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Isuzu lifts lid on next-gen Mazda BT-50: Co-developed ute will be almost all D-Max

Isuzu lifts lid on Mazda BT-50.

The incoming 2020 D-Max has inadvertently shed light on what to expect from the next-gen Mazda BT-50, with Isuzu's executive team telling CarsGuide Mazda has had no involvement in the D-Max's development, with the rival Japanese brand to essentially be handed a finished ute.

Mazda and Isuzu have joined forces on each brand's next-gen ute (in the same way Ford and VW have teamed up on the next Ranger/Amarok), with both brands hoping to save on development costs by sharing the vehicle. 

Isuzu global spokesperson, Eiji Mitsuhashi, told CarsGuide the new D-Max, which will launch in Australia this year, was "developed solely by Isuzu" and that the finished truck would then be provided to Mazda.

"This was developed solely by Isuzu, and we have decided to supply or provide this vehicle to Mazda as an OEM. But it was developed purely by us," he said from the floor of the 2019 Tokyo Auto Show via a translator.

"We independently developed this D-Max. We tried to strike a balance between passenger use and more off-road demand. We understand the increasing demand on the D-Max as a passenger car."

Mazda has so far kept quiet on what to expect from its updated BT-50, which is widely expected to launch some 12 months after the D-Max arrives in Australia towards the end of next year.

We do know the brand will share the Isuzu's architecture, and it is expected the engine choices (either a turbocharged 3.0-litre diesel engine now producing 140kW at 3600rpm and 450Nm at 1600rpm, or a 1.9-litre diesel engine that, as we understand it, is unlikely to make it to Australia in the D-Max) could travel across brands, too.

Mazda has, however, promised that the BT-50 will look substantially different, with the brand's chief designer promising it would be more "masculine and tough" than the current model.

"The rear area of the truck itself is very difficult to use this (Kodo) design language, but I could try," the company's design boss, Ikuo Maeda, told us in 2018.

"I myself think the truck should look masculine and strong, and really like a truck. It might be difficult to try this kind of design, with all the light reflections, to a truck. It's tough."

Maeda went on to promise that, despite the Isuzu partnership, Mazda's version will have it's own unique design and presence.

"It will have to," he said.

The news follows reports in 2017 that Mazda would be injecting more of its engineering know-how into the the new BT-50, so don't rule out Australia-specific tuning just yet - something that is missing from the D-Max.