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Mercedes-Benz Sprinter


Mazda BT-50

Summary

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

On the commercial side of the Mercedes-Benz business, a new Sprinter van is talked about in the same revered tone as a new S-Class. Seriously; the company's best-selling van has the same flagship aura about it as the uber-luxe limousine.

Even in Australia - where it wears a price premium over most competitors - Mercedes says it has managed to cling to the top sales spot in the large-van segment for more than two decades. But in Europe (and especially Germany) it's even more ubiquitous - they are absolutely everywhere.

This 2019 update is kind of a big deal, then. And with a new (and cheaper) FWD variant, overhauled cabin technology that now mirrors the best of the passenger-car range, and new safety offerings like AEB, active cruise and a 360-degree camera, Benz reckons this new model will bite off an even bigger share of the market.

And so we took the Sprinter for a quick spin ahead of its Q4 Australian launch to see if they're right.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.1L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency—L/100km
Seating3 seats

Mazda BT-50

This is the biggest change in the history of Mazda utes. Not just because this is the all-new Mazda BT-50, which takes massive leaps forward in terms of safety and technology over its predecessor.

Nope, it's a dramatic departure from the roots of the Mazda ute - this is the first pick-up or light commercial utility vehicle not to be built alongside a Ford equivalent for almost 60 years. Since 1965 there has been an intrinsic link between Ford and Mazda utes, but now all that heritage is done with, as Mazda has instead teamed up with Isuzu for this new generation BT-50 model.

Is that a bad thing? In the scheme of things, the answer is a resounding 'no'. This third-generation BT-50 is an all-new ute; the existing PX series Ranger will soldier on for a while yet, and the now-defunct BT-50 that shared a lot with the current Ranger was always behind it in terms of tech and, well, if we're honest, attention from the brand.

But now, the new BT-50 is here. It's more thoughtful, better equipped, offers class-lead-equalling safety tech alongside its fraternal twin the D-Max, and it also takes a different tact to the rest of the ute market. It has a bit of plush up its sleeve.

Let's get to it - in this review we'll cover off cabin space, presentation, safety tech, pricing and specifications for the BT-50 range, and we'll even drive it on-road and off-road.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency9.7L/100km
Seating3 seats

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter8/10

If it was any more practical it would do the loading and unloading for you, but there's also no obvious penalty for driving a commercial vehicle here. It's comfortable, quiet and now offers better interior technology than even most Benz passenger cars.

And with a cheaper entry point now on offer, the Sprinter should have absolutely no problem holding onto its top sales spot.

Would you buy any van other than a Sprinter? Tell us in the comments.


Mazda BT-508.1/10

The Mazda BT-50 is certainly an impressive ute, one that stands apart from some of its main rivals. It is still something of a badge-engineered exercise, though the brand deserves credit for changing up the exterior look and pushing up the perceived quality of the cabin, too.

Having only driven the GT, it stands up as a solid offering - but on paper, and depending on what you plan to do with the ute, the XTR could well be the pick of the range if you don't want or need the luxuries of the top-spec.

Design

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter8/10

It's a vast and slab-sided thing, of course, and practicality takes priority over design, but in the world of full-size vans, the Sprinter is a rather handsome beast.

Up front, the optional three-column LED headlights separate the massive horizontal slats of the grille, while sharp contours running the edge of the bonnet create a kind of power dome in the centre. It's a pretty dominant design, and it definitely lends the Sprinter a strong road presence.

But there's only so much crayon work you can do with a commercial vehicle, so, unsurprisingly, the Sprinter looks... a lot like a van. Lighter colours - and grey especially - look best, highlighting the subtle contours and making it look a little less blocky and heavy.

The cabin, though, looks properly great; a customisable blend of form and function (exactly how much of either is up to you) that - thanks to Mercedes' cool MBUX system and Touch steering wheel - feels like it could belong in a passenger car rather than a workaday van.

The materials are geared toward wear and tear, though, with fabric seats and hard plastics liberally splashed about the cabin.


Mazda BT-508/10

I'd love to hear from you in the comments section about what you think of the new look BT-50. It really is a vast improvement over the predecessor, and certainly looks a bit more masculine than before, too.

