Here are a few key words to focus on before reading the article: Mazda, SUV, 22/28, safety.

For a lot of motorists, there is no substitute for the flexibility and versatility of a sport utility vehicle. Owners like the commanding view of the road and the feeling of safety and security provided by SUVs.

While beloved by owners, that love affair is becoming increasingly strained every time fuel prices go up — which lately, has been almost a daily occurrence.

Now, consider driving an SUV that offers a 2008 EPA fuel economy rating of 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway. It even has a hybrid version that delivers 34 mpg city, 30 mpg highway.

And being a Mazda, it delivers the safety and versatility of an SUV with the soul of a sports car.

Once again: Mazda, SUV, 22/28, safety.

With a base price starting below $19,000, the 2008 Mazda Tribute is an outstanding vehicle — for its value, performance, safety feature and its fuel economy.

The five-passenger Tribute not only makes driving an SUV guilt-free, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Sharing the same platform as the Ford Escape — which I also highly recommend — the Tribute has been completely redesigned for the 2008 model year.

Available in front- or four-wheel drive configurations, Mazda also offers Tribute buyers the choice of three available powertrains.

The base engine is a 2.3-liter I-4 (153 horsepower/152 lbs.-ft. torque) mated to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

Buyers can also opt for the 3.0-liter V-6 (200 horsepower/193 lbs.-ft. torque) mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Both engines receive the Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle rating and both require regular unleaded gasoline.

A Mazda Tribute Hybrid version is also offered utilizing the I-4 engine and electric motor hybrid system to achieve a Super Low Emissions Vehicle rating and outstanding fuel economy.

Three trim lines are offered — Sport, Touring and Ground Touring. All Tribute models are equipped with a long list of standard safety features, including dual front airbags, seat-mounted front side impact airbags, side-impact air curtains, dynamic stability control, roll stability control, traction control and tire pressure monitoring system, among many others.

As I mentioned before, the 2008 Mazda Tribute is a “must” to add to the test drive list. Not only do you get to “Zoom-Zoom,” you also get to “save-save.”

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at