Jude P. Morte / Jude P. Morte | January 09, 2008 00:00
Visual civilized identityFor many a manufacturer, platform sharing between models is an effective way to reduce operating costs. However, the different variants coming out from a particular platform may present similar unique selling points; the key is to turn these brothers from a single mother to exude respective distinctions.
One example is the Mazda Tribute. Based on the CD2 platform shared with the Ford Escape, the Tribute has managed to hold its own against stiff compact SUV competition - including its aforementioned platform sibling - by presenting itself as a civilized Escape alternative. But can it still hold its own despite minor changes?
Not much has changed with regard to the exterior, save for some new and pleasing aesthetics - such as a larger grille (with an enlarged Mazda emblem and a honeycomb design), re-styled headlights and front bumper, and integrated turn signals within the side mirrors.
The black lacquer dashboard finish on the dashboard, center console and door panels give the interior a touch of class and a notion that the Tribute is strictly meant for the urbanite. The audio entertainment has somehow improved over its precursor, but needs help at the treble end. The aircon is cold, but the blower and temperature gauges should change dimensions. Why? The middle knob (temperature) is big and the blower knob (to the left of the temperature gauge) is small; most owners fiddle with the blower knob in tropical countries.
Storage is a love or hate matter. Door storage is narrow and the glovebox is small, but the Tribute totes the front backrest-mounted folding tray tables and the large center console from the Escape. The rear hatch has separate partitions for the glass and the hatch proper. Unfortunately regular bigger cargo haulers may get teed off, though, as the rear seats don't fully fold flat.
The Tribute has a sluggish bottom end and a weak top end, with a high powerband entry (3250 rpm) and the ECU willing to downshift only at three-fourths throttle. It doesn't help, too, that the floor-mounted tranny has only four forward gears, with a short second gear and a TALL third gear.
Handling is just middling for the P1.147 million Tribute, but somewhat decent safety-wise. There's little body roll on turns and the ride is comfortable, but traction from the Goodyear Fortera 215 60R16s breaks at 60 kph onwards (with loud tire squeal). Steering is light in feel but response is a tad slow. The brakes grip well, but the handbrake's rightmost location on the center console can be intrusive to shotgun travelers. Exterior lighting is bright, but the foglights are frustrating to use and the dashboard gauge fonts are small.
The newest iteration of the Mazda Tribute still retains the civilized SUV sibling branding of its forebears, boosted by a much-improved interior and an exterior that visibly shares visual identity with its Mazda 3 and 6 sedans.