The base 2010 Mazda Tribute comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 171 horsepower and 171 foot-pounds of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a six-speed automatic available too. The optional engine is a 3.0-liter V-6 producing 300 horsepower, which only comes with the six-speed automatic. According to Kelley Blue Book, the larger engine is the best choice for those who plan to do any towing. Cars.com reports that "upper trim levels, including all V-6 models, come with the automatic transmission standard."
The 2010 Mazda Tribute Hybrid is fitted with a specially tuned version of the 2.5-liter four, mated to an electronically continuously variable transmission (eCVT) containing two electric motors that both power the car and recharge the battery pack that allows the Tribute Hybrid to travel short distances on electric power only, with the engine off.
All Tribute models, including the hybrid, can be specified with either front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Edmunds recommends the 2WD version if you live in a part of the country that doesn't experience severe weather and road conditions, as gas mileage is significantly better with the front-wheel-drive version of the Mazda 2010.
Fuel economy ranges from 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway with the base 2.5-liter four and the five-speed manual, to 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway for the V-6 and automatic combination when four-wheel drive is also specified. The Tribute Hybrid is rated at 34 city, 31 highway in front-wheel-drive form, though that falls to 30 city, 27 highway when four-wheel drive is specified.
Handling is adequate for a tall crossover, but hardly up to the standard of the rest of Mazda's range. Edmunds reports that the "new electric power steering system delivers surprisingly good road feel and response...[and] handling is respectable." Both Edmunds and Automotive.com use the adjective "nimble" when referring to on-pavement performance, although off-road performance seems to be lacking. The reviewer at Kelley Blue Book finds 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."
But the Tribute and Tribute Hybrid will simply never be as fun to drive as a hot hatch like the Mazda3-the true standard-bearers for Mazda's "zoom zoom" brand identity. Edmunds sums it up, though, when it says the 2010 Mazda Tribute "feels old compared to [newer] rivals."