The 2010 Mazda Tribute and Tribute Hybrid are low-volume crossovers that pose a bit of a puzzle. Ford has built them for Mazda since 2001 on its now-aging-but continually updated-Escape and Escape Hybrid platform (also used for the Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid). Redesigned for 2008 and fitted with vastly better engines and transmissions for 2009, the Tribute twins give Mazda a traditional-looking SUV that stands out in a showroom filled with increasingly zoomy designs. The Tribute Hybrid is Mazda's sole hybrid vehicle, however, and gets gas mileage that would do a compact hatchback proud. Competitors in the sporty end of the compact crossover market include the Ford Escape itself, the Nissan Rogue, and Mazda's own CX-7 crossover. The 2010 Mazda Tribute starts at $21,155.
The latest Tributes got a bolder, tougher new look two years ago, along with a more comfortable, more upscale interior. Though it's based on the Ford Escape, the Tribute carries its own distinctive styling inside and out-including a prominent and squared-off nose that frames a large chrome Mazda wing logo with a bright surround. The look is decidedly more masculine than earlier Tributes, and that carries over to the interior too. The 2010 Mazda Tribute has a handsome and blocky dashboard, with piano-black plastic trim and a chunky steering wheel.