But is it good looking? Hmmm. I'm not so sure. It has those trademark Mazda looks we have come to know so well - the broad shapely grille, the squinty LED headlights, and from there back it's pretty much all D-Max (well, to the untrained eye). But it's the front bumper that gets me - it's just a bit… chinny. Of course a bullbar or nudge bar will fix that.

Mazda's designers apparently wanted that sloping look, which they say helps plant the front end to the ground and shows the plantedness of the vehicle - they even showed how they drew inspiration from the stance of a sumo wrestler. I honestly can't see it, but there you go.

I also am not a fan of the fact the XTR and GT models get the same alloy wheels. Why? How hard can it be to specify a different alloy for the top-spec? And don't you want your ute to look different if it's the most expensive one? But in reality, buyers will probably get rid of those rims quick smart anyway!

The exterior styling is one thing, but I do like what Mazda has done inside the cabin to differentiate it from the D-Max. More on that below.

Now, the new BT-50 - being based on the D-Max and not the Ranger - is a bit shorter now than it once was, but it gets a longer wheelbase. And yes, things are about to get data heavy.

First, here's a table of the body dimensions for dual cab models:

 

Dual cab ute and cab-chassis

Length

5280mm

Wheelbase

3125mm

Width

1870mm

Height

1785mm-1800mm

The height varies depending on the model, but the stated length and width are identical if you choose cab-chassis or pick-up.

Next up, load space dimensions - and while we don't have figures for the cab-chassis models (your tray size will depend on the tray you fit), here are the figures for the dual cab pick-up models, which are identical in 4x2 and 4x4 guises.

 

Dual cab ute

Cargo floor length

1571mm

Width at top rail

1530mm

Width between wheel arches

1120mm

Depth

490mm

The Mazda BT-50 isn't unusual in that it can't fit an Aussie pallet between the wheel arches (they measure 1165mm by 1165mm) but if you really need that capability and want a pick-up bodystyle, the Amarok has you covered. Or you can rip off the tub and custom make a tray. Lots of people do.

Next up we'll look at dual cab payload capacity for the models in the range. And every single version is a genuine one-tonne ute.

 

Dual cab-chassis

Dual cab Pickup

Payload capacity

1195kg-1220kg

1055kg-1090kg

Gross vehicle mass (GVM)

3000kg (4x2) / 3100kg (4x4)

Gross combination mass (GCM)

5850kg (4x2) / 5950kg (4x4)

Towing capacity

750kg unbraked / 3500kg braked

Right, now let's take a deep dive into the off-road dimensions and angles you probably want to know about. We're just covering off the 4x4 models in terms of off-road specs below:

 

Dual cab-chassis

Dual cab ute

Ground clearance mm

235mm (XT)

235mm (XT), 240mm (XTR / GT)

Approach angle 

29.6 (XT)

30.0 (XT), 30.4 (XTR / GT)

Break over/ramp over angle

23.9 (XT)

23.3 (XT), 23.8 (XTR / GT)

Departure angle

25.3 (XT)

23.9 (XT), 24.2 (XTR / GT)

Wading depth

800mm

We know that's a lot of design DNA and intel to digest. We'll see how it translates to reality in the driving section below.

Practicality

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter9/10

It's available in in four sizes (five if you include cab chassis) and with three roof heights, so just how practical your Sprinter arrives is going to be up to you.

Benz reports total storage space can be up to 17 cubic metres, depending on configuration. The front-wheel-drive version is now eight centimetres lower at the back, too, making it a little easier to load.

Mercedes is yet to confirm the full load-carrying spec for Australian cars, but consider this; even the smallest and most underpowered model in the outgoing range could carry more than a tonne and tow in excess of 2000kg (braked), and those numbers are unlikely to have gone backwards. But then, that the big and cavernous Sprinter can carry stuff will surprise absolutely no-one.

The cabin is a super-clever mix of storage spots and hidey-holes, but special mention must go to the phone-sized slots in the dash for both passenger and driver, as well as the extra storage at head height, dash height and in the centre console.


Mazda BT-508/10

There's a bit to like about the cabin of the GT grade of the BT-50 - and that's even if you're not a fan of brown leather (what's wrong with you?!).

