Toyota HiLux VS Mazda BT-50
- Solid safety spec offer
- Decent ownership prospects
- Good range of variants
- Harsh ride unladen
- Cab chassis models have no reversing camera
- Lacking some polish against newer rivals
- Great safety on all models
- Decent fuel economy and grunt
- A big step forward from the old BT-50
- Cup holders are an issue
- Top spec missing some gear
- Feels a bit 'badge-engineered'
There’s plenty to be said for the new-generation Toyota HiLux, and while a lot of customers will be shopping for the top-of-the-range variants, there’s plenty of value to be found in the work-focused Workmate models.
And that’s what we’re looking at here - a Workmate dual cab, which, while it may look like a 4WD, is actually a high-riding rear-wheel drive dual cab. Or, to be precise, the Workmate 4x2 Double Cab pick-up Hi-Rider.
We spent a bit of time with this updated version of the HiLux ute, and even chucked a bit of load in the back thanks to our mates in the mountains. More on that - and everything else you need to know about the Workmate range - below.
Read More: Toyota HiLux 2021 review
|Engine Type||2.4L turbo|
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.
|Engine Type||3.2L turbo|
It isn’t as polished as some of its rivals, and doesn’t have as much tech or flair to its offering either. But as a workhorse offering with a solid ownership promise and unquestionable resale value, the Toyota HiLux Workmate - no matter the derivative you choose - remains a compelling option for those who use their ute for work more than play.
Thanks to our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies for the sandbag load in the Workmate 4x2 Hi-Rider pick-up.
Thanks to our mates at IWP Training for putting 1000kg in the tray of the Workmate 4x2 cab-chassis low-rider.
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.
The most interesting thing about some versions of the Workmate in terms of design is that they haven’t been changed at all.
For the exterior, the Workmate single-cab variants and the low-riding 4x2 dual-cab pick-up don’t see the visual changes of the 4x2 Hi-Rider and 4x4 extra- and dual-cab variants, which score a slightly more aggressive front fascia.
Toyota Australia says it was more important to address the higher grade models with the new look, and that keeping the same front end on the “narrow body” models would help keep costs lower.
That’s all well and good, but it does seem a little weird to do a “major overhaul” of the ute and keep it looking the same. I guess owners of early examples will be happy, as their utes won’t look as outdated?
But the important thing is that HiLux Workmate buyers have so many body styles available to them, and that’s arguably going to matter more than what the ute looks like for a Workmate customer.
We’ll run through some of the important elements here, like dimensions and payloads. First up, let’s size up the versions of the HiLux Workmate (note - your dimensions may vary, depending on the tray body fitted).
If you’re buying a pick-up over a cab-chassis, you’ll know that comes with limitations. The flat bed of a tray back cab-chassis model is always going to offer more practicality - and if you buy a 4x2 or 4x4 single cab, or the 4x4 extra cab, you’re getting a tray back. But we’ve covered off the load space dimensions for the dual cab ute/pick-up below - the figures are the same for the 4x2 and 4x4 models.
Dual cab ute
Cargo floor length
Width between wheel arches
As mentioned, the tub models will always suffer compromises that table-top models won’t, and that includes the inability to fit an Aussie pallet (1165mm x 1165mm) between the wheel arches.
Space is one thing, but payload capacity for the different body styles is another matter altogether. Don’t forget, payload will be affected by the tray body fitted if you’re choosing a cab-chassis.
Dual cab ute
Gross vehicle mass (GVM)
2700-3100kg, depending on model, engine, drivetrain
Gross combination mass (GCM)
4x2 low rider: 5200-5250kg
4x2 Hi-Rider: 5650kg
All models: 750kg unbraked
4x2 petrol: 2500kg braked
4x4 diesel: 3500kg braked
Not everyone goes off-road. Both our test vehicles in Workmate spec were 4x2 rear-wheel drive (RWD) models, but that doesn’t mean you won’t consider things like ground clearance - especially if you’re weighing up between a low-riding version and Hi-Rider 2WD.
Here are the dimensions and figures for 4x2 and 4x4 models.
Ground clearance mm
4x2 petrol: 174mm
All other variants: 216mm
4x2 petrol: 23 degrees
All other variants: 29 degrees
Break over/ramp over angle
Not listed by Toyota
4x2 dual cab petrol: 20 degrees
4x4 single cab diesel: 25 degrees
4x4 dual cab diesel, extra cab-chassis, dual cab-chassis: 26 degrees
4x2 Hi-Rider, Workmate 4x4 manual dual cab ute: 27 degrees
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
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
Width at top rail
Width between wheel arches
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 Pickup
Gross vehicle mass (GVM)
3000kg (4x2) / 3100kg (4x4)
Gross combination mass (GCM)
5850kg (4x2) / 5950kg (4x4)
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 ute
Ground clearance mm
235mm (XT), 240mm (XTR / GT)
30.0 (XT), 30.4 (XTR / GT)
Break over/ramp over angle
23.3 (XT), 23.8 (XTR / GT)
23.9 (XT), 24.2 (XTR / GT)
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.
