windows, remote central locking, CD sound, driver and passenger airbags and immobiliser.

When you stepped up to the 3.0 you got the V6 engine and auto trans, and ABS.  If you went for the Classic 3.0 you also got alloy wheels, sunroof, roof rails and cruise, but tick the Luxury 3.0 box and you drove away with leather and rear side airbags.


Mazda build quality means there's not a lot that goes wrong with the Tribute. Because they're mostly used for family transport they tend to suffer from high traffic so look for wear on trim, floor coverings and seat belts, and look for damage caused by youngsters playing up.  Look for a service record for a level of confidence that the previous owner has taken care of the car.


Dual front airbags across the range provide good crash protection in the front seat, with standard side airbags adding protection for rear seat passengers in the Luxury 3.0.


Ashley Manning drove a 2003 Tribute Luxury 3.0 for 2 1/2 years and covered 52,000km. He says it was largely trouble free apart from two small warranty claims for the sunroof switch and a small coolant leak.

The engine was very good, if thirsty, averaging 12.9L/100km. When starting hot or cold, the engine would rev very high.


V6 engine is thirsty on fuel
Look for marks and stains inside
Quite capable off-road
Check underneath for signs of off-road damage
Resale slipping with fuel prices putting buyers off
Roomy and comfortable interior
Good road view from high vantage point


14/20 Well built compact all-wheel drive wagon with the road manners that will see it at home in town and out.

Mazda Tribute 2001: Classic

Safety Rating
Engine Type V6, 3.0L
Fuel Type Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency 13.0L/100km (combined)
Seating 5
Price From $3,740 - $5,500

Range and Specs

Vehicle Specs Price*
Classic 3.0L, Unleaded Petrol, 4 SPEED AUTOMATIC 4X4 $3,740 - $5,500
Limited 2.0L, Unleaded Petrol, 5 SPEED MANUAL 4X4 $2,640 - $4,070
Limited 3.0L, Unleaded Petrol, 4 SPEED AUTOMATIC 4X4 $3,080 - $4,730
See all 2003 Mazda Tribute in the Range
*Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist
With a passion for cars dating back to his childhood and having a qualification in mechanical engineering, Graham couldn’t believe his good fortune when he was offered a job in the Engineering Department at General Motors-Holden’s in the late-1960s when the Kingswood was king and Toyota was an upstart newcomer. It was a dream come true. Over the next 20 years Graham worked in a range of test and development roles within GMH’s Experimental Engineering Department, at the Lang Lang Proving Ground, and the Engine Development Group where he predominantly worked on the six-cylinder and V8 engines. If working for Holden wasn’t exciting enough he also spent two years studying General Motors Institute in America, with work stints with the Chassis Engineering section at Pontiac, and later took up the post of Holden’s liaison engineer at Opel in Germany. But the lure of working in the media saw him become a fulltime motorsport reporter and photographer in the late-1980s following the Grand Prix trail around the world and covering major world motor racing events from bases first in Germany and then London. After returning home to Australia in the late-1980s Graham worked on numerous motoring magazines and newspapers writing about new and used cars, and issues concerning car owners. These days, Graham is CarsGuide's longest standing contributor.
About Author
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