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Mazda BT-50 dual cab review

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    There's little doubt that the BT-50 can mix it with the mining fleet favourite, the HiLux. Photo Gallery

Stuart Martin road tests and reviews the Mazda BT-50 dual cab.

Mazda BT-50 dual cab 4
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  • Fuel economy
  • Good torque spread
  • Refined interior
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  • Front end looks
  • Small nav screen
  • Tilt-only steering adjustment

The dual-cab light-commercial ute is fast-becoming the 21st century's family wagon and just because it's got a tray, doesn't mean it's a hose-out workhorse.

Although capable of plenty of hard yakka, the new Mazda BT-50. Mazda's BT-50 has often played the poor second cousin to its Ford Ranger twin and the segment's reigning monarch, Toyota's HiLux, but there's less reason for an inferiority complex now.

We had all three recently back to back and it was a close run thing, with the BT-50 ending up in third but in a photo-finish.

VALUE

This is where the Mazda scores well - priced from $48,810 for the six-speed manual, the price rises to $50,810 for the same number of ratios without a clutch pedal - several thousand below the equivalent Ranger.

The XTR model is not even the flagship (that's the GT, which is more likely to stand for Grunty Truck than Grand Touring or Gran Turismo) but it gets cruise control, Bluetooth phone link, dual-zone climate control, power windows and mirrors, side-steps, 17in alloys, front fog lights, three 12-volt outlets, a leather-wrapped gearshifter and steering wheel and satnav.

There's a good-quality sound system with single-CD for the six-speakers to utilise, as well as USB and Bluetooth connections, with steering-wheel-mounted controls and a 5in LCD colour screen that also displays the satnav.

TECHNOLOGY

The 3.2-litre in-line five-cylinder engine is chief among the technological highlights, packing 20 valves and an intercooled turbocharger - peak power is 147kW at 3000rpm and torque of 470Nm is on offer from 1750 and 2500rpm. The engine is fed by common-rail direct-injection system with a high-pressure fuel pump delivering fuel at 1800 bar (200 bar up on the outgoing engine) and piezo injectors.

The five-cylinder engine - a first for something with a Mazda badge - claims a thirst of 9.2l/100km, which gives it an easy range in the realm of  850km from the 80-litre tank.  Running the six-speed auto is probably the better option, with the massive torque making it unlikely you'll missing swapping cogs yourself, such is the ability of the auto.

DESIGN

If you want a traditional look to your LCV then Mazda is not the place to look - Mazda has gone where Mitsubishi did with the Triton. While it's kissing cousin the Ranger has adopted a squared-off traditional aesthetic, Mazda's load-lugger has taken the family look from the passenger car brigade and stretched it across the front of a big ute.

Few seem to like it, but plenty don't - given the ads for the BT-50s hardly feature a vehicle without a bullbar and other accessories, I figure I'm not the only one who's not a fan. The cabin is less confronting, with more space than the outgoing car, particularly in the rear, which has been endowed with a more comfortable backrest angle.

SAFETY

A five-star NCAP rating has been awarded to this workhorse - aside from the engineering work on crumple zones and crash performance, the BT-50 has six airbags dual front, front-side and full-length curtains), stability and traction control (with anti roll-over function) and trailer sway control.

The trailer control system uses the same tricks as stability control (braking individual wheels and adjusting engine torque) to counteract any fish-tailing by a towed vehicle. The front seatbelts have pre-tensioners and load-limiters and all five seatbelts are lap-sash jobs. There's also a rear diff lock on offer for the 4WD models.

DRIVING

These machines are wasted on tradies - anyone who stepped out of a 20-year-old work ute would be double-checking these things had a rear tray. The interior is comfortable and refined for the most part - the children did get a little grumpy at the ride in the back, as the tray wasn't weighed down with a lot, but at least there are proper side-steps for clambering in.

Seat comfort is reasonably good, as is the cabin space - the driver has good fields of vision and is only let down by the absence of reach adjustment on the steering and rear drum brakes, which work fine but might be a little old-tech for some younger new car buyers. The pay off for the firmer ride than its Ford twin is crisper steering and better body control - where much of the segment resorts to leaning heavily and torturing front rubber, the Mazda feels more capable.

It also shrinks around the driver to some extent, feeling smaller than the 5.3m length and 1.8m width listed in the specs sheet. Four-wheel drive can be engaged at speeds up to the state limit, with the back-up of a locking rear diff - although that's only going to be required when the going gets seriously rough, as there's no shortage of off-road ability with 237mm of ground clearance and an 800mm wading depth.

The workhorse side of this vehicle offers decent capacity - the payload is over 1100kg and the maximum braked towing capacity is 3350kg, with old-school leaf springs under the rear.

VERDICT

Mazda has shown what it can do in sales volume terms without a lot of fleet business but there's little doubt that the BT-50 can mix it with the mining fleet favourite, the HiLux. Once the dislike of the exterior subsides, there's a capable dual-cab ute to be had. This one can cart kids, pets, tools or toys without sacrificing too much in the way of off-road prowess or towing capacity. The value equation might just be enough to offset the aesthetics.

