OFF ROAD, BUT NOT OFF THE AIR

Mazda_BT-50_frontFor ages, tradies have been out of tune with modern living being stuck with tinny entertainment systems in their utes, while navigation invariably gave up the ghost where the bitumen ended.

Thanks to the increasing popularity of pickup trucks by non tradies, owners of new Mazda BT-50s have been switched on to the latest in in-car entertainment with the pickup truck climbing to new heights through the addition of a premium satellite navigation-cum-infotainment system.

Mazda Australia has got together with the Australian arm of Alpine Electronics to develop the new system, which is standard equipment on XTR and GT grades.

Full details in the Infotainment section of this review.

My first experience with the new infotainment set-up was in a BT-50 GT Dual Cab automatic 4×4, which comes to market for $52,490, plus on-road costs.

Mazda_BT-50_rear

STYLING
Styling dates back to 2012 in keeping with Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom philosophy, when both front and back of the BT-50 came under the stylists’ pen with a straighter radiator grille, re-design of the front and rear lights and new 17-inch alloy wheels on the XTR and GT.

XTR models also came with tubular side steps, auto dimming mirrors, rain sensing wipers and auto on / off headlamps, while GT added power mirrors, with heating and folding function, plus turn indicator and privacy glass.

INTERIOR
The cabin has a passenger car-like look and feel. GT seats are trimmed in black leather, while the driver’s seat has eight-way power adjustment.

Mazda_BT-50_interior

INFOTAINMENT
This is the biggest feature of the Mazda BT-50 we’ve just tested. A larger 8-inch high-resolution colour touchscreen includes a fully integrated reversing camera and an improved satellite navigation system that also has the handy feature of point-to-point four-wheel drive off-road navigation with 3D digital terrain.

Passengers also can watch pre-loaded television shows and movies while the vehicle is stationary, as well as play MP3, WMA, AAC or FLAC audio and MP4 and MKV video files.

For the first time in a BT-50, the infotainment system has a split screen, enabling audio and navigation info to be viewed at the same time, and displays heating, ventilation and air-conditioning information. Incoming mobile phone calls can be answered via steering wheel-mounted controls.

HDMI input means shows can be watched via streaming services such as Netflix, Stan and Foxtel, or on portable DVD players and tablets inside the vehicle.

Through DAB+ digital radio, with improved audio quality from four 50 watt amplifiers, the system also offers standard live traffic updates through the Radio Data System, hands-free phone functions are voice controlled via Bluetooth, and the dashboard now includes more accessible USB, HDMI and 3.5mm AUX ports.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The 3.2-litre turbo-diesel five-cylinder engine has common-rail direct-injection technology. 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 on our test pickup was simple to use.

Three driving modes: 2H, 4H and 4L, have the tough Mazda BT-50 ready for almost any going.

SAFETY
BT-50 comes with dynamic stability control and ABS antilock braking with electronic brake-force distribution, trailer sway control function and roll stability.

Passive-safety features a strong body and frame reinforcement. Front, side, and curtain airbags; and all-round three-point seatbelts, with pre-tensioners and load limiters for the front seats.

DRIVING
Last year, throughout the a trip on the Birdsville Track, the Mazda BT-50 transported media members with a great deal of success on tracks heavily corrugated and rutted by the elements, while averaging fuel consumption of 12 litres per 100 kilometres.

Around town in this latest on-road test it typically sat in the nine to 10 litre range, on the motorway getting it below nine litres per hundred kilometres was simple.

It was good to experience a genuine four-wheel drive vehicle doing what it is meant to do – tackle tough going without fuss or high cost.

At more than five metres long don’t expect agility to be anything special on the bitumen. However, power steering has pickup changing direction willingly when required.

In general, stability is good whether the BT-50 is loaded – a tough rubber mat in the tray prevents cargo slip – or empty, regardless of driving conditions.

Braking feels dependable at all speeds, making for a high level of driver confidence.

SUMMING UP
The addition of the bespoke Alpine premium satellite navigation-cum-infotainment system makes the Mazda BT-50 pickup an even better sound investment than before.

AT A GLANCE

MODEL RANGE
BT-50 GT 3.2L automatic 4×4 Dual Cab Utility $52,490
Note: This price does not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mazda dealer for drive-away price.

SPECIFICATIONS (Mazda BT-50 3.2-litre turbo-diesel 6sp automatic 4×4 Dual Cab Utility)

ENGINE:
Capacity: 3.198 litres
Configuration: Five cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 147 kW @ 3000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 470 Nm @ 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: 5373 mm
Wheelbase: 3220 mm
Width: 1850 mm
Height: 1821 mm
Turning Circle: 12.4 metres
Kerb Mass: 2118 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 80 litres

BRAKES:
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Drum

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Three years / unlimited kilometres

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