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Mazda BT-50 XTR 2014 Review

EXPERT RATING
9
The price makes the BT-50 the must-have four-wheel-drive ute for the family There's a lot more going for the pretty boy of the pick-up crowd than slick looks. The Mazda BT-50 may appear to be a jacked-up car but its underpinnings (shared with the Ford Ranger) make it a steroid-infused party animal in any environment.

The price makes the BT-50 the must-have four-wheel-drive ute for the family

There's a lot more going for the pretty boy of the pick-up crowd than slick looks. The Mazda BT-50 may appear to be a jacked-up car but its underpinnings (shared with the Ford Ranger) make it a steroid-infused party animal in any environment.

About half of all buyers maintain the bling theme by adorning their vehicle with factory accessories The biggest thing going for the BT-50 is its price: at $5000 cheaper than a comparable Ranger and with more appeal to the gentler half of the family it is hard to overlook as a private buy. Which is why I'm in Echuca, having travelled from Melbourne in a 4WD dual-cab BT-50 XTR with the cruise control set to 102km/h.

The low-speed ride is mildly choppy - there are only two of us on board and no weight in the back. That's what you get with rear leaf springs and is one of the few compromises the Mazda has to make in terms of its bitumen behaviour.

Towing capacity is 3.5 tonnes and that ability will have some impact on the ride in comparison with a softroading SUV. As the pace picks up on the highway, that unsettled feeling subsides dramatically - there are sedans that don't react to 100km/h hits on expansion joints as well as the Mazda does.

The steering is equally impressive. There's a CX-5-style feel and responsiveness in the Mazda - shared only with the Ranger and the VW Amarok.

This trio is in a separate class in terms of driving dynamics and are the only 4WD utes to successfully combine cargo carrying with family friendliness.

Head off the beaten track and into the sand dunes north-east of Echuca and the BT-50 is downright brilliant.

Hub-deep ruts are navigated without resorting to 4WD low range and only on one tormentingly treacherous uphill slop are we required to stop and shift into the more extreme mode. In that case the traction control is automatically disabled to let the rear wheels run wild.

There's no need to press the button to engage the rear diff lock but I do anyway - I've backed down the damn hill once and refuse to do it again. The resultant sandstorm hides the Mazda's methodical procession through the ruts - sending up a curtain of sand on either side is far from efficient but it's satisfying in a way sensible progress can never be.

It's a similar story - still without low range - on a tight, cambered sand 'course' we carve out later. The unladen tray is more help than hindrance as it drifts on demand to sweep around the corners and the 3.2-litre turbo diesel just keeps on torquing its way through the ever-loosening sand.

Farther north still and on Mt Emu north of Albury-Wodonga, the BT-50 is just as capable on uphill rocky slopes.

With tyre pressure down to 22 psi, it bites with enough venom to dispense with seriously severe ledges and sill-deep water crossings over lichen-smooth rocks.

The ride is still assured and assertive: you don't feel any squirm through the wheels as it progresses over impressively large obstacles. There's the further assurance of underbody cladding when you tackle something larger than the 200mm of ground clearance.

The hill descent control is composed and, when more speed is desired, it can be momentarily be overridden by the accelerator - that's the only time my passenger had to hang on.

The Mazda is great value, with a current national drive-away deal of $47,990 for the XTR manual, the six-speed automatic adding $2000.

The comparable Amarok (without satnav and dual-zone aircon but with an eight-speed auto) is listed at $48,990 and the Ranger XLT manual is $53,890.

Pricing Guides

$26,560
Based on 272 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$11,888
Highest Price
$44,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT (4x4) 3.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $23,990 – 36,999 2014 Mazda BT-50 2014 GT (4x4) Pricing and Specs
XT (4x2) 3.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $11,888 – 26,990 2014 Mazda BT-50 2014 XT (4x2) Pricing and Specs
XT (4x4) 3.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $18,990 – 34,990 2014 Mazda BT-50 2014 XT (4x4) Pricing and Specs
XTR (4x2) 3.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $17,888 – 29,780 2014 Mazda BT-50 2014 XTR (4x2) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
9
Pricing Guide

$14,913

Lowest price, based on 12 car listings in the last 6 months

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