LDV T60 VS Mazda BT-50
- Packed with features as standard
- Solid all-rounder
- Too-firm suspension (Pro)
- Resale value
- Sharp drive-away pricing
- Robust, eager drivetrain
- Family friendly on-road comfort and space
- ‘Metallic-shearing’ sound from diesel at low speed
- Non-reach-adjustable steering wheel
- Drab charcoal-coloured dash
A lot is riding on the LDV T60. The dual-cab-only ute range is spearheading a new generation of better-built and better-equipped Chinese utes and (very soon) SUVs, aimed at carving out their own slice of the lucrative Aussie work-and-play market.
It’s the first Chinese commercial vehicle to receive a five-star ANCAP rating, it’s well priced and packed with standard features and safety tech across the range, but realistically is that enough to make it an appealing proposition in the eyes of the ute-buying public? And to overcome the public's wariness about vehicles from the People's Republic? Read on.
|Engine Type||2.8L turbo|
Mazda Australia might be reluctant to admit it, but it has always been a bit touchy about the BT-50’s looks. So much so, it went to no end of trouble trying to hide the ute's bulbous conk with a bull bar when it first broke cover back in 2011.
But does a ute need to be handsome? Isn’t getting hung up about the styling of a ute like looking for elegance in a shovel? Apparently not, because the launch of the new 2018 Mazda BT-50 marks the third edit of that curvy front clip, and we're still taking about it. Only this time, it's all good news.
But, if you’re in the market for a gutsy, family friendly ute, the bigger story here is the pricing. Mazda’s BT-50, right across the range, is starting to look like one heck of a bargain.
However, before becoming blinded by the beauty of the new nose or the savings you might find on your local dealer's forecourt, let’s not forget that it was Mazda who put in the hard design and engineering yards into the strong and capable bones – the chassis, 4x4 drivetrain, and suspension dynamics – that sit under both this and the Ford Ranger.
And truth be told, this correspondent has always had a soft spot for the big, hard-grafting Maz’. We’ve hammered the BT-50 off-road and on it, spent countless hours chasing outback horizons behind that gutsy 3.2-litre turbo-diesel, strapped kids into booster seats in the back, tip-toed around shopping centre car-parks, dragged it in and out of rutted ravines and through deep river crossings (mostly with a pooch licking the left ear, or slobbering at a window), and never had reason to doubt that this is a very well-engineered, very strong and very capable multi-purpose holiday/work-truck/family/pooch conveyance.
And now, with this styling update, and while enjoying a hefty price advantage over the equivalent Ranger, the new BT-50 comes with a whole lot of enhancements inside and out; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across all model grades, reverse camera across all models, and service intervals that have now been stretched from 10,000km or 12 months to 15,000km or 12 months.
To introduce us to the charms of this latest BT-50, Mazda Australia took us to the Gawler Ranges in South Australia where we put it through its paces on sand, rock-strewn gravel and bitumen.
But more of its driving character later; let’s talk about the styling – and its new-found elegance.
|Engine Type||3.2L turbo|
The LDV T60 is a big step in the right direction for Chinese-built utes and should go a long way to convincing Aussie ute buyers that these are finally a worthwhile consideration. Well priced and feature-packed, this dual-cab range exhibits a marked improvement in build quality, fit and finish and all-round drivability. Right now, the Chinese are not major contenders by anyone's estimation but at least they're moving in the right direction.
For our money, and for work-and-play versatility, the Luxe auto is the pick of the bunch; you get all the standard kit with a few nifty add-ons, including on-demand rear diff lock, chrome door handles and door mirrors, sports bar and more.
Would you consider buying a Chinese-built ute? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Our score is based on a summation of the quality of the car, the robustness of the engineering, where it sits feature-for-feature, and the value in the drive-away pricing. You probably have your own views on the new nose on the updated BT-50; we quite like it.
At these new prices, the BT-50 demands your attention. The fact that you can comfortably take it to the Cape and back, tackle any four-wheel-drive adventure you’d sensibly dream up, and, at the same time, live happily with it as a big, capable, versatile family car, surely adds to the appeal.