That's because the GT grade gets some of the things we wished were in the D-Max X-Terrain, including heated front seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Both of those are luxurious additions that add a bit to the feel of the BT-50's interior, and the brown leather - standard on GT - just adds to the plush vibes. The silver metallic-look trim that runs from the doors across the dashboard is very Mazda, while the buttons, screens, dials and controls are all common with the D-Max.

The interior trims on the doors and dashboard have been adjusted and the vents have been redesigned to add just a little bit of visual intrigue compared to the D-Max. It's a nice looking cabin, and the big 9.0-inch media screen (in XTR and GT models) is a sight to behold.

This is a class-leading size for a ute media screen, and it incorporates Android Auto (via USB) and both wireless and USB-connect Apple CarPlay. The same phone mirroring tech is also fitted in the entry-level XT, which runs a smaller 7.0-inch screen but still in the 9.0-inch bezel. And yes, it's all touchscreen operated - no MZD Connect rotary dial getting in the way here.

As with the D-Max, our complaint about that screen is that instead of dials and knobs for volume/channel, there are buttons, which can be hard to hit correctly if you're driving. The media system's native menu systems are okay, but do take some learning. It's a big step up from the aftermarket updated unit fitted to later BT-50s of the last generation.

The cabin materials and finishes are mostly very impressive, with soft sections on the dash and doors in the XTR and GT models, and there's good adjustment for the driver to get their correct position as well - rake and reach adjustment for the steering, height adjust for the driver's seat, and lumbar adjustment too. The driver's electric seat adjustment in the GT is eight-way, but there are no memory settings and no passenger seat electric adjustment, either.

Plus one thing worth noting - the seats (both in BT-50 and D-Max) are very comfy.

As mentioned above there's a 4.2-inch digital driver info screen that has a digital speedometer, and you can configure it a few different ways. That screen is also where you access the safety system settings (by way of the buttons on the steering wheel).

There are some clever storage options including a double glovebox, but unlike D-Max there's no dash top storage bin, and while you do get cupholders between the seats, they're more like bottle holders and you will lose a smaller coffee cup down there, and it'll be messy to retrieve it. Sadly, the BT-50 doesn't get the clever pop-out cup holders near the outer air-vents, which means you're going to be caught out on the coffee front unless you order the largest you can get.

Elsewhere there's a decent centre console bin with armrest, and bottle holders in the front doors with pockets alongside.

The rear of the XTR and GT models includes a pair of cup holders in a flip-down armrest, and there are door pockets with bottle caddies in all dual cab models. There is a USB port in the second row of all double cab models as well as rear directional air vents.

The rear seat space is good - not class-leading, but comfortable enough for me to sit behind my own driving position (I'm 182cm / 6'0" tall) with adequate knee room, headroom and toe space.

There is enough room for three adults to fit across, and for children there are two ISOFIX and two top-tether loops that allow you to collect to a centre attachment point. That means you can only fit two child seats in the back legally.

Price and features

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter8/10

The big news here is the introduction of a new entry point to the Sprinter range, a (first for this van) FWD model that is also offered with a new, nine-speed gearbox.

Mercedes is yet to confirm pricing or full specification for the updated Sprinter, but it reckons we can expect to see the FWD model lop about $5k off the starting price, lowering the entry point for an automatic SWB vehicle to around $42k (and about $39k for a manual).

That would bring it much closer to the heart of its segment - the Renault Master, for example, will set you back about $35k for a SWB with a manual gearbox.

The Sprinter will arrive in a standard specification across the range (SWB, MWB, LWB and XLWB) with plenty of personalisation options from there. And we do mean plenty; Benz reckons there are about 1700 possible variations.

New for this update is Benz's very cool 'MBUX' multimedia system (the one in the spanking new A-Class), which will be operated via a 7.0-inch screen as standard, with a 10.25-inch screen a cost option. The MBUX setup uses the same AI-enabled voice recognition system as the A-Class - meaning you can talk to it without using pre-defined key words, although it's still far from flawless - and it pairs with a six-speaker stereo.

The system joins Merc's heavily redesigned 'Touch' steering wheel as the standout new features. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are yet to appear, but Benz tells us it's coming post launch, and will likely be rolled out as a no-cost option.


Mazda BT-508/10

Progress doesn't come cheap, and pricing for the BT-50 range is up compared to its predecessor.

