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2009 Mazda Tribute Hybrid

2009 Mazda Tribute Hybrid

Chevy Flex Fuel HHR

Mercury Mariner Hybrid

Ford Escape Hybrid

Saturn VUE 2 Mode Hybrid

Mazda Tribute Hybrid

Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Mercedes-Benz ML320 Bluetec

VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI Diesel


You might not think that Mazda, the "Zoom Zoom" kid on the block, could provide guilt-free sport utility driving. If so, you haven't met the 2009 Mazda Tribute Hybrid. The compact SUV, a cousin of Ford's Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids, shows that dash doesn't have to be dashed in the quest for fun driving. Tribute just lets you do it in a higher tech way.

2009 Mazda Tribute Hybrid Interior
2009 Mazda Tribute Hybrid Interior

For 2009, there are Touring and Grand Touring editions, automatic on/off headlamps, standard satellite radio and steering wheel controls. A spunkier, new 2.5-liter, 153-HP inline four gasoline engine mates with a 70-kWatt traction electric motor, for the equivalent of 94 additional horsepower. Tribute uses "full" hybrid technology, that can drive up to 25 MPH on the electric motor only before the engine also kicks in, or run only on engine power.

A master controller manages battery charging, drive assist and engine starting, or shuts down the motor when coasting or at stops to save fuel. Friction from braking helps regenerate the sealed, 330-volt battery pack.

The four-door Tribute can hold five passengers comfortably, or accommodate larger cargo with a rear seat that folds down in a 60/40 split. Roof rails can hold about 100 pounds if adventure driving requires more gear. Optional four-wheel drive gives extra road control or leaves pavement behind. Mileage varies from 34/30 for front-drive to 29/27 with Ford's "intelligent" 4-wheel drive version. Base pricing starts at $25,485.
Someone driving a Tribute Hybrid the first time might notice some differences from a traditional gasoline-powered version with its signature engine hum during idle. Instead, the Tribute simply goes to sleep when coasting or at a full stop at a traffic light, then quickly wakes up when the driver steps on the throttle. It's a talent that not only saves precious gasoline, but sometimes tends to freak out the driver in the next vehicle by its silence. And we all know that Mazda drivers like to have fun.