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Mazda BT-50 2021 review: XT 4x4 manual GVM test


Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5

At a glance, you wouldn’t pick this as a base model ute. It doesn’t look like it, not even one bit. But, the vehicle you see here - the 2021 Mazda BT-50 XT - is the entry-level version of the brand’s all-new ute.

Sure, it’s a dual cab, and sure, it’s 4x4. But that’s what was available to us when we asked for a base model XT to test, and the single cab (cab-chassis) and extra cab, or Freestyle Cab as Mazda calls it, are a few months away.

So we got into the Mazda BT-50 XT 4x4 dual cab to see whether it has the knackers to live up to the work truck treatment, in spite of its eye-catching good looks and a complete and utter lack of the hard-wearing black plastics and steel wheels we’ve come to expect of value-focused utes.

Does this rival to the Isuzu D-Max SX (which the new Mazda ute is based on), Toyota HiLux Workmate, Ford Ranger XL and Mitsubishi Triton GLX offer a credible alternative? Let’s find out.

Price and features - Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 

The most important thing you need to know here is that we haven’t got pricing or specs on the more affordable 2WD single cab-chassis and extra cab models. Only the dual cab versions are considered in this review, but you should know that there is the option of a cab-chassis version of the XT, which opens the price list. See below. 

Even though we haven’t got single- and extra- or Freestyle cab models considered in this list, the XT badge is applied to more BT-50 variations than any other. 

The XT double cab comes in 2WD/RWD/4x2 (as a Hi-Rider - there is no low-ride model anymore) or 4WD/4x4.

Mazda BT-50 XT

DrivetrainBody typeTransmissionRPR
4x2Dual cab-chassisAutomatic$44,090
Dual cab PickupAutomatic$45,490
4x4Dual cab-chassisManual$49,360
Automatic$51,860
Dual cab PickupManual$50,760
Automatic$53,260

Standard equipment for the XT comprises: 17-inch alloy wheels (unlike most base model utes with steel wheels), LED headlights (most low grade utes have halogens - including the sibling D-Max in base grade), power-adjustable mirrors, and body colour bumpers including a rear step bumper, body coloured door handles and mirror caps. 

Standard equipment for the XT includes 17-inch alloy wheels. Standard equipment for the XT includes 17-inch alloy wheels.

Dual cab models have a USB port, rear seat directional air vents, a 4.2-inch driver display with digital speedometer, black cloth interior trim, and there’s even carpet flooring instead of vinyl flooring.

The media offering is 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 media offering is a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto. The media offering is a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto.

Further inclusions comprise manual air-conditioning, power windows, power mirrors, rain sensing automatic wipers, plus tilt and reach/telescopic multi-function steering wheel (polyurethane, not leather-lined).

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. 

Choosing an XT cab chassis will allow you options for your tray choice, but there are also other accessories including two different bull bar choices, a selection of roof rack, roof rail and roof platform systems, mud flaps, a nudge bar, a canopy, tub liner, body protection, a snorkel, side steps, and - of course - floor mats. 

Worth noting here that no BT-50 comes with a tray liner or tub liner as standard, nor are there ladder racks or rear window protection bars on any grade. 

Colour options include the Red Volcano mica you see here on our $50,760 BT-50 XT dual cab manual 4WD (not quite Soul Red!), as well as Concrete Grey mica, Gunblue mica, Ice White solid, Rock Grey mica, Ingot Silver metallic and True Black mica. All paint options are at no-cost.

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design? 

Now, there has been quite a bit of commentary on our recent comparison test between the BT-50, D-Max and Ranger about the looks of the new Mazda ute. Some love it, plenty don’t.

The vehicle you see here is the entry-level version of the brand’s all-new ute. The vehicle you see here is the entry-level version of the brand’s all-new ute.

I fall into the middle - there are elements I’m really fond of, and some that don’t sit quite as well with me. Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

But the thing I need to point out about the design of this particular spec of BT-50 is that it doesn’t look like a base model. There are some rival utes that don’t look this classy even in their top-spec guise, if you ask me.

There are no heavy duty black or grey plastic panels here. Nope, if you scrape a wall parking, you’re going to take paint off, not just leave a mark on the bumper. 

There are no heavy duty black or grey plastic panels here. There are no heavy duty black or grey plastic panels here.

If you’re a careful driver, that won’t matter, but the fact is it’s not as work-focused as rival utes. Don’t get me wrong, I like the colour-coded bumpers, the colour-coded door handles and mirrors, and the 17-inch alloy wheels look a treat, too. If the standard set by the BT-50’s twin-under-the-skin is to be adhered to, the lower-grade 4x2 models will have painted bumpers and from the factory, too (though the D-Max SX has black door handles and mirror caps). 

