2008 Mazda Tribute Hybrid

At last year's Tokyo show, Mazda teased us with alternative fuel concept versions of both the RX-8 (hydrogen) and the 5 (hydrogen hybrid) and while those concepts have been undergoing testing in Japan, we've never seen anything come to fruition on these shores. Mazda's first production hybrid is a bit less exciting than those vehicles, and actually, it isn't a Mazda at all.

The 2008 Mazda Tribute HEV is little more than a warmed-over Ford Escape Hybrid, using the same powertrain and many of the same interior bits. And while the outgoing Tribute could easily hide the shared Ford family components below its skin, the new model-regular gas-powered models are getting the same revision-differs only slightly in appearance from the Escape. Aside from the Mazda grille, the Tribute's boxy body has nothing in common with the swoopy "Zoom-Zoom" lines of the larger CX-7 and CX-9.

Still, the Tribute promises to be a fine vehicle, and the hybrid uses the same continuously variable transmission and 2.3-liter I-4/70-kWatt electric motor combination as the Ford, which is good for a combined 155 horsepower and acceleration "comparable to a 200-horsepower V-6." City fuel economy should be over 30 miles per gallon with both the front- and four-wheel-drive models. The new Tribute goes on sale this summer as a 2008 model.

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