Mazda Tribute:

Nissan Rogue Adds to Crossover Count

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The Nissan Rogue is a small Crossover SUV derived from the Nissan/Renault global C-Class platform – i.e. Nissan Sentra, Nissan Qashqai, Renault Megane. VehicleVoice was given the chance to drive several Rogues in the desert East of San Diego. Here’s the scoop.

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Justification for Rogue – It Was Easy to Do
The 4-cylinder-only Rogue begs the question, “Why?” Did Nissan feel they HAD TO add a small Crossover SUV to their lineup to compete with the Honda CR-V? Yes. Is there anything particularly intriguing about Rogue? No. It is another is a plethora of conveniently sized, pleasant to drive, reasonably priced small wagons available with all wheel drive. So, I guess it is OK to call it a “Crossover SUV” because definitions in the segment are very broad.
Rogue’s styling does not turn heads. Its target market is the same one as all the other small wagons – married male in early 30s just starting a family and needing more utility than his previous sporty coupe (or more likely Chevrolet Silverado or Dodge Ram full size pickup) gave him. Not that we are down on the Rogue. It’s just that it doesn’t answer questions much differently from any other small Crossover SUV.
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Nissan North America Vice President of Product Planning, Larry Dominique, gives walkaround of new Rogue in San Diego

Conclusion: Nissan had a competent, flexible global platform that could be efficiently stretched from a sedan (Sentra) to a small Crossover. It couldn’t carry a V6, but that’s OK because the class leading Honda CR-V doesn’t have a V6 either. So here we have a low cost program, assembled in Kyushu, Japan that can fill a niche in the broad Nissan lineup.


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2008 Mazda Tribute – Still Great Crossover SUV

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OK, the Mazda Tribute has been around for years. Mazda has practically forgotten about it. There is very little advertising for the Tribute especially since Mazda has its more modern and upscale CX-7 and CX-9 Crossover SUVs to pitch. Because Tribute lives in the shadows of its “more important” brethren it is easy to forget about it. That’s a shame, because the Tribute is a fine Crossover SUV overall, with only a few warts that could be corrected with very little investment or cost.

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Mazda Tribute Derived From Ford Escape – Sweet Spot Among Crossover SUVs
Over the years, AutoPacific has had Ford Escape Crossover SUVs in product clinic research. Since introduction the Escape and its derivatives – the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute – have represented the sweet spot among small to mid-size Crossover SUVs. Easy to live with, easy to get into and out of, good interior package. Wow. Very well thought-out and executed. Ford knew the solution to the SUV equation when they developed the Escape and Mazda benefits.
One of the advantages of the new 2008 Mazda Tribute and the 2008 versions of the Escape and Mariner are that they have more differentiation than they have ever had before. You can actually tell which is a Mazda, Ford or Mercury at a glance.
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Not big, not small, the Tribute is a handy size. Easy to maneuver. Easy to see out of. Reasonably large rear seat and usable cargo area. All product attributes that measure up to a pleasant and affordable package. For a bit over $23,000 this Mazda Tribute is an excellent value.
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Nitpicks – NVH and V6 Finesse
What are the problems? Well, there needs to be some work done on engine noise and road noise. Not insurmountable problems. The venerable 3.0L V6 engine pleasant around town but thrashy when pushed. I’d love to drive a Tribute with Ford’s new 3.5L V6, but that’s not in the cards.
No Passion? But Would Make a Great Car for a Young Driver
What did the office say? Of course, folks around the AutoPacific and VehicleVoice offices have strong opinions about vehicles like the Tribute. One gray hair contended that when describing all the virtues of the Tribute the one word that was not mentioned was “passion” or and other word “enthusiasm”. True enough, but the Tribute, overall can be a very persuasive package without being headturning or making your blood run hot.
Others in the office observed that the Tribute would make a great vehicle for a teenager just out of high school and going off to college. The Tribute has enough room for the driver and a few friends plus the cargo room to carry their stuff. In fact, my high school buddy Bill Spiers in Metarie, Louisiana just bought one for his youngest daughter as a graduation present. She was pleased to say the least.
Also, as Bill learned, the Tribute can be found with tremendous discounts that make buying a Mazda a much better deal than a Honda CR-V or a Toyota RAV4.


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Crossovers… Media – Industry Forcing a Definition

We at VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and the VehicleVoice Blog-o-Rama (http:/.vehiclevoice.com) often feel that we are fighting an uphill battle concerning the use of the word “Crossovers”. This is a term that has come to mean SUVs based on car platforms and mechanicals. That’s fine. However, it is industry jargon that has not been adopted by the public. The media, picking up on industry jargon is forcing the term where no-one needs it.
An SUV is an SUV or Its NOT
Based on our research, it’s simple. American vehicle buyers have categorized vehicles into several basic categories: cars and trucks further subdivided into luxury cars, mid-size cars, economy/compact cars, sports/sporty cars, pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and vans/minivans.
The SUV category seems to be giving folks the most trouble. To a typical vehicle-buyer, an SUV is an SUV is an SUV. There are big ones and small ones, but an SUV is an SUV. Muddying the playing field, however, is the notion of a “crossover”. A Traditional SUV in this more complicated world is a truck-based SUV like Ford Explorer or Toyota Sequoia. A crossover SUV is an SUV based on a car platform, a “unit-body” platform. But people often forget that the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Liberty, Mitsubishi Montero are all based on unit-body platforms but are not car-based. Does this make them a crossover? NO!
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Chevrolet Trailblazer… a “real” Truck-Based SUV

Post-Modern SUV… Soft Roader… NOT Crossover

So, it’s pretty muddy. What crossovers need to be are at-a-glance SUVs. The basics of the SUV equation are well known so deviating is a risk. An SUV must have a basic two box bodystyle, relatively tall glass for good visibility, a relatively upright windshield that provides a stiff A-Pillar allowing easy ingress/egress, and a command seating position. At the same time interior roominess and the ability to carry cargo is very important. From our perspective, this most American of vehicle types is very easy to understand but easy for a foreign car company to get wrong.
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Pontiac Torrent… Car-Based Post-Modern (Crossover) SUV
Let’s read on about how USA Today recently reacted to the issue of “crossovers”…


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