The practicality you get depends on the body style you choose. That’s an obvious statement, sure, but you might be wondering how many seats are in the HiLux Workmate? Single cab models have two seats, extra cab models have four seats, and dual cab variants have five seats.
And the practicality of the respective body styles is unchanged up front, whether you choose the two-, four- or five-seater. Everything forward of the B-pillar is the same.
That means that all HiLux Workmate models get the same dash treatment, including a newly redesigned cluster for the driver with a new digital display that incorporates a digital speedometer, which is a huge helper if your licence has seen better days.
Then there’s the new 8.0-inch touchscreen media system, with buttons and volume/tuning knobs that have been designed to work with heavy gloves, according to Toyota. The old screen - with touch-sensitive controls and no knobs - was lambasted by tradies, so it’s great to see Toyota has listened.
Plus the new screen includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can plug your USB cable in and mirror your phone onto the media screen. It really is a big step forward, and because no Workmate model comes with sat nav GPS, even as an option, this is the way to go if you’re frequently 'lost on the way to the job.' But there is only one USB port - many rivals offer two.
The materials and design are otherwise unchanged, meaning hard-wearing vinyl floors and hard plastic finishes everywhere, but excellent practicality - two cup holders between the seats, two pop-out ones in the sides of the dashboard, bottle holders in the doors (single and dual cab), and a dual glove box with other loose item storage caddies, too.
If you get an extra cab you could consider it a two seater with additional secure storage, and many of the newer utes coming out have actually deleted the seats due to apparent safety concerns. But the Toyota still has two extra seats in the back.
The dual cab Workmate models don’t get the 60/40 split-fold rear seat base, but you can still fold up the entire seat base to allow additional storage - you don’t want to wreck the fabric on the rear seats with dirty tools, or grimy hardware.
If you do happen to have people in the back, the space isn’t as good as some other double cab models out there. Knee room is tight, headroom could be better, and there are those fixed grab handles that eat into the space. You might need to keep your hardhat on, too, as they’re certainly heatbuttable.
The dual cab’s back seat has twin map pockets and bottle holders in the doors, but no fold down armrest, no cup holders and no air vents.
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
You will find the Workmate badge on the most bodystyles of any HiLux in the line-up. You can get it in single cab-chassis, extra cab-chassis, extra cab ute, and dual cab-chassis and dual cab ute body styles.
And then there’s the choice of petrol or diesel, manual or automatic, and whether you want it in low-riding or high-riding (Hi-Rider, as Toyota calls it) 2WD/4x2/rear-wheel drive versions, or in a more hardcore 4WD (or 4x4).
The model mix for Workmate versions is as complex as it sounds, so here’s a neat table to make it a bit simpler! Just note, the price list you see below represents the cost of the ute before on-roads costs - that’s known as the MSRP or the RRP, and it’s not a drive-away price.
|Drivetrain||Body type||Engine and Transmission||List pricing (Before on-road costs)|
|4x2||Single cab-chassis- low rider||2.7L petrol, five-speed manual||$23,590|
|2.7L petrol, six-speed auto||$25,590|
|Single cab shassis Hi-Rider||2.4L turbo diesel, six-speed manual||$28,830|
|Dual cab ute low-rider||2.7L petrol, five-speed manual||$33,070|
|2.7L petrol, six-speed auto||$35,070|
|Dual cab ute Hi-Rider||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed manual||$40,160|
|2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$42,160|
|4x4||Single cab-chassis||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$39,520|
|Extra cab-chassis||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$45,220|
|Dual cab-chassis||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$47,290|
|Dual cab ute||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed manual||$46,790|
|2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$48,790|
You get the same general level of specification on all the Workmate models, with standard equipment incorporating standard steel wheels - black 16-inch diameter for 4x2 models, while 4x4 single cab versions get silver 17-inch rims, and there are black 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tyres on 4x4 extra cab and dual cab variants.
All Workmate models have standard auto halogen headlights, vinyl flooring and all-weather floor mats, cloth seat trim, a 4.2-inch digital display with digital speedo readout, and a new 8.0-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
And while you get the choice of petrol or diesel, the latter models - across all trim lines - score a new variable-flow control power-steering pump. More on that in the driving section.