Just note, Madza hasn't announced all the pricing and details for every version of the BT-50 just yet - only the dual cab models are covered in this 2021 range review as that was all that came to Australia at launch.

So when you see the cheapest 4x2 dual cab XT kicks off at a rather high $44,090 (MSRP/RRP) and the range-topping GT 4x4 auto is $59,990 (MSRP/RRP), you might think that's a lot for a Mazda ute - but funnily enough, the existing range-topping BT-50 Boss was a $63,250 proposition. So there's headroom for a more enthusiast-focused ute as a flagship… watch this space.

Now, there are three grades - XT, XTR and GT - so let's break it down and see what you get. The XT comes with the choice of cab-chassis or Pickup (ute) body styles, while the rest are the pick-up well-back tub design.

The XT badge is stuck on more BT-50 variations than any other. As a dual cab, it comes in 2WD/RWD/4x2 (as a Hi-Rider - there is no low-ride model anymore) or 4WD/4x4. And no matter the grade you choose, the BT-50 is fitted with the same engine and a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions depending on the derivative. Here's a table to make it easier to understand the XT dual cab line-up.

MAZDA BT-50 XT

Drivetrain

Body type

Transmission

RRP

 

4x2

Dual cab-chassis

Automatic 

$44,090

Dual cab Pickup

Automatic

$45,490



 

4x4

 

Dual cab-chassis 

Manual

$49,360

Automatic

$51,860

 

Dual cab Pickup

Manual

$50,760

Automatic

$53,260

Standard equipment for the XT comprises: 17-inch alloy wheels (most vehicles at the base level have steel wheels), LED headlights (often halogens - including the D-Max in base grade), power-adjustable mirrors, a 4.2-inch driver display with digital speedometer, black cloth interior trim, carpet flooring (most work focused models have vinyl flooring), and there's a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto, digital radio and four-speaker sound system in 4x2 models and 4x4s get a six-speaker sound system.

The XT comes with manual air-conditioning, power windows, power mirrors, automatic wipers, tilt and telescopic multi-function steering wheel, and body colour bumpers (including a rear step bumper). Dual cab models have a USB port and rear seat directional air vents.

From the XT up there's a reversing camera - both for the cab-chassis and pick-up models - but the cab-chassis misses out on rear parking sensors that the Pickup model gets.

The second tier up the BT-50 range is the XTR. Here are the parameters of this variant: 

MAZDA BT-50 XTR

Drivetrain

Body type

Transmission

RRP

4x2

Dual cab Pickup

Automatic

$49,470

 

4x4

 

Dual cab Pickup

Manual

$54,710

Automatic

$57,210

Thinking you need your XT to be a bit more R rated? The XTR gets you a few nice extras, such as 18-inch alloy wheels, LED front fog lights and daytime running lights to complement the LED headlights, and there are different headlight inlays, as well as chrome horizontal bars for the grille. Plus you get side steps as well. That's it for exterior differentiators.

But inside there are a few more notable changes, including dual-zone climate control with rear directional air vents, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear selector, an auto-dimming rearview mirror (which you can't get on any grade of D-Max or HiLux), a fold-down rear-seat armrest, keyless entry, push-button start, and the media screen upsizes to a larger 9.0-inch multimedia system with satellite navigation and there's a six-speaker stereo.

Seems a pretty good option, the XTR. But if you want a bit more luxury, the 4x4-only GT is for you.

MAZDA BT-50 GT

Drivetrain

Body type

Transmission

RRP

 

4x4

 

Dual cab Pickup

Manual

$56,990

Automatic

$59,990

The top-end GT model is loaded with gear, including: chrome mirror caps, heated exterior mirrors, an eight speaker stereo system, power-adjustable driver's seat, front parking sensors, remote engine start (automatic only), as well as a brown leather interior with heated front seats (again, which the D-Max doesn't get).

That makes the GT seem pretty compelling - but all models in the BT-50 range have a strong safety story to tell, too - more on that in the safety section below.

Thinking about which accessories you might want to custom build your BT-50? There's a long list of items available, including two different bull bar options, roof rack, roof rail, roof platform, mud flap, nudge bar, canopy, tub liner, body protection, a snorkel, side steps, and - of course - floor mats. There are tray options for cab-chassis models, too.