Mazda, the little company “that can”, has been carving out its place in this market off the back of well-engineered cars right across its product range. There is more than one reason why it’s number two in one of the toughest markets on the planet.
What do you think of the 2018 BT-50? Like the new front end? Tell us in the comments below.
From the outside, the LDV T60 is not unpleasant to look at – part-chunky ute, part-SUV styling – but there’s nothing startlingly special about it, either. It has the scalloped sides of an Amarok look-alike, the sporty stretch bonnet of a HiLux wannabe and everything in between.
I like it for its lack of pretension, as if its designers had a beer down the pub, scratched out their ideas on a coaster as a bit of a joke and then they decided they were actually pretty good, so those guidelines have stuck.
The interior is all clean lines and big surfaces, especially the plastic everything in the Pro, which is not a bad thing as this tradie-targetting model has a real everyday working ute feel to it.
The cabin is dominated by the huge expanse of dash-top and the ute’s 10.0-inch touchscreen entertainment unit.
The answer here is 'yes'. What is interesting about the new BT-50, and its new nose, is that this car is unique to Australia.
In fact, it was Mazda Australia who designed the new-look front clip. The project began as something of a skunk-works operation between Mazda Australia and Queensland company EGR, who manufacture and supply the factory-approved canopies across the BT-50 range.
With Australia the BT-50's biggest market, it is perhaps no surprise that the design work done here – done, it has to be said, because Aussie buyers were not crazy about the BT-50’s schnoz – won the approval of Mazda in Japan.
While unique to Australia, the new front has all of the attributes – in terms of engineering, pedestrian protection, and aerodynamic efficiencies – of the nose it replaces. Airflow for cooling, in fact, is slightly improved, and drag, the coefficient of resistance, remains unchanged.
And from front-on, thanks to the new chromed grill and stronger horizontal lower lip, the BT-50 could easily be mistaken for an approaching SUV. Visually, there is certainly more conventional appeal in the new look.
The cabin is neat and roomy with adequate storage space for driver and front-seat passenger; a lidded centre-console bin, big door pockets, a dash-height cupholder for driver and front passenger (although our supplied water bottles only fit in with a little bit of twisting and forcing) and a knick-knacks tray, replete with two USB ports and a 12V socket.
Those in the rear get door pockets, a centre armrest with two cupholders and a 12V socket.
The front seats are comfortable enough but lack support, especially at the sides; the rear seats are flat and workmanlike.
Interior fit and finish is a big improvement on what’s come before in Chinese-built utes and these build-quality positives may go a long way to helping convince Australia’s ute buyers that the LDV T60 is a worthwhile purchase – or at least worth considering.
The 10-inch touchscreen is clear, neat and simple to operate, although prone to glare. I did see one colleague struggling to get his Android OS phone working through his Luxe. (I didn’t even bother trying to hook up my iPhone; I’m a dinosaur like that.)
The LDV T60 is 5365mm long, 2145mm wide, and 1852mm high (Pro) and 1887mm high (Luxe). Kerb weight is 1950kg (Pro manual), 1980kg (Pro auto), 1995kg (Luxe manual) and 2060kg (Luxe auto).
The tray is 1525mm long and 1510mm wide (1131mm between the wheel arches). It has a plastic tub liner and four tie-down points (one in each corner) and two ‘tub rim anchor points’, which seem like a bit of a flimsy afterthought. Loading height (from tray floor to ground) is 819mm.
The TDV T60 has a 3000kg braked tow capacity (750kg unbraked); many rivals hit the 3500kg benchmark. Its payload ranges from 815kg (Luxe auto) to 1025kg (for the Pro manual). Towball download is 300kg.
One final quirk we should mention is that the two Pros we tested had the indentation for a driver-side 'Jesus!' handle, but no actual handle. Strange.
We only drove the dual-cab GT at launch. And, while the Freestyle cab with its rearward-hinged portal doors and compact cabin is perhaps the more sporting, the dual-cab wins hands-down for practicality.
There is lots of room in the rear even for adult passengers. And, for children, enough width to go three-abreast. Getting booster seats or capsules in and out is also well served by the square-opening rear doors. And the height is just right for wrangling belts and buckles around junior passengers.
