We might have seen the last of the Mazda BT-50 as we know it because Mazda is about to get together with Isuzu to produce their next generation pickup trucks. Isuzu already makes Mazda trucks for the Japanese market, now it is going worldwide.
The current BT-50 shares many components with the Ford Ranger and much of the design was carried out by Australians.
When the BT-50 was launched in 2011, Mazda went down a new track, creating a utility with the personality of a passenger car – well, sort of.
The latest model arrived featuring a refreshed front and rear end design, a new infotainment system, reverse camera and further inclusions to attract buyers.
There are now 23 BT-50 variants, including 10 with 4×2 and 13 with 4×4 capabilities. There are two diesel engine types, the MZ-CD 2.2-litre 4-cylinder and a MZ-CD 3.2-litre 5-cylinder, and a choice of either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
Prices have increased marginally, between $40 and $810 depending on the model.
The test vehicle was a Mazda BT-50 XTR 3.2-litre 4×4 automatic Freestyle Cab, which sells for $49,675, plus on-road costs.
Hooking in to Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom DNA, both front and back of the BT-50 have come under the stylists’ pens with a straighter radiator grille, redesign of the front and rear lights and modern new 17-inch alloy wheels on the XTR.
The BT-50 XTR models also come with tubular side steps, auto dimming mirrors, rain sensing wipers and auto on / off headlamps.
Out back, side walls and tailgate of the cargo box have double-wall cross-sections and contoured outer panels, creating a strong, chiselled look without compromising cargo capacity.
The Freestyle Cab, which is Mazda-speak for crew cab, is basically a two-seater with room in the back only for incidental passengers, such is the basic furniture and limited space.
Two rear seats are more like a shelf with thin cushions and backs at right angles, pushing the occupants into an abrupt upright position. There is limited legroom too. Any more space back there would have meant losing cargo capacity in the tray.
Forward-hinged front doors and rear-hinged rear access panels leave a 1408 mm wide opening that allows people to get in and out of the front and rear seats easily.
The rear access panels open to approximately 90 degrees, making it easy to lift cargo in and out of the rear seating area.
A new infotainment display makes its debut on Mazda BT-50. It’s standard on the XTR and GT models. The 7.8-inch high definition screen gives access to satellite navigation, HEMA maps are also available as a factory option. There are Bluetooth and iPod connections.
However, the angle of the screen makes it almost impossible to read when bright external light reflects off the surface. Not the best in the Sunshine State where I live. And potentially dangerous as silly drivers take their eyes off the road and squint to try and read it.
The reverse camera view is projected onto the left side of the rear-view mirror above the windscreen. Once again it can be difficult to distinguish in certain light conditions.
On the bright side (sorry!), the driver’s side of the instrument panel is centred on a compact meter hood and is deeply contoured. No problems reading the info here.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The 3.2-litre diesel engine has an inline five-cylinder configuration, it has four valves per cylinder, an intercooled turbocharger, and common-rail direct injection. It produces maximum power of 147 kW at 3000 rpm and peak torque of 470 Nm between 1750 and 2500 rpm.
The six-speed automatic transmission has ratios with a wide spread.
Mazda BT-50 has much of the active safety technology commonly used in vehicles these days, such as dynamic stability control and ABS antilock braking with electronic brake-force distribution; it also includes trailer sway control function and roll stability control.
Passive-safety features a strong body and frame reinforcement, following comprehensive impact analysis; front, side, and curtain airbags; and all-round three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners and load limiters for the front.
We got reasonably low fuel consumption of around 9.2 litres per 100 kilometres on a mix of town and country driving.
This latest Mazda makeover has reduced noise and vibration for a more comfortable, quieter atmosphere in the cabin. The ladder frame of the previous generation BT-50 has been carried over, with increased rigidity making for better ride comfort.
Not the fastest off the mark, the BT-50 makes up for this with its peak torque of 470Nm coming in at a low 1750 rpm and sticking around until 2500 revs, making overtaking on the run a breeze.
At more than five metres long don’t expect agility to be anything special. However, power steering has the big boy changing direction willingly when asked.
In general stability is, well, stable, when the BT-50 is loaded up or empty, regardless of driving conditions. Braking feels dependable at all speeds, making for a high level of driver confidence.
Electronically controlled, a shift-on-the-fly transfer case means the driver can alternate between two-wheel and four-wheel drive at will by means of a switch on the centre console. Low-range is on hand for extra vehicle pull or downhill braking.
As the Mazda BT-50 rides into the sunset it’s not hard to remember the leaps ahead pickups have made over the past decade or so. It will be interesting to discover what the new era will hold.
AT A GLANCE
Mazda BT-50 XTR 3.2 litre 4×4 automatic Freestyle Cab $49,675
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mazda dealer for drive-away prices.
17-inch alloy wheels
Door handles (chrome)
Front fog-lamps (Halogen)
Headlamps auto on/off function
Power mirrors (chrome)
Rear-view mirror auto dimming
Rear step bumper (chrome)
Side steps (tubular, polished)
Wipers (front) 2-speed with rain-sensing function
Air-conditioning (dual-zone climate control)
Floor covering: carpet
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob
Audio system with 6 speakers
Anti-lock Braking System
Dynamic Stability Control
Emergency Stop Signal
Hill Decent Control
Hill Launch Assist
Locking Rear Differential
Roll Stability Control
Trailer Sway Control
Audio system with: AM/FM tuner, single-disc CD player (MP3 compatible) and 4 speakers
Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio capability
Steering wheel-mounted audio controls
SPECIFICATIONS (Mazda BT-50 3.2-litre turbo-diesel Freestyle Cab 4×4 pickup)
Capacity: 3.198 litres
Configuration: Five cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 147 kW @ 3000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 470Nm @ 1750-2500 rpm.
Fuel Type: Diesel
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 9.2 L/100km
DRIVELINE: Six-speed automatic
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 5124 mm
Wheelbase: 3220 mm
Width: 1850 mm
Height: 1804 mm
Turning Circle: 12.4 metres
Kerb Mass: 1798 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 80 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Three years / unlimited kilometres