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Safety first in Mazda's upgraded Tribute

Points of difference: The 2004 Tribute is visually differentiated by new headlights and tail-lights.

Mazda’s upgraded Tribute SUV range goes on sale in Australia in January

10 Dec 2003

AS if an all-new Mazda3 and revised Mazda2 range wasn’t enough new model action from Mazda in January, the rejuvenated Japanese car-maker has announced a facelifted Tribute SUV line-up to go on sale next month too.

Headlining the changes is the addition of front seat-mounted side airbags across the range as standard, plus standard ABS in a new four-cylinder entry level variant – making Tribute the only compact SUV with side airbags and ABS as standard across the range.

The changes are part of a general facelift for the Japanese-built Tribute, which also comprises revised suspension damping, quieter and longer-wearing brake pads, new interior cloth trims for Limited Sport V6 and Classic models, subtly revised instrument clusters and a more compact three-spoke steering wheel that includes cruise and audio controls on all V6 models.

Currently opening at $30,990, the Tribute Limited manual will be replaced by a new, auto-only entry level model expected to be priced close to $35,000.

While some buyers may rue the loss of a manual transmission choice for Tribute, Mazda says the new Limited Sport model offers at least $5000 better value by gaining a four-speed auto, 6.5 x 16-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, ABS with EBD, side airbags, front foglights, roof rails and a lidded storage bin between the front seats.

Of course, the new 2.3-litre MZR engine also offers greater performance than the ageing 2.0-litre it replaces, delivering 108kW at 6000rpm (11 per cent up) and 201Nm of torque at 4500rpm (10 per cent up).

Facelifted 3.0-litre V6 Tribute models will also benefit from (less dramatic) performance increase thanks to a revised power control module, which bumps up power by 2kW and torque by 10Nm, to 152kW at 6000rpm and 276Nm at 4750rpm respectively.

Extra performance, safety and equipment aside, the 2004 Tribute is visually differentiated by new headlights and tail-lights, plus five new exterior colours.

The revised, all-auto Tribute range is expected to start around $35,000 with the new four-cylinder Limited Sport variant, rising to the Limited Sport V6 which is expected to remain at its current $36,990 sticker price. The $39,990 V6 Classic and $43,350 V6 Luxury are expected to rise by only a few hundred dollars.

Mazda Australia expects Tribute to continue attracting almost nine per cent of the booming compact SUV market (which itself eclipses sales of medium, large and luxury SUVs combined), projecting 6000 Tribute sales in 2004 – split evenly between the two Limited Sport models and the V6 Classic (40 per cent each), with the leather-clad V6 Luxury comprising 20 per cent of sales.

Official pricing will be announced before Christmas, when first examples of the updated Tribute are expected to begin arriving in Mazda showrooms.

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