The deep tub out back, while not as cavernous as the Freestyle's, still offers a very useful 1560mm width and 1549mm length. Not even the largest SUVs offer that kind of carrying capacity.
Externally, you’ll pick the dual-cab GT by the standard chromed bars and heavy-duty tub liner in the tray.
Price and features
In an age where each new vehicle seems to offer a mind-boggling variety of trim and spec levels, the LDV T60 range is a refreshingly small and simple one.
The diesel-only five-seater LDV T60 is available in one body style – dual-cab – and two trim levels: Pro, aimed at tradies, and Luxe, aimed at the dual-purpose or family recreation market. The range is limited to dual-cabs at the moment, but, at the launch LDV Automotive Australia did tease the arrival of single-cab and extra-cab models in 2018.
The four options are Pro manual, Pro automatic, Luxe manual and Luxe automatic. All are powered by a 2.8-litre common-rail turbo-diesel engine.
The base-spec T60 Pro, the manual, is $30,516 (drive away); the Pro automatic is $32,621 (drive away), the Luxe manual $34,726 (drive away), and the Luxe automatic $36,831 (drive away). ABN holders will pay $28,990 (for the Pro manual), $30,990 (Pro auto), Luxe manual ($32,990) and Luxe automatic ($34,990).
The ute’s standard features in Pro form include cloth seats, a 10.0-inch colour touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, automatic height adjusting headlights, 4WD with high and low range, 17-inch alloys with a full-sized spare, side steps, and roof rails.
Safety gear includes six airbags, two ISOFIX child-seat restraint attachment points in the rear seat, as well as a raft of passive and active safety tech including ABS, EBA, ESC, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, 'Hill Descent Control', 'Hill Start Assist', and a tyre-pressure monitoring system.
Above and beyond that, the top-spec Luxe gets leather seats and leather-bound steering wheel, electrically six-way adjustable and heated front seats, automatic climate control and a 'Smart Key' system with Start/Stop button, as well as an automatic locking rear differential as standard.
The Pro has a multi-bar headboard to protect the rear window; the Luxe has a polished chrome sport bar. Both models have roof rails as standard.
LDV Automotive has launched a range of accessories including rubber floor mats, polished alloy nudge bars, tow bar, ladder rack, colour-matched canopies, tonneau covers and more. Bullbars for the ute are in the pipeline.
Mazda has always been prepared to take the sharp pencil to the pricing of the BT-50 range. And in terms of the quality feel of the product and the space it occupies in the segment, this car is very good buying.
Look at the one we’re driving, the top-of-the-range BT-50 3.2-litre dual-cab GT 4X4 with a six-speed auto. Its drive-away price is just $51,990. Line it up, feature by feature, with the equivalent Ranger, and you’ll recognise a saving here of the better part of $10k. It is cheaper, even, than the second-tier Ranger XLS. That kind of saving is not to be sneezed at.
Line it up against the equivalent Isuzu D-Max, and, on that drive-away price, you’ll see a saving of thousands of dollars. It is also cheaper than Mitsubishi’s Triton Exceed, which has long been one of the price leaders in the segment.
The BT-50 range begins at $28,990 drive-away for the 2.2-litre 4x2 cab chassis; the 4x4 range starting at $37,990 drive-away.
Some in this segment just can’t hide their ‘workboots’ feel. But there are no ratty plastics in this cabin, and few indicators of the BT-50’s built-for-work origins. The sloping soft-touch dash gives an SUV-like feel to the interior, as does the large (7.0-inch or 8.0-inch) screen occupying the centre stack, as well as the solid feel to the doors and passenger-car ambience when on the road.
Start adding in features across the range - like standard reverse camera, power windows and mirrors, air-conditioning, cruise control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, quality Alpine sound systems, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, rear-view mirror auto dimming, and sat-nav with live traffic updates and off-road maps – and you’ll possibly agree that there is more than a bit of substance packed behind those drive-away prices.
For XTR and GT models, to the list above you can add side steps (tubular, polished), tailgate lock, rain-sensing wipers, and dual-zone climate control. The GT also gets leather trim, an eight-way power front driver’s seat, chrome rear bars and heavy-duty tub-liner.