Trying to figure out which colour you'll choose? There are seven options: Concrete Grey mica, Gunblue mica, Ice White solid, Rock Grey mica, Red Volcano mica, Ingot Silver metallic, and True Black mica. That's right, there's no Soul Red or Machine Grey - and nor is there green, brown, orange or yellow. But thankfully, every single paint option is at no-cost!

Engine & trans

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter8/10

Aside from the new nine-speed automatic offered in the FWD version, the engines and transmission options are carried over from the current models, although they do now offer a little more oomph.

That means a 2.1-litre diesel good for 84kW and 250Nm, 105kW and 330Nm, or 120kW and 360Nm, as well as the diesel V6 that produces 140kW and 440Nm. They're paired with a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic in RWD versions, while the FWD can now choose the new gearbox.


Mazda BT-507/10

Unlike the previous version of the BT-50, which had different engines available to fit different applications (a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel in the lower grades, and a 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel for higher spec models), the new-generation model follows the same path as the Isuzu D-Max that it's based on: one engine for all applications.

That engine is the new Isuzu 4JJ3-TCX unit, which has seen a major rework compared to the previous D-Max with increased horsepower and torque - but the engine specs are actually lower than the previous BT-50 with the 3.2L.

Yep, there's a power output of 140kW (at 3600rpm) and a torque rating of 450Nm (from 1600-2600rpm), which is lower than the old 3.2L's 147kW/470Nm.

And the new 3.0L motor is lower for engine outputs than other rivals - not just the Ranger 3.2L, but also the Ranger Bi-turbo 2.0L (157kW/500Nm), and the revamped 2.8L HiLux (150kW/500Nm auto).

We'll get to how it performs in practice in the driving section below, but there are two transmission options available for your consideration as well - a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.

There's the choice of rear-wheel drive (RWD/2WD), and selectable four-wheel drive (4WD/4x4) with high (2H and 4H) and low range (4L). The 4x4 models come with a locking rear differential, too.

Towing capacity? You're covered, with the BT-50's towing rating being 750kg for an unbraked trailer and up to 3500kg for a braked trailer. Tow ball down load - when fitted with the genuine Mazda towing package - is 350kg across all variants.

Fuel consumption

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter7/10

Mercedes is yet to confirm fuel use for the 84KW engine, but the mid-spec diesel will use 8.0L/100km - the very same as the most powerful 120kW option in the four-cylinder range. Updated numbers for the big 3.0-litre V6 haven't been revealed yet, either. 

All those numbers are calculated on the claimed combined cycle.


Mazda BT-508/10

Wondering how much fuel the new BT-50 will use? The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure varies slightly depending on the model you choose.

There's a span between 7.7 litres and 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres for diesel consumption across the entire range of engine, transmission, body style and drivetrain configurations. That's pretty good - the old BT-50 claimed 10.0L/100km for 4x4 3.2L auto dual cab models, so it's a marked improvement.

On test - in our 4x4 GT automatic - we saw a real world consumption figure of 8.9L/100km, which is better than acceptable considering that included urban, highway, country road, gravel track and serious off-road driving.

Fuel tank capacity is 76 litres for the BT-50, and there isn't a long range fuel tank option available.

All BT-50 models are specced to Euro 5 emissions levels, but the brand hasn't published the exact emissions of the variants (for reference, D-Max models run between 200g/km and 207g/km depending on the configuration). The BT-50 is fitted with a diesel particulate filter (DPF) but it has no Adblue after treatment.

You might be considering future BT-50s and whether there's potential for petrol, LPG, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric versions? Don't hold out hope… well, at least not for a few years.

Driving

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter9/10

It's utterly car-like. There's really no other way to describe it. Despite the fact you're dragging a cargo area big enough to swallow an Ikea showroom, the mass is largely unnoticeable from the driver's seat. In fact, if it wasn't for the way the sky-high driving position perches you above the steering wheel, it would be very easy to forget you're driving a van at all.

We only sampled one drivetrain combination - the 2.1-litre diesel paired with the seven-speed transmission, both of which carry over from the outgoing model, housed in a mid-wheelbase version - and  the engine proved smooth and refined, gathering speed with nary a clatter or rattle in the cabin. It's not overly quick, but the low-down urge of the 360Nm (it appears at 1400rpm) is plenty willing to drag the Sprinter away from the lights.

