The first Mazda sport/utilities were rebadged Explorers, but not any more. Though the new Tribute shares its platform and powertrains with the Ford Escape, most of its body panels are different, as is much of the interior and suspension tuning. We felt Mazda's "Sport Sedan of SUVs" mantra was worthy of a year's evaluation, so we ordered up a Tribute ES V-6 AWD. There wasn't much to add to the base price of $23,025, as the ES V-6 represents the lineup's top model and includes leather seating, AM/FM/CD, foglights, roof rack, anti-theft system, and most power accessories. The only options on our newest long-termer are wheel locks ($30), ABS/side-airbag package (a steal at $495), power moonroof ($1090), Class II tow package (hitch receiver, oil cooler, and wiring harness at $350), plus the obligatory destination charge of $515. That makes a total of $25,505, still reasonable in our book for an ideally sized, well-equipped riglet. Its 200-hp Duratec V-6 is a well-liked piece, and other than a slight rattle somewhere in the headliner, the Tribute is off to a great start.

SPECIFICATIONS
Base price: $23,025
Price as tested: $25,505
Vehicle layout: Front engine, AWD, 4-door, 5-pass
Engine: 3.0L V-6, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Hp @ rpm: 200 @ 6000
Torque @ rpm: 200 @ 4750
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
0-60 mph, sec: 8.7
EPA mpg: 18 city/24 highway
Total mileage: 3535
Avg test mpg: 18.2
Problem areas: Rattle in headliner
Non-warr cost: $0