Although we classified as a small SUVs, the Mazda Tribute's relatively spacious interior stretches the definition of small. Co-developed with the Ford Escape, these are contemporary vehicles, offering a strong V6 and good handling. The Tribute's suspension is tuned for crisper handling, although its gain in agility is offset by an uncomfortably stiff ride.
Alerts
There are 8 recalls on this vehicle. Learn More.

Road Test Results

Performance
Acceleration Acceleration Acceleration tests are conducted on a smooth, flat pavement straightaway at the track. Time, speed, and distance measurements are taken with a precise GPS-based device that’s hooked to a data-logging computer.
0 to 60 mph 0 to 60 mph (sec.) The time in seconds that a vehicle takes to reach 60 mph from a standstill with the engine idling.
Transmission Transmission Transmission performance is determined by shifting smoothness, response, shifter action, and clutch actuation for manual transmissions.
Fuel Economy Fuel Economy We perform our own fuel-economy tests, independent of the government's often-quoted EPA figures and the manufacturers' claims. Using a precise fuel-flow measuring device spliced into the fuel line, we run two separate circuits to represent city and highway consumption.
CR's Overall Mileage CR's Overall Mileage CR's overall mileage is a composite of measured fuel usage on a prescribed city course and highway cruising; and CR's 150-mile test trip of mixed driving, if tested. In recent road tests, we've discontinued the 150-mile trip test.
CR's City Mileage CR's City Mileage Measured fuel usage on a prescribed city course.
CR's Highway Mileage CR's Highway Mileage Measured fuel usage on a prescribed highway cruising.
Annual Fuel Cost Annual Fuel Cost The cost and amount of fuel used in 12,000 miles and is calculated from CR's overall mileage.
Braking Braking The braking rating is a composite of wet and dry stopping distances and pedal feel. Braking distance is from 60 mph, with no wheels locked.
Emergency Handling Emergency Handling Several factors go into the rating, including the avoidance maneuver speed and confidence, as well as how the vehicle behaves when pushed to its limit.
Comfort / Convenience
Ride Ride Our expert judgment of how well the suspension isolates and absorbs road imperfections and how steady it keeps the body on various road surfaces.
Noise Noise Our expert judgment of the vehicle's interior noise level in everyday driving.
Front Seat Comfort Front Seat Comfort Our judgment of how comfortable the front seat is for drivers of various heights.
Rear Seat Comfort Rear Seat Comfort Our judgment of how comfortable the rear seat is for two passengers to sit across.
Interior Fit and Finish Interior Fit and Finish An expert evaluation of the interior quality and craftsmanship.
Trunk/Cargo Area Trunk/Cargo Area Our rating is based on the amount of luggage or cargo space that a vehicle has in the trunk or cargo area.
Emissions
Greenhouse Gas Greenhouse Gas The Greenhouse Gas Rating represents the amount of carbon dioxide the vehicle emits compared to other vehicles of the same model year. This score from the EPA ranges from 1 (worst) to 10 (best).
NA
Smog Rating Smog Rating The Smog Rating represents the amount of health-damaging and smog-forming airborne pollutants the vehicle emits compared to other vehicles of the same model year. This score from the EPA ranges from 1 (worst) to 10 (best).
NA