With the window down, the diesel noise is far more noticeable, but the sound insulation does a great job of locking the noise outside when the cabin is sealed.

Even the steering feels surprisingly responsive, but with a reassuring lack of sharpness that mirth otherwise have you feeling like you're about to topple over. In a moment of pure madness, we pointed the Sprinter's massive nose at a climbing, twisting road, and while you're unlikely to win any hillclimb challenges,it doesn't feel overly top-heavy, either, and it will happily rumble to the top of most any mountain you should encounter.

Most importantly, though, the cabin is comfortable, mostly quiet, and feels less jittery or bouncy than plenty of dual-cab utes. With about 350 kilogram load on board, the ride was firm but not uncomfortable - exactly what we'd want from a van of this size.

And now, a small caveat. We were treated to a fairly limited test-drive on European roads that were ridiculously smooth, so we'll reserve full judgement on how the Sprinter responds to Australian conditions until it arrives locally in Q4 this year.


Mazda BT-508/10

We gave the D-Max the same score for driving, and because the Mazda BT-50 has seen zero changes compared to that model, it gets the same score.

It is identical in the setup employed for the engine, transmission, steering and suspension. And that means that the BT-50 is a pretty good thing to drive.

Mind you, we're basing that assessment on the GT model only, which is the variant we've driven for this test. As with the LS-U and X-Terrain versions of the D-Max, this model employs a 'non-heavy-duty' suspension setup, where the lower grades get a more work-ready hardcore rear suspension.

No matter which you choose, though, there's a three-leaf live axle rear suspension setup, while the front suspension is independent coils. And the steering is an electric system, which will no doubt come as welcome relief to anyone who owns an existing BT-50, as those models were renowned for their excessively weighted steering.

Now, though, the BT-50 offers light and pretty effortless steering, though it still takes quite a few turns lock-to-lock and the turning circle is 12.5 metres. At least it's easy to do three- or five-point turns, with little effort to turn the wheel at lower speeds. At higher pace the steering offers a nice amount of feel and weight to it, though you can often feel the safety technology tugging at the wheel to correct your line.

The ride is decent, but you can still tell it's a ute. There is a bit of a difference between, say, the D-Max X-Terrain and the BT-50 GT, in that the latter has a higher payload as it doesn't have the additional weight of a rear roller cargo cover, sailplane and body accessories. As such, the GT has a circa-100kg payload advantage, though it is just a touch busier in the rear suspension as a result.

And the engine - while down on power and torque (not to mention a cylinder and some engine capacity) compared to the equivalent predecessor - is refined, offers good urge, and has linear power delivery too. There's some low-rev lag from a standstill, but the engine builds pace nicely and it's reasonably quiet, too.

The thing you'll need to know is that the transmission is a little busy at higher speeds as it aims to keep you in the engine's sweet spot. It's not annoying, but it's something you might take time to get used to. Rather than stick in sixth gear and lug out at low revs, it's more likely to drop a couple of cogs and keep things moving. The engine is reasonably quiet, though, and the gearbox is smooth and pretty quick shifting too.

So on road - be it urban, back road or highway driving, the BT-50 is a pleasant ute to drive. And off-road, it's pretty good, too.

That's no surprise as it's based on the D-Max, which we've already been pretty chuffed with. And as with that ute - and most stock-standard, showroom-spec models out there - the biggest letdown is the tyres, which on this BT-50 GT are Bridgestone Dueler H/T (265/60/18).

If you plan to do serious off-road driving, that's the first upgrade we'd recommend. The other might be removing the side steps, which on the GT saw a bit of bashing over our off-road loop, touching down over mismatched ruts.

The lower edges of the front bumper also copped a bit of a hard time - you might never end up scraping them in sedate off highway driving, but over our low-range, diff-locked, slippery slope of a track, we had a minor issue with the 'sumo stance' front hitting down on offset potholes.

But the hardware all worked great - it was simple to engage low-range, the rear diff lock engaged without fuss, and the hill descent control system kept things to a steady crawl on the way back down our set piece climb. All told, it was impressive - not quite as connected feeling as a HiLux, but easy to manage thanks to its light steering, and with ample grunt and clever gearing to ensure a simple and straightforward session off-road.