There are other accessories available from the Toyota parts catalogue as you’d expect, including: bull bar, tow bar, nudge bar, ladder rack, side steps, bonnet protector, tub liner, canopy, and more.
You might be curious about safety technology - and it's great to see Toyota doesn’t pick and choose between the variants as to which model gets what. There’s a decent array of safety technology fitted for the most part, and we’ll cover that off in the safety section below.
What about colours? Workmate models can be had in white (no cost), while the premium paint choices are silver, grey, black or blue (all $600).
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
Dual cab Pickup
Dual cab Pickup
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
Dual cab Pickup
Dual cab Pickup
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
Dual cab Pickup
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
While there has been a lot of noise around the HiLux finally getting a big power bump - that up-spec 2.8-litre engine isn’t available in the Workmate models.
Instead, Workmate variants get a choice of a petrol motor or a smaller capacity diesel unit.
The engine in the range-opening Workmate 4x2 models is the 2.7-litre petrol four-cylinder, known as the 2TR-FE. It has outputs of 122kW of power (at 5200rpm) and 245Nm of torque (at 4000rpm), and is available with a five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission.
The diesel option in the Workmate 4x2 and 4x4 models is a 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine known as 2GD-FTV. Power is rated at 110kW (at 3400rpm) and torque is 400Nm (from 1600-2000rpm).
There is the choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox in 4x2 and 4x4 applications in the Workmate range.
So, no 2.8L, no hybrid, no electric… no nonsense, I guess?
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).
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 varies depending on the powertrain you choose.
The fuel economy king isn’t the petrol, which has claimed fuel consumption of: 11.1L/100km (4x2 cab-chassis manual); 10.9L/100km (4x2 cab-chassis auto); 10.7L/100km (4x2 dual cab manual); and 10.4L/100km (4x2 dual cab auto).
On test in the 4x2 manual single cab-chassis, with a load, and without, we averaged 11.4L/100km. And it was only a short loaded drive test.
The diesel versions of the Workmate offer better promise of lower fuel consumption, with fuel use in the 4x2 diesel Workmate models pegged at 7.8L/100km for the single cab-chassis manual, while the 4x2 dual cab pick-up claims 6.9L/100km and 7.5L/100km for the manual and auto respectively.
The 4x4 Workmate models claim: 7.4L/100km (single cab-chassis manual); 8.0L/100km (extra cab-chassis and dual cab-chassis auto); 7.1L/100km (dual cab pick-up manual) and 7.8L/100km (dual cab pick-up auto).
When we tested the diesel auto 4x2 Hi-Rider dual cab, we saw a return of 8.4L/100km across loaded (600kg of sand bags) and unloaded testing.
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.
I first sampled the 4x2 Workmate Hi-Rider 2.4-litre diesel auto, and it came across as a really solid proposition for those who don’t need the bells and whistles or a 4x4 system.
In fact, I bet that this sort of ute would be as well suited to the majority of buyers who spend up big on an SR5 dual cab 4x4 but never actually go off-road.
Indeed, that’s the great thing about the HiLux Workmate range - if you know you don’t need 4x4, there are plenty of 4x2 options available.
And the Hi-Rider diesel model has the advantage that it is rated to tow the maximum 3500kg capacity, but the disadvantage for hard-working tradies - especially those shorter in stature - is that it’s a step up into the cab (no side steps), and a running jump into the tub - unless you option the new rear Tub Step accessory, which is mounted to the rear corner of the chassis and allows easier tub access.
And while this isn’t strictly a driving impression, the strangest thing about the HiLux is that you’re getting some really advanced features for a work ready ute.
It’s becoming the norm, but it does seem weird when you sit inside and see your digital speedometer, with the knowledge that there’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a lane departure system - yet you’re gripping a polyurethane steering wheel, sitting on cloth seats and your feet are placed on rubber floors - there’s not even height adjustment for the driver’s seat, and the sound system only has four speakers.
Anyway, the diesel dual cab is pretty impressive. There’s nothing wrong with the 2.4-litre’s engine tune, and in some instances it actually feels almost as peppy as the 2.8L I sampled in the SR5+.
But it does have some noticeable engine noise, and just like the other powertrain there is some noticeable shuffling between gears - the six-speed auto seems to aim to keep things in the best torque band, which is no bad thing, but you can hear it doing so. It gets along pretty well, and I had no trouble keeping pace with traffic.
The transmission doesn’t seem to exhibit the same grade logic downhill downshifting as the SR5 does. And there's some turbo lag noticeable with 600kg of weight on board (from our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies).
With that weight on board the brakes have a slightly soft feel to them, but they are progressive and easy to predict whether loaded or not.