Engine & trans
Lift the bonnet and what you are looking at there is grandpa’s axe. The redoubtable five-cylinder, 3.2-litre turbo-diesel, which shares duties under the bonnet of the BT-50 and Ford Ranger (with a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel also available in lower-specced models across both brands), has been around since Adam was a pup. It produces 147kW at 3000rpm and 470Nm at 1750rpm.
It’s essentially the same engine that began life as the Td5 diesel under the bonnets of the Land Rover Defender and Discovery 20-or-so-years back. But it's now vastly more refined, robust, and quiet. And teamed with either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto, it’s as strong as a train.
This 3.2-litre diesel is not the most abstemious among the new generation of turbo-diesel, twin-cab 4x4s, and is bettered by the latest 3.0-litre Isuzu D-Max (8.1L/100km claimed) and the 2.8-litre Toyota HiLux (8.5L/100km claimed).
In our hands, on this trip, we recorded 11.2L/100km on the highway and gravel roads approaching the Gawler Ranges (mostly fair secondary roads with patches of damp red bulldust to watch out for). This rose to 13.2L/100km after some heavy going on a long stretch of sandy inclines.
Mazda claims 10L/100km on the combined cycle for the auto, and 9.7L/100km for the manual. But this is a tarmac-based figure, not the kind of driving we were doing, or that you would do on a family beach or bush adventure.
That said, given the willing output of the diesel – if needing a surge of power, it can summon all 470Nm in very quick time – and the weight of the rig (2161kg for the GT auto), plus its effortless towing capability, the figures we recorded on new engines are not bad, and will give a good indication of what you might achieve in similar driving.
In sand, that muscular torque sitting across a wide band – from 1750 to 2500rpm – is particularly useful. If you’re carrying some weight behind, it won’t run out of shove and leave you stranded when the going gets heavy.
The BT-50 has an 80-litre fuel tank.
We did more than 200km around Bathurst in some LDV T60s, most of it in a Pro auto, and much of the drive program was on bitumen. A few things became obvious quite early on and, later, a few quirks popped up as well.
The 2.8-litre four-cylinder VM Motori turbo-diesel never seemed to struggle – on the blacktop or in the bush – but it almost felt too relaxed, as it was slow to respond and wind up, especially when pushed on long, steep hills.
However, a bonus of that under-stressed engine is that it is very quiet – we had the radio off and engine-related NVH levels were impressive. There wasn’t even any wind-rush from the big wing mirrors.
The six-speed Aisin auto trans is a smooth unit – no hard-shifting up or down – but there’s no real discernible difference in drivability between modes; Normal or Sport.
Ride and handling are adequate if unspectacular, although it turned in nicely – steering was very precise for something like this – and the ute held stable through long sweeping bends. Our tester was on 245/65 R17 Dunlop Grandtrek AT20s.
While our stiff-set Pro exhibited no arse-end skipping-around straight away, typical of an unladen ute, we did hit a few surprise lumps and bumps early on in the drive-loop and that got the back end jumping about in a brief but brutal manner.
As for the quirks, our overzealous ABS kicked in on several occasions for seemingly innocuous reasons when we tickled the brakes (discs all round) at lower and high speeds on bumpy stuff, which was concerning.
Secondly, a couple of journalists in a Luxe reckoned the blind-spot monitor in their LDV T60 failed to alert them to the presence of a passing vehicle.
While the Pro suspension was too firm (to cope with heavy loads, no doubt), the Luxe’s tended to wallow.
For off-roading enthusiasts, here are the numbers worth noting: ground clearance is 215mm, wading depth is 300mm, and front and rear departure angles are 27 and 24.2 degrees respectively; ramp-over angle is 21.3 degrees.
The launch off-road loops were more scenic than challenging but when we intentionally veered off-course and onto some steep hilly sections, we had the opportunity to check out the LDV T60’s engine braking (okay) and hill descent control (good).
The Pro auto was an easier drive over any off-road bits than the manual Pro was, as the light feel of its clutch and the loose throw of its gear-stick didn’t inspire confidence.