STAR RATING

4 stars

MAZDA BT-50 DUAL CAB

Price: from $48,810
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km or 2 years/unlimited km 
Resale: 52% Source: Glass's Guide
Service: 6 months/10,000km
Economy: 9.2 l/100km, on test 10.7, tank 80 litres; 246g/km CO2
Safety: six airbags, ABS, EBD, etc.
Crash rating: 5 star
Engine: 147kW/470Nm 20-valve DOHC 3.2-litre common-rail direct-injection in-line five-cylinder
Transmission: six-speed auto
Body: 4-door, 5 seats 
Dimensions: 5365mm (L); 1850mm (W); 1821mm (H); 3220mm (WB) weight 2103kg
Tyre size: 265/65 R17
Spare tyre:  full size

RIVALS

ImageNissan Navara ST-X dual-cab- compare this car
Price: from $53,240
Engine: 2.5-litre, 4-cyl turbodiesel, 140kW/450Nm
Trasmission: 5-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Thirst: 9l/100km, CO2 238g/km
 

 

 

ImageToyota Hilux SR5 dual-cab- compare this car
Price: from $53,490.
Engine: 3.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 126kW/343Nm 
Transmission: 4-speed auto 
Thirst: 9.3L/100km, 245g/km CO2, tank 76 litres 

 

 

 

ImageFord Ranger XLT dual cab- compare this car
Price: from $55,390
Engine: 3.2-litre 5-cyl turbo diesel, 147kW/470Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
Thirst: 9.2L/100km, 246g/km CO2, tank 80 litres

 

 

 

 

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 7 comments

  • for my new vehicle i plan to buy a ute since my family need a vehicle were i can carry heavy and bulky things.  My two choice are Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 pro.  The Mazda is my first choice since its Japanese brand and more service center to provide.  I went to Ford showroom it seems everyone is busy with nothing.  I have to call there attention unfortunately the sales rep is not happy enough to do a sales today I was immediately concluded the Ford Ranger will not be available until Jan 2014.  You must deposit now and get your car later.  It seems it a stupid idea to pay now and get your car later and the model next year will be an old design.  So I got a brand new Mazda BT-50 pro and I’m very happy with it and its after market service.  MAZDA BT-50 pro is a very good choice.

    nut of Thailand Posted on 25 June 2013 7:10am
  • What is the tow rating with auto transmission?

    leith eastwell of Lindenow Vic Posted on 17 February 2013 12:07pm
  • I love the new Mazda BT50!
    Don’t listen to some to fan boys from Ford or Toyota have been commenting. I have a Ford Ranger and my brother have a Hilux for nearly 3 and 5 years.
    Pictures do not do justice to the new BT50.  It is indeed a handsome vehicle and drove much quieter and better around the corners than both our pickups. 
    We are still thinking whether to buy this or the Ford Ranger, certainly not the terribly noisy and very expensive to maintain Amarok.

    Aaron Smith of Coburg Posted on 11 November 2012 11:33pm
  • Looking to buy a BT50 soon, mainly because of the Price. Can hide the front with a bullbar if needed if looks are a worry.

    Are you able to share what the best price you could get was? I can see the XTR retails for 50k driveaway. Realistically can you get one of these in the lower 40’s?

    Thanks

    Looking to buy of Sydney Posted on 29 May 2012 12:54pm
  • I bought the BT 50 because of the engine size and torque, lots of towing to be done.  The interior is great, lots of gear and comfortable.  This and the ANCAP rating combined with the price pushed me over the edge.  Love Toyota’s but would not touch a Hilux with a barge pole, smaller motor, less gear and more expensive.  Styling - its different, who wants to drive round in a ute that looks like all the other utes - brick like with wheels.  Not saying I bought it for its looks, but I don’t drive the looks.  Overall very happy - great truck, very capable. If you in the market for a ute, these are a must to have a squiz at.

    Happy BT50Owner of Hornsby Posted on 09 May 2012 5:20pm
  • I own a Triton and was thinking up updating to a new BT-50. Initially I liked the front end treatment and general appearance of the BT-50 but the more I test drove different models and colours I decided not to update solely based on looks. That being said, I didn’t much like the Triton looks when I bought it but it has grown on me…...I don’t think the BT-50 will. I expect the BT-50 to be facelifted as quick as a chinese ute.

    FreestyleCab of Blue Mountains, NSW Posted on 23 February 2012 12:04am
  • Swamped by choice, I went for the BT50, because of price mainly, but I wanted something that could tow horses and trailers. I am greatly impressed with the BT and being cheaper than the Ford and with more gimmicks on offer than the Hilux, the Toyota crowd must be getting nervous and looking over their shoulders. The BT50 has more grunt than any other ute I have driven. I agree, that like the Triton, the looks are an acquired taste. I urge all to look past this and test drive the BT. Plusses include Bluetooth, Ipod connection, solid yet car-like feel, Sat-Nav, rear passenger room (which wasn’t mentioned in any review, but the BT has more than the rest), hill start assist (very cool) and oodles of power. Negatives, includes the plethora of alarms, exterior lights that go on when a door is opened and the front of the vehicle is not clearly visible from the driver’s seat. (I am tall; can only imagine what it must be like for the vertically challenged). I would give the vehicle 4 1/2 stars, with the pros greatly outweighing the cons. My advice to Mazda would be to include rear sensors on its XT and XTR models. (This vehicle is BIG).

    Phil Osopher Posted on 13 February 2012 9:08pm
Read all 7 comments

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