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Mazda BT-50 vs Nissan Navara


Work-and-play utes pack ever-higher spec but still involve some compromises. Richard Blackburn rolls up his sleeves.

value

Mazda BT-50 GT

$51,790 plus on-roads

Mazda has a $49,990 drive-away deal on 2015-plate versions of the BT-50 GT, a sizeable discount. But at the recommended retail price, it isn't the best value in the ute market. Standard equipment includes satnav, cruise control, climate control aircon and side steps. Servicing is $2002 over three years and Mazda charges $68 a year for roadside assistance.

Nissan Navara ST-X

$51,990 plus on roads

Is $200 more than the Mazda but is better equipped, trumping the rival with keyless entry and push-button start, sunroof, standard bed liner, reversing sensors, auto wipers and lights and seat warmers. Other standard fare includes satnav, cruise control, and climate control aircon. Capped price servicing is $1779 for three annual services but has three years' roadside assistance.

design

Mazda BT-50 GT

Last year‘s update wasn't nearly as extensive as that of its Ford Ranger twin so it looks dated inside, with old-school readouts in the instrument panel, an abundance of hard shiny plastics and a Spartan rear passenger area that doesn't include individual air vents. No tub liner or 12V outlet in the rear load area. The basics are still good, though, with plenty of rear leg and headroom.

Nissan Navara ST-X

More modern looking inside, with higher quality digital readouts in the instrument panel. Cabin materials are also more upmarket, with faux brushed metal and piano black highlights. There's more attention in the rear as well, with armrest padding, an extra map pocket and air vents. The sliding rear window is handy for talking to people when loading the tray at worksites. Rear passengers sit a little knees-up and there's less headroom than the Mazda.

technology

Mazda BT-50 GT

Engine

The strong five-cylinder turbo diesel provides good pick-up off the mark and when accelerating. It is a bit coarse, though. Wins the power battle by a short head with 147kW/470Nm but is noticeably thirstier. The official label says 8.9L/100km and we hovered around 10.0L in a mix of city and rural driving. Has one less ratio than the Navara but the transmission is smooth and swift shifting

Nissan Navara ST-X

Engine

Outputs of the 2.3-litre four-cylinder (140kW/450Nm) are slightly down on the Mazda's but the engine is quieter and more fuel efficient, with impressive claimed consumption of 7.0L/100km. We got a tick over 8.0L. The seven-speed auto slurs changes well and keeps the engine in its sweet spot. No stop-start, though, and the diesel clatter is quite noticeable around town.

safety

Mazda BT-50 GT

Has six airbags and posted a five-star crash result when tested in 2011, scoring 34.72 out of a possible 37 points. Again didn't get the safety updates of its Ranger twin, which scores 36.72. Doesn't get the driver aids available on the top-spec Ranger, including lane departure alert, adaptive cruise and rear cross traffic alert. Mazda's reversing camera display in the rear-view mirror is too small.

Nissan Navara ST-X

Seven airbags, hill descent and hill start assist add up to a decent safety package, although driver aids such as blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning — available on some rivals — are not part of the safety arsenal. Got a strong five-star result in crash testing, with 35.01/37.

driving

Mazda BT-50 GT

The Mazda is by far the most composed of this pair on the open road. The ride can get jiggly over imperfect surfaces and is firmer than the Nissan over bigger bumps but it feels more tied down and responsive when asked to change direction. The steering is sharp and accurate and it has more grip and less lean through corners.

Nissan Navara ST-X

The Navara has the more sophisticated suspension setup, with coils instead of leaf springs at the rear, which makes its ride quality all the more disappointing. It jiggles and wobbles over corrugations and floats over bigger bumps. It's not very inspiring through corners, either, with plenty of body roll and vague steering feel.

Verdict

Mazda BT-50 GT

Nissan Navara ST-X

The Mazda has the best road manners but it's too hard to ignore the Navara's better value for money, fuel efficiency and classier interior.

Click here for more Mazda BT-50 price and spec info

Click here for more Nissan Navara price and spec info