When it comes to the old line, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” there are several auto manufacturers who have one or two offerings that have stood the test of time.

The Ford Escape and the Mazda Tribute — a pair of compact SUVs — are two prime examples. However, they continue to sell like hotcakes, despite the aging bones hiding underneath the botox’d sheet metal.

Of the two, the Tribute is the one aimed at a more urban environment. Given Mazda’s penchant for creating solid driving machines, it’s also the more satisfying one to pilot.


The 2010 version we had on test was the entry-level GX, powered by the company’s new 171-hp 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, mated to an optional six-speed automatic transmission.

While it is possible to get all-wheel drive with the base engine, ours sent power only to the front. But winter tires and a bunch of safety systems, like traction and stability control, meant there was little that could get the Tribute really stuck.

The upside of driving a four-banger is good gas mileage, and the Mazda doesn’t disappoint, with ratings of 10.1/7.2 L/100 km (city/highway).

Compared to the firmly tuned CX-7 crossover that’s roughly the same size and uses the same four-cylinder engine, the Tribute is softer and more comfortable on the highway, but still maintains some nimble moves. It does feel quicker, though, because it has significantly less weight to haul around.

It’s inside the cabin where the Tribute falls down compared to its rivals. While Mazda has applied its own touches — like the glossy piano-black inserts on the centre console — on a design largely created by Ford, the results are underwhelming.

There’s only so much you can do when you’re restricted by a body that hasn’t changed substantially in 10 years. Room in the second row is pretty good, and the rear seats do fold completely flat after popping up the rear seat cushions first. Cargo room is competitive, but don’t expect sheets of drywall to fit properly thanks to the Tribute’s narrow width.

Starting at nearly $23,450, the Tribute’s very close to the technically superior offerings from Honda and Hyundai.

And if you opt for the 240-hp V6, expect to be shelling out nearly $28,000.

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