TheCarConnection.com found mixed perceptions in the automotive community about the 2008 Mazda Tribute's performance--even within the same reviews.
Cars.com reports that two different engines are offered on the 2008 Mazda Tribute: "a 153-horsepower, 2.3-liter four-cylinder ['I' trim] or a 200-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 ['S' trim]," as well as a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, and either a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission. According to Kelley Blue Book, the larger engine is the best choice for those who plan to do any towing.
MyRide.com reports that the overall driving experience is "OK," but lacks Mazda's trademark "Zoom." Nonetheless, when equipped with the V-6 engine, the Mazda "Tribute leaves the line with some authority...performance was OK, if not a bit dull." On the other hand, "those who place a premium on fuel economy may find the four-cylinder engine sufficiently energetic," says Kelley Blue Book; however, this review advises that the Mazda 2008 "gets a bit stressed when matched with the heavier all-wheel drive system."
Both Edmunds and Automotive.com use the adjective "nimble" when referring to its on-pavement performance, although off-road performance seems to be lacking. According to Car and Driver, the 2008 Mazda Tribute's rivals have left it behind: "the Tribute has not braced itself where it counts, under the hood."
According to Edmunds, all trims "come with a four-speed automatic transmission, although a five-speed manual is standard on the Tribute i Sport 2WD." Cars.com reports that "upper trim levels, including all V-6 models, come with the automatic transmission standard."
Edmunds recommends the 2WD version if you live in a part of the country that doesn't experience severe weather and road conditions, as this front-wheel-drive version of the Mazda 2008 offers significantly better mileage. According to J.D. Power, EPA fuel mileage figures for the Mazda Tribute's 2.3-liter four-cylinder engines are 18 and 28 mpg; the V-6 is slightly lower at 17 and 24 mpg--still respectable for an SUV of any size.
The reviewer at Kelley Blue Book found the Mazda Tribute "easy to drive and easy to live with on a daily basis," saying the "suspension never feels overly soft or 'floaty,'" although "spirited cornering does elicit noticeable body lean." MyRide.com reports "body roll and wallow don't inspire confidence at freeway speeds," although "brakes are good, with a solid feel." Edmunds reports that the "new electric power steering system delivers surprisingly good road feel and response...[and] handling is respectable." Edmunds sums it up, though, when it says, “Nevertheless, many competitors are more refined and fun to drive than the 2008 Mazda Tribute.”