Safety

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter8/10

Benz should be commended for rolling out AEB as standard across the range for this 2019 update, which also includes new side airbags for the front seats, joining the dual-front bags from the outgoing model.

Active lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, active cruise and a 360-degree camera have also become available, but if and where they arrive as standard is yet to be confirmed. Expect cross-wind control to reappear, too.

The Sprinter has not undergone ANCAP crash testing.


Mazda BT-5010/10

The BT-50 has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP crash test safety rating, just like the ute it's based on - the D-Max - which also scored five stars under the strict 2020 testing criteria. It's no small achievement for a big ute. 

In this part of the review we're definitely giving the BT-50 the equivalent of five stars in terms of tech inclusions.

All models have a standard-fit reversing camera (even the cab-chassis models, which you don't get if you buy a Toyota HiLux cab-chassis), and all Pickup models are fitted with rear parking sensors, while GT models gain front parking sensors too.

The advanced safety tech includes an advanced auto emergency braking (AEB) system that works at speeds over 10km/h, and there's also mis-acceleration control to lessen the likelihood of very low-speed crashes. There is also pedestrian detection and cyclist detection that work at all speeds as part of the AEB system, and a forward collision warning light, too.

Advanced lane assistance tech includes a lane departure warning system with active lane keeping assistance (between 60km/h and 130km/h), plus a system called turn assist which can stop you from turning in front of oncoming traffic if it deems it unsafe to do so (operational between 5km/h and 18km/h).

And as with the D-Max, all BT-50s get blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and all automatic models get adaptive cruise control (manuals get regular cruise).

There are also auto high-beam lights as well as automatic on/off headlights and windscreen wipers, plus a speed sign recognition and warning system and driver fatigue monitoring and alert.

As with D-Max the Mazda ute gets a new-for-the-segment front-centre airbag to protect those in the front seats in the event of a side impact. Also covered with airbag protection are the driver's knees, dual front (head), front side (thorax) and full-length curtain airbags, for a total of eight airbags in all variants.

Baby seat fitment is possible via dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points and two loop-style top-tether attachments in dual cab models, though the outer attachments hook to a centre mounted brace - meaning only two child seats are legally allowed to be fitted.

Ownership

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter7/10

The Sprinter arrives with a three-year, 200,000km warranty as standard, with service intervals pegged at 12 months or 20,000km. Roadside assist is included for the warranty period, but there's no capped-price servicing on offer.


Mazda BT-508/10

This is where you might be swayed towards the D-Max over the BT-50, because Mazda hasn't tried to match Isuzu for ownership prospects - meaning instead of a six year warranty and seven years of capped price servicing and roadside assistance, you're getting a lesser deal if you choose the BT-50.

The company backs the BT-50 with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan. If you do a lot of driving, the unlimited factor may come into play. But Isuzu has six years/150,000km, Ssangyong has seven years/unlimited kays, and Mitsubishi has just announced a huge 10-year/200,000km warranty (if serviced with the brand).

Mazda does give you five years of roadside assistance included with the BT-50 as part of the warranty, which is good. But again, you get seven years if you choose the Isuzu.

As for servicing, the BT-50 requires maintenance every 12 months/15,000km (thankfully not the shorter 10,000km intervals seen on other Mazdas), and the brand is offering a seven-year capped price plan … just like Isuzu.

The service costs are: 12 months/15,000km - $418; 24 months/30,000km - $390; 36 months/45,000km - $673; 48 months/60,000km - $496; 60 months/75,000km - $312; 72 months/90,000km - $750; and 84 months/105,000km - $435. That makes for an average cost per service of $496.28. And that makes it $15 per year more expensive to service than a D-Max, if that matters to you.

However, one thing Mazda offers that many ute sellers don't is a guaranteed future value program for customers who take out finance. You need to agree on a number of kilometres, duration of ownership and other elements, but then you're guaranteed a trade-in value at the end of the agreed period, provided the parameters are met and also the wear and tear of the vehicle. That might be a good thing for leisure customers, but maybe not for ute buyers who plan to put their vehicle to work.