Underbody protection includes a plastic bash-plate at the front.
That said, it won’t take you long to get used to the more utilitarian feel of the BT-50, nor to the length of the beast (these utes can sometimes feel like aircraft carriers in city carparks). Helping here is the reversing camera (standard across the entire range), the well-weighted power-assisted steering, and the general comfort of the cabin and relatively quiet operation (some diesel noise at lower speeds notwithstanding) of the engine.
Fact is, live with it a while, and you’ll forget about the compromises of its workhorse engineering and learn to love the imperiously high driving position, the ready power, and the convenience of that big tub on the back.
Access in and out is also good, and at a perfect height for strapping the junior members of the tribe into the back seat. And with the icing being a long feature list and a half-decent sound system, it offers the conveniences of any modern sedan or hatchback. You’ll be surprised by its easy driveability, too.
For all its strengths, however, the weight inherent to a strong ladder chassis, a heavy-duty 4x4 drivetrain, and the other compromises built of necessity into a dual-purpose vehicle, will take a week or so to get used to.
Wheels are 17-inch alloys on 265/65 R17 AT tyres. Brakes are 302mm ventilated discs at the front and drums at the rear. The BT-50's tray is also handy for both real work and house-and-yard duties, measuring 1549mm long, 1560mm wide and 513mm deep.
Where once these twin-cab dual-purpose 4x4s were a tad raw, with juddery suspension, vague steering, indifferent handling and little in the way of creature comforts, many of the new wave of models, such as this BT-50, have comfort levels close to those of the big 4x4 wagons - and even some SUVs.
I’d happily circumnavigate the continent in the BT-50. The seats are good, it’s quiet on-road (with less tyre noise than some passenger wagons), the feel through the steering is good and well-weighted (if a little vague at the dead-ahead), and there is effortless power underfoot.
Like any other modern car, it swallows highway kilometres with just the gruff muted growl of the turbo-diesel for accompaniment. On gravel – such as you’ll find on any long run through the outback – it can be driven surprisingly quickly and comfortably thanks to the long wheelbase, large wheels (with All-Terrain tyres), and that reasonably compliant suspension; independent double wishbone, coil-over dampers at the front, and live-axle leaf-spring at the rear.
The ride in the BT-50, like the Ranger and VW Amarok, is certainly among the better performers in the segment. Corrugations can have the rear moving around a bit, especially when unladen, but it needs one hell of a whack for bumps, ruts or hollows (like an unexpected washout) to unsettle things in the cabin.
For difficult off-road work, this Mazda's figures – 237mm ground clearance (unladen), and approach, departure and ramp-over angles of 28.2, 26.4 and 25 degrees – all check out.
If trailer towing is your thing, the BT-50 has a maximum towing capacity of 3500kg (braked), 750kg (unbraked) and a towball download of 350kg.
The LDV T60 packs a lot of safety gear in for the price. It has a five-star ANCAP rating, six airbags (driver and front passenger, side, full-length curtain) and includes a raft of passive and active safety tech across the range including ABS, EBA, ESC, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, 'Hill Descent Control', 'Hill Start Assist', and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system. It has two ISOFIX points and two top-tether points.
The BT-50, of course, has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, with all of the expected safety features that sit behind that rating. Importantly, for family duties, the airbag protection extends from the front to the rear cab, with driver and passenger airbags, both front and side, and curtain airbags front and rear.
Other features include anti-lock braking (ABS), dynamic stability control (DSC), and emergency stop signal. Assisting off-road is hill descent control (4x4 only), hill launch assist, a locking rear differential (4x4 only), traction control and trailer sway control – the latter a Godsend when towing at highway speeds or when on loose surfaces (there are few things caravaners fear more than finding the caravan dictating terms at speed).
Mazda’s standard two-year warranty has been sweetened, with servicing intervals now extended from 10,000km/12 months to 15,000km/12 months.
On Mazda’s calculations (as supplied), based on a 15,000km/12 month interval, this will save owners more than $850 after five years of servicing. And, for owners clocking up real-world distances of 25,000km per annum, the potential saving is $1920 over the five years.