Owner Reports

Worse Better
Reliability History Reliability History The reliability charts are based on responses on hundreds of thousands of vehicles from our latest Annual Auto Survey. Consumer Reports subscribers reported on any serious problems they had with their vehicles during the past 12 months that they considered serious because of cost, failure, safety, or downtime, in any of the trouble spots included in the table below. The results are presented relative to the average model that year. Extra weight is given to the more serious areas such as major engine or transmission problems. Based on this data and further analysis, we predict reliability for the latest year. N/A indicates that we did not receive a large enough sample size to provide data for a specific year. An X indicates that the vehicle was not manufactured for a specific year.
2000
2001
NA
2002
NA
2003
2004
NA
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
Reliability Trouble Spots
Engine Major Engine Major Engine rebuild or replacement, cylinder head, head gasket, turbo or supercharger, timing chain or timing belt.
NA
Engine Minor Engine Minor Accessory belts and pulleys, engine computer, engine mounts, engine knock or ping, oil leaks.
NA
Engine Cooling Engine Cooling Radiator, cooling fan, antifreeze leaks, water pump, thermostat, overheating.
NA
Transmission Major Transmission Major Transmission rebuild or replacement, torque converter, clutch replacement.
NA
Transmission Minor Transmission Minor Gear selector or linkage, leaks, transmission computer, transmission sensor or solenoid, clutch adjustment, rough shifting, slipping transmission.
NA
Drive System Drive System Driveshaft or axle, CV joint, differential, transfer case, 4WD/AWD components, driveline vibration, traction control, electronic stability control (ESC), electrical failure.
NA
Owner Satisfaction Owner Satisfaction To learn about satisfaction, CR has collected survey data from our annual survey on more than half a million vehicles. Our subscribers provide great insights into their satisfaction by answering one simple question: If they had it to do all over again, would they definitely buy or lease the same model? In addition, respondents also rate their cars in six categories: driving experience, comfort, value, styling, audio, and climate systems. N/A indicates that we did not receive a large enough sample size to provide data for a specific year. An X indicates that the vehicle was not manufactured for a specific year.
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
Driving Experience Driving Experience Includes acceleration and handling
Comfort Comfort Includes seats, climate control, noise, and ride
Value Value Did you get what you wanted relative to the price you paid?
Styling Styling How it looks inside and out
Safety Equipment
ABS available, standard from 2005. Side and head protection air bags available, standard from 2008. ESC standard from 2008.
Road Test

Although we classified as a small SUVs, the Mazda Tribute's relatively spacious interior stretches the definition of small. Co-developed with the Ford Escape, these are contemporary vehicles, offering a strong V6 and good handling. The Tribute's suspension is tuned for crisper handling, although its gain in agility is offset by an uncomfortably stiff ride.

Seating
2 front, 3 rear
Drive Wheels
4WD , Front
Warranty
Coverage varies among versions of this vehicle

In most cases, automotive warranties are based on the vehicle identification number (VIN), and the warranty will be valid regardless of ownership. The dealership can tell you exactly how much warranty is left.

Read more about extended warranties
Body Styles
4-door SUV
Transmissions Available
  • 5-speed Manual
  • 4-speed Automatic
Engines Available
  • 2-liter 4 (148 hp)
  • 3-liter V6 (200 hp)

Owner Reported Trouble Spots

The Reliability score is based on our latest subscriber survey of 2003 Mazda Tribute owners. The owner comments describe problems respondents experienced with this vehicle.

Climate System

Blower (fan) motor, A/C compressor, condenser, evaporator, heater system, automatic climate control, refrigerant leakage, electrical failure.

What Owners Say

A/C compressor

"Compressor had to be replace."

Anonymous, VA (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

"the A/C failed months ago and I haven't been able to fix it myself and understand it will be very expensive to repair"

Anonymous, CA (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

"No A/C; only blew hot air. Also, replaced two of three catalytic converters"

Anonymous, CO (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

"Car had a rattling sound, at the shop they replaced the A/C compressor, cost me around $700"

Anonymous, CT (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)
Heater system

"Air flow is high on the driverside and almost nill on the passengerside. Particularly on the floor vents"

Richard T., PA (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)
Refrigerant leaks

"Pressure hoses leaked,"

Anonymous, NC (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

"The A/C completely stopped working (no longer blowing cool air). Replacing the refrigerant remedied this issue"

Anonymous, FL (2003 Mazda Tribute ES 3.0-L V6)

Paint/Trim

Paint (fading, chalking, cracking, or peeling), loose interior and exterior trim or moldings, rust.

What Owners Say

Loose interior trim or moldings

"many interior parts of this vehicle have fallen off (knobs on radio and climate controls, door fabric on door panels, cracked (top of console between seats) or loosened (side panels)"

Anonymous, CA (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)
Paint (fading, chalking, cracking, or peeling)

"Paint faded and peeling on hood."

George A., HI (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

"The hood keeps peeling paint"

George A., HI (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

"Have had problems with body paint flaking off and rust. Body has been a problem for a number of years. Mainly restricted to the tailgate"

Anonymous, PA (2003 Mazda Tribute ES 3.0-L V6)
Rust

"One area of the car behind the rear passenger door is rusting out; again car is 14 years old so not a surprise"

Anonymous, IL (2003 Mazda Tribute ES 3.0-L V6)

"It just started to rust.It's a 14 year-old vehicle, so to be expected"

Anonymous, ON (2003 Mazda Tribute 3.0-L V6)

"Hole in panel behind rear door, driver side"

