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First drive: Mazda's Taipei Tribute

New-look: Tribute gets a new grille, headlights, bumpers and bonnet.

Mazda’s facelifted Tribute is here, sourced out of Taiwan and with a new interior

30 Jun 2006

MAZDA has launched a facelifted Tribute in Australia. Priced from $31,990 for the four-cylinder 2.3L and $36,990 for the V6-engined 3.0L, the compact SUV scores a number of changes designed to keep the monocoque bodied 4WD wagon competitive against newer competition.

These include a smoother nose cone featuring redesigned headlights, a bigger grille, revised bumpers and a resculptured bonnet.

Chrome is used more liberally, a raised section adds a bit more oomph to the upper edge of the front bumper, several new colours hit the scene, the alloy wheels are different and the exterior mirrors now have LED turn signals.

The latter contribute to reduced wind noise. Other noise, vibration and harshness countermeasures include a new fan and alternator, an aluminium engine head cover and repositioned water pump.

Tribute trainspotters will instantly recognise a revamped dashboard, mainly incorporating a new instrumentation pack and console layout.

A more ‘upmarket’ ambience is the goal of the piano-black and aluminium-like contrasting dash and door trim, revised seat fabrics and dash lighting.

Mazda has also moved the automatic gearlever from the steering column to the floor, thus necessitating a redesigned lower console section.

On the safety front the Tribute finally receives a rear centre lap/sash seatbelt and accompanying headrest.

All models also gain climate control air-conditioning, MP3-compatible CD/radio audio, rear disc brakes and larger front discs (up from 278mm to 303mm).

Anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Electronic Brake Assist are also present.

22 center imagesuspension front the dampers have been retuned for improved ride quality while the powered rack-and-pinion steering’s centre-feel has been boosted for better responses.

There has been some Australian influence in the Mazda’s recalibrated dynamics, courtesy of Ford Australia’s input on the Tribute’s fraternal Escape twin.

Otherwise the outgoing model’s MacPherson strut and coil spring front and multi-link and coil spring rear suspension configuration is retained.

The 2006 Tribute continues the previous model’s two-pronged engine choice.

The entry-level 2.3L uses a revised version of the Mazda6-sourced 2.3-litre twin-cam four-cylinder engine.

Now Euro III emissions compliant thanks to a new catalytic converter, the 2261cc unit delivers its 109kW of power at 6000rpm and 199Nm of torque at 4000rpm.

The latter occurs 500Nm lower in the rev range, courtesy of an electronic throttle and sequential valve timing, both of which improve efficiency.

Also Euro III compliant is a revamped version of the existing 3.0-litre twin-cam 24-valve Duratec V6 engine. It produces 152kW at 6000rpm and 276Nm at 4750rpm.

As in the outgoing model, the smaller engine is only expected to account for 10 per cent of all Tribute sales.

Averaging 10.5 litres per 100km, Mazda believes most buyers will shun the scant 0.4L/100km fuel-consumption advantage the 2.3-litre unit has over the Ford-sourced V6.

Changes to the four-speed automatic gearbox’s torque converter, shift points and slightly higher gearing have dropped the V6’s average fuel consumption figure by 10.6 per cent, from 12.2L/100km to 10.9L/100km.

In most conditions, the torque in the Tribute continues to be channelled exclusively to the front wheels.

However an automatic on-demand 4WD system using a system that Mazda calls ‘Rotary Blade Coupling’ will send up to 50 per cent of drive to the rear wheels when sensors detect traction slippage.

Similarly drivers can press a dash-mounted button to activate an electromagnetic coupling, which then locks the system into a 50/50 front/rear 4WD mode.

Ground clearance is a competitive 201mm to 214mm – depending on which model and tyre specification is chosen – and approach angles vary between 29.1 degrees and 30.2 degrees.

Dual front and side airbags (with the former being larger than normal to accommodate the high number of seatbelt-less Americans), alloy wheels, remote central locking, power windows, electric mirrors and foglights are standard, along with a larger console storage box.

The 3.0L gains cruise control, wheel-mounted remote audio controls, shinier body plastic cladding and wider tyres on different alloy wheels.

Leather trim, a sunroof and six-stack CD audio completes the 3.0L Luxury Pack.

With the increased standard equipment, Mazda says the new Tribute 2.3L, 3.0L and 3.0L Luxury Pack offers over $2500, $1700 and $3000 extra value over their pre-facelift Limited Sport, Limited Sport V6 and Classic counterparts respectively.

Unlike the previously Japanese-sourced Tribute and Escape, both are now built alongside each other in Taiwan.

Mazda expects initial monthly sales to be around 400 per month, settling down to about 250 over the facelifted Tribute’s lifecycle average.

An all-new Tribute, probably to be called CX-5, isn’t due until 2008.

2006 Mazda Tribute Series III pricing:

Tribute 2.3L (a) - $31,990
Tribute 3.0L (a) - $36,990
Tribute 3.0L Luxury Pack (a) - $40,710

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