The steering is light but still has a bit of feel to it at lower pace, while at speeds above 80km/h there is a level of vagueness, which is exacerbated when there's weight over the rear axle.
The suspension is reasonable without a load on board. Not as good as Ranger or Amarok, but better than the last HiLux. And while you can still feel small inconsistencies and it gets the jitters at low speeds, the ride becomes spongier with weight on board. In fact it's very comfortable at higher speed with that much mass in the back.
Next up we drove the petrol cab-chassis, and it offered up a few surprises.
First, let’s consider the loaded up driving impressions - thanks to a load of 1000kg in the tray courtesy of our mates at IWP Training.
The engine pulls harder than expected, and while it has a torque deficit compared to the diesels, there’s a decent drivability and rev-happiness that the petrol offers.
The smooth and short gearshift is a nice surprise, too (we also had a D-Max SX on site, and it had a longer, notchier throw). The gearing is pretty well suited to this type of hard work driving.
It's surprising how urgent the engine response is. It's super easy to drive with that much weight on board, but I did keep going for a sixth gear that doesn’t exist in the manual Workmate petrol.
It sounds like it’s working harder than it is - the engine is quite audible, and at times it can sound more asthmatic than its actual response.
In fact, if you were gonna be running around with this much weight in the back of your work ute you could be doing a lot worse than a 4x2 petrol Workmate cab chassis. It offers enough poke, and also has good quality – both in terms of ride and comfort and control and general drivability. It is well and truly made for this job.
The lower centre of gravity assists in making the HiLux feel more planted and deal with the weight better than a high riding two-wheel drive, with less pitching fore and aft and nice feel on the road.
The steering - which hasn’t seen the addition of that new variable control system, as it’s only fitted to diesel models - is quite good, and even the breaking performance is commendable with that much mass in the tray.
But without weight in the back it’s still punishingly firm in terms of the suspension. The rear-end bucks and jumps over bumps, never feeling as though it’s as surefooted as it could be.
The D-Max we had with us showed up the HiLux hugely in that respect. If you don’t hit any bumpy sections, it’s smooth to drive in. But as soon as you hit a sharp edge or any sort of inconsistency in the surface below it can be quite violent in its response.
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.
Toyota was at the front of the pack for safety tech in utes - for a couple of months. But it’s still impressive that the entire HiLux line-up has the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as per 2019 criteria. And there’s a good reason for that.
All HiLux models come with standard fit auto emergency braking (AEB) that works at speeds from 50km/h-180km/h, as well as pedestrian and cyclist detection operational from 10km/h-80km/h.
The HiLux gets a lane departure warning system with lane keeping assist that works by braking the wheels it needs to, in order to pull you into line - but it still runs hydraulic steering, so it can’t do full-scale lane keeping assistance.
Also standard is speed sign recognition and warning, and adaptive cruise control on manual and auto models. You can even just hit ‘set’ on the cruise control to raise or lower your speed to whatever the speed sign says.
While the spec is pretty good, there’s no blind spot monitoring or rear cross traffic alert, and - in a very disappointing continuation of the theme - Toyota still doesn’t offer a reversing camera on cab-chassis models. You get a rear-view camera standard on all pick-up models, though.
There are dual front, front side, driver’s knee and full-length curtain, for a total of seven airbags no matter the body style.
The dual cab versions have two ISOFIX outboard attachments and two loop-style top-tethers for baby seats.
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.
Toyota has one of the strongest reputations in the Australian new car market when it comes to ownership and reliability.
However, with the HiLux, there have been a few issues over its head, specifically around the diesel particulate filter (DPF). You can read more about it at our Toyota HiLux problems page, as well as any other Toyota HiLux complaints, concerns, reliability issues or recalls.
Suffice it to say, the brand says it has your back no matter what. And it has a strong ownership promise on paper, too.
All models have a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which can carry on to seven years/unlimited km if you maintain logbook servicing - it doesn’t even need to have been at a Toyota dealer, either. So long as you maintain it on schedule, the brand will back it for that extended period.
The bad news is that you need to service the HiLux more regularly than most of its competitors. The brand says it has no plans to increase service intervals to meet the current standard of 12 months/15,000km.
Instead, HiLux owners have to take their ute in to get serviced twice a year, with maintenance intervals set every six months or 10,000km, whichever happens soonest.
Diesel services are $250 a pop. That means you’ve got an annual $500 bill for maintenance for diesel models, which is higher than many rivals (Triton: $299/year). Petrol versions cost $220 per visit, so $440 a year.
Further, Toyota doesn’t include no-cost roadside assistance, either. You’ll have to sign up for it, at about $100 a year.
Strong on warranty cover, yes, but you may have to pay over the odds in order to sustain it.
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.