Anonymous, MN (2003 Mazda Tribute 3.0-L V6)

Power Equipment

Cruise control, clock, warning lights, body control module, keyless entry, wiper motor or washer, tire pressure monitor, interior or exterior lights, horn, gauges, 12V power plug, remote engine start, alarm or security system

What Owners Say

Coil

"Have replaced 3 of 6 coils. They are expensive and fail readily at this age"

Tom G., CA (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

"engine miss due to coil failure"

Michael B., IL (2003 Mazda Tribute ES 3.0-L V6)

"Ignition coil wear out issue. Engine would miss on that cylinder under wet or humid conditions"

Anonymous, NC (2003 Mazda Tribute ES 3.0-L V6)
Spark plugs or wires failure

"They did not identify the problem first time around, but once they did, and fixed it ,it ran like new"

Jeff B., NB (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

"sputtering, hesitation, rough idling"

Anonymous, FL (2003 Mazda Tribute DX 2.0-L 4 Cyl)

"Three individual ignition coils burned out and needed to be replaced"

Anonymous, NY (2003 Mazda Tribute 3.0-L V6)

Engine Minor

Accessory belts and pulleys, engine computer, engine mounts, engine knock or ping, oil leaks.

What Owners Say

Engine computer

"Check engine light is on. Auto repair shop diagnosed problem with oxygen sensors. Three sensors, they recommend replacing them all. Estimated repair cost between $600-$800"

Anonymous, FL (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)
Oil leaks

"A few drops of oil on garage floor. Dealership estimated $400. to fix but didn't tell me where the leak was coming from (can't see from above or below) and CHARGED me an extra $75. just for the estimate during an annual state inspection. I have not, and will never, return to that Dealership. I now keep the sports section of newspaper on the garage floor, and the oil loss is so slight that I've never had to add oil (or change newspaper) between 12 month oil changes."

Richard T., PA (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

"Continual minor oil leak. Noticeable odor after driving more than 10 minutes. Need to top off oil once per month. Repair estimate is over $1000, since leak is at back of engine. According to trusted repair shop, this is a common problem with the 6 cylinder Ford/Mazda engines"

Anonymous, FL (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

"Estimated repair costs of $900. Told by NAPA/AAA certified repair shop that this type of leak is common for these engines"

Anonymous, FL (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

"valve needed to be replaced. Moisture was getting in and casued 2 dipsticks to rust out. In the cold weather the moisture caused the oil to spray out all over the floor and engine. - car needed to be towed because the oil was empty"

Anonymous, MN (2003 Mazda Tribute 3.0-L V6)

Brakes

Antilock system (ABS), parking brake, master cylinder, calipers, rotors, pulsation or vibration, squeaking, brake failure or wear.

What Owners Say

Calipers

"Had problems with break calipers not working, took it to the dealer and cost me $600"

Anonymous, CT (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)
Master cylinder

"No warning, hit the brakes and the pedal hit the floor"

John R., CT (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)
Normal routine brake wear

"Brake line rusted"

Anonymous, NY (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 2.0-L 4 Cyl)
Parking brake

"When the brakes failed I pulled on the emergency handle. The cable snapped. I wasn't going very fast , luckily"

John R., CT (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)
Rotors

"Clicking/grinding metal sounds when brakes are depressed are present, but is on and off. The rotors were replaced twice in a span of two years"

Anonymous, NV (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

Transmission Minor

Gear selector or linkage, leaks, transmission computer, transmission sensor or solenoid, clutch adjustment, rough shifting, slipping transmission.

What Owners Say

Coolers and lines

"Water pump seal leaked, dealer could not get me in for 2 1/2 weeks, coolant killed my cat...so I took the car to another mechanic - radiator, water-pump, all lines and reservoirs changed, $1800.00 repair, but the car never overheated....it started with a leak"

Anonymous, HI (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)
Transmission leaks

"Slow transmission leak, repair entails replacing/rebuilding transmission which costs more than car is worth (considering age and mileage on car). Just monitoring fluids, catching leakage in tray and using car for short trips only"

Anonymous, IL (2003 Mazda Tribute ES 3.0-L V6)

"It is expected that a 14 year old car will have some problems. Our mechanic has "bandaided" the leak since it would be too costly to repair or replace the transmission. We use it only for local traveling and will replace it when it can no longer be fixed"

Anonymous, NJ (2003 Mazda Tribute ES 3.0-L V6)

