We are moving on from not being fans of the new Mazda BT-50s styling - it's subjective anyway. Looked at clinically, the new gen' Mazda XTR 4x4, 3.2-litre ute (tested) is an impressive package in most areas, particularly load capacity and off road ability. It also offers generous room for five inside and plenty of kit in the dual cab model we drove.
The Boss Sports Pack fitted to the test vehicle has possibly the most aggressive looking alloy bull bar we have ever seen, side rails, a rear sports bar, twin driving lights, wild looking alloys and a hard tonneau cover.
The Boss pack adds $8509 to the $50,810 test vehicle price which touches the Luxury Car Tax trigger. It (the tax) needs reassessment because this isn't a luxury car.
Mazda is targeting cashed up "lifestylers" with its new ute. The XTR is mid-spec and comes with plenty of goodies including dual zone climate control, Bluetooth phone, hill descent control, hill start assist, five mode trip computer, satnav, a locking rear diff and alloy wheels - a well equipped package by anyone's measure.
Wedgey profile is different but the rounded styling is a big step away from the boxy functional look that has come to be expected from a ute. Steep screen is aerodynamic, interior is as roomy as a medium size SUV. The ladder chassis feels strong and extensive measures to cut noise and vibration boost interior comfort.
In practical terms, the load box is big and can take up to 1097kg in dual cab guise. The leaf spring rear suspension coped easily but can be over firm unladen. Load tray height is an issue especially on sloping ground.
The new five-cylinder turbodiesel has variable turbo nozzle control for efficiency gains but it's still a "lazy" engine generating 147kW/470Nm from 3.2-litres. Benz has a 2.1-litre four pot producing 150kW/500Nm.
Switch on the fly 4WD is handy and it offers low range as well as high. The front double wishbone/coil spring suspension is a big improvement on torsion bars. BT-50 gets rack and pinion steering but drum rear brakes. Six-speed auto with sequential mode is a cracker - forget the manual. Interior treatment is stylish but looks hide hard plastics.
The five star rating sets new standard for one tonne utes. BT-50 even has safety gains for pedestrians. Ladder chassis strength is not compromised by crumple zones. Gets other goodies like roll stability control and trailer sway mitigation.
It's a surprisingly smooth and quiet engine especially on the highway. There's plenty of punch once underway and the auto teams up nicely with the new five pot. Ride quality is firm with an empty tray, good when loaded. Handling is OK but the thing is so long it's issue turning or parking. The seats are acceptable but could do with more back support (even with lumbar on full). Overall impression is a move to an SUV feel rather than a workhorse.
It's big bikkies for Thai-made truck especially when you consider Thailand is used because it's a "low cost" country. Ha, and it ain't just Mazda. But the BT is a decent thing, undoubtedly reliable, well made and safe.
MAZDA BT-50 XTR DUAL-CAB 4WD
Price: from $40,950
Service interval: 15,000km/12 months
Engine: 3.2-litre, 5-cylinder common-rail turbodiesel, 147kW/470Nm
Body: 4-door utility
Dimensions: 5365mm (L), 1850mm (W),1821mm (H), 3220mm (WB)
Ground clearance: 205mm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Thirst: 8.9-9.2l/100km, CO2 N/A.