"Shortly after the COOLANT SYSTEM REPAIR, the car was leaking red oil, determined to be the gasket/seal on the transmission pan, which apparently had been overtightened by the dealer -- also, the dealer replaced transmission oil hoses with water hoses at some point, so those were changed too....another $800 repair bill....mostly due to dealer repair incompetence"

Anonymous, HI (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

"Transmission required replacement"

Chuck S., MA (2003 Mazda Tribute 2.0-L 4 Cyl)

Suspension

Shocks or struts, ball joints, tie rods, wheel bearings, alignment, steering linkage (includes rack and pinion), power steering (pumps and hoses, leaks), wheel balance, springs or torsion bars, bushings, electronic or air suspension.

What Owners Say

Power steering leaks

"We have some leaks and some rust on the vehicle and it is 14 years old"

Anonymous, WI (2003 Mazda Tribute ES 2.0-L 4 Cyl)
Shocks or struts

"Rear shocks were leaking and needed replaced"

Anonymous, TX (2003 Mazda Tribute ES 3.0-L V6)
Springs or torsion bars

"Tie rod stabilizers needed to be replaced"

Chad L., NJ (2003 Mazda Tribute ES 3.0-L V6)
Wheel bearings

"Front wheel bearing needed replacement (for the second time)"

Anonymous, MN (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

Fuel System

Check engine light, sensors (includes O2 or oxygen sensor), emission control devices (includes EGR), engine computer, engine computer, fuel cap, fuel gauge/sender, fuel injection system, fuel pump, fuel leaks, stalling or hesitation.

What Owners Say

Emission control devices (includes EGR)

"Almost every year have to replace"

Anonymous, OR (2003 Mazda Tribute ES 3.0-L V6)
Fuel pump

"wire connection problem at pump"

Dale M., WA (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

Body Hardware

Power or manual windows, locks and latches, tailgate, hatch or trunk, doors or sliding doors, mirrors, seat controls, safety belts, sunroof, convertible top.

What Owners Say

Locks and latches

"liftgate lock failure. I have removed the liftgate panel so I can manually override the lock from inside car"

Anonymous, MN (2003 Mazda Tribute ES 3.0-L V6)
Seat controls - temperature

"The passenger sear heats with out turning on heat"

George A., HI (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

Exhaust

Muffler, pipes, catalytic converter, exhaust manifold, leaks.

What Owners Say

Catalytic converter

"The internal structure of the Catalytic Converter broke loose and plugged the exhaust making it almost impossible to accellerate at a reasonable rate. Converter was removed/replaced at 180k miles"

Anonymous, MN (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

"Catalytic converter neede to be replaced. When it rained or snowed, the car would sputter and lose power"

Anonymous, MN (2003 Mazda Tribute 3.0-L V6)

Electric System

Alternator, starter, hybrid battery and related systems, regular battery, battery cables, engine harness, coil, ignition switch, electronic ignition, distributor or rotor failure, spark plugs and wires failure.

What Owners Say

Warning lights

"We had an alternator fail which caused a relatively new (2 yr. old) battery to fail. We had to replace both items. NO warning lights ever came on to indicate that our electrical system was no longer charging the battery and was about to fail"

Anonymous, NE (2003 Mazda Tribute 3.0-L V6)

In-car Electronics

CD or DVD players, radio, speakers, GPS, communication system (e.g., OnStar), display screen freezes or goes blank, phone pairing (e.g. Bluetooth), voice control commands, steering wheel controls, portable music device interface (e.g., iPod/MP3 player), backup or other camera/sensors.

What Owners Say

CD player

"Digital display of radio half works"

Anonymous, OR (2003 Mazda Tribute ES 3.0-L V6)

Engine Cooling

Radiator, cooling fan, antifreeze leaks, water pump, thermostat, overheating.

What Owners Say

Cooling fan

"Fan disintegrated at start of long trip and took out radiator in process. Had to rent car while Mazda was being repaired"

Tom G., CA (2003 Mazda Tribute LX 3.0-L V6)

Engine Major

Engine rebuild or replacement, cylinder head, head gasket, turbo or supercharger, timing chain or timing belt.

Drive System

Driveshaft or axle, CV joint, differential, transfer case, 4WD/AWD components, driveline vibration, traction control, electronic stability control (ESC), electrical failure.

Body Integrity

Squeaks, rattles, wind noises, loose or cracked seals and/or weather-stripping, air and water leaks.

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