The great thing about the BT-50 XT is those squinty headlights house LED main beam lights. The great thing about the BT-50 XT is those squinty headlights house LED main beam lights.

The great thing about the BT-50 XT is those squinty headlights house LED main beam lights, as well as auto high-beam LEDs which are very good. The rear of the ute gets halogen lighting but distinct designed tail-lights, though there are some familiar dimension figures and specs if you’ve kept up to date with the D-Max content we’ve written.

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

 Dual cab ute and cab-chassis
Length5280mm
Wheelbase3125mm
Width1870mm
Height1785mm-1800mm

BT-50 models vary in height depending on the model, though Mazda’s stated length and width are identical if you choose cab-chassis or pick-up. 

Next up, here are the load space dimensions for the dual cab pick-up models, which are identical in 4x2 and 4x4 guises. The tub is a decent size, yet sets no new benchmarks.

 Dual cab ute
Cargo floor length1571mm
Width at top rail1530mm
Width between wheel arches1120mm
Depth490mm

It can’t fit an Aussie pallet between the wheel arches (they measure 1165mm by 1165mm), but the cab-chassis will be able to, if you fit a tray that suits that purpose. Or if you need a pick-up, buy an Amarok. There are four loop-style tie downs in the tub.

It can’t fit an Aussie pallet between the wheel arches, but the cab-chassis will be able to. It can’t fit an Aussie pallet between the wheel arches, but the cab-chassis will be able to.

Dual cab payload capacity is next. 

 Dual cab-chassisDual cab Pickup
Payload capacity1195kg-1220kg1057kg-1090kg
Gross vehicle mass (GVM)3000kg (4x2) / 3100kg (4x4)
Gross combination mass (GCM)5850kg (4x2) / 5950kg (4x4)
Towing capacity750kg unbraked / 3500kg braked

If you want all the off-road dimensions, be sure to read our Mazda BT-50 2021 range review, and if you want to see the BT-50 in action off-road, our Adventure Editor Marcus Craft has covered the BT-50 GT in the rough stuff.

Practicality - How practical is the space inside? 

Once again, I’ll come back to the standing expectations of work-focused variants in some ute ranges, which still have vinyl flooring and bugger all in the way of features. That’s not the case here, not by a long shot.

Not only will your work boots need to be wiped before you get in so you don’t muck up the carpet flooring, you’ll be treated to a bunch of things that utes in this arena often miss out on: soft padding on the transmission console so you don’t bump your knees, for example. 

You’ll find soft materials in the cabin, including on the dashboard top. You’ll find soft materials in the cabin, including on the dashboard top.

You’ll also find soft materials on the dashboard top, and on the door armrests (but sadly not on the centre console lid, which makes an elbow blister imminent). The steering wheel isn’t a Mazda one - despite the badge - it’s from the Isuzu catalogue, and it’s plastic not leather-lined, which I thought Mazda would have sorted.

The centre cup/bottle holders will be too large for many drinks. The centre cup/bottle holders will be too large for many drinks.

The dashboard has some different design elements to the D-Max, and Mazda has gone for form over function with one of the changes - the pop-out cupholders on the edges of the dash are gone, so you have to use the centre cup/bottle holders between the seats which will be too large for anything but a Tall Skim Flat White from the McCafe Drive Thru window. A 600mL soft drink fits there a treat, but don’t even think about a takeaway Piccolo from your favourite artisan grinder. All four doors have pockets with bottle holders, and there’s a double glovebox, too.

There are comfortable fabric seats with manual adjustment up front. There are comfortable fabric seats with manual adjustment up front.

There are comfortable fabric seats with manual adjustment up front, while in the rear the back seat accommodation is good. There’s easily enough room for someone my size (182cm/6’0”) to fit behind a similar driver or front passenger, with good knee, toe, head and shoulder room. Three across is fine, too, and if you need to, the rear seat base folds up 60:40 for secure, dry storage. There are two top-tether and ISOFIX child-seat points as well, and rear seat directional air vents plus a rear USB port for charging.

The back seat accommodation is good. The back seat accommodation is good.

There is another USB port up front which connects to the 7.0-inch touchscreen. Weirdly, it’s housed in the same bezel (9.0-inch) as the upper-spec variants, and still has the same tech:  Android Auto (via USB) and both wireless and USB-connect Apple CarPlay. There is Bluetooth if you prefer to connect that way, but smartphone mirroring is what you’ll need to use as there is no built-in GPS sat nav. There’s no volume knob or tuning dial - buttons only - and the menus on screen take some learning - plus we noticed the media system could be slow to connect to Apple CarPlay, both wirelessly and by USB.

The driver gets a 4.2-inch info screen with digital speedometer, and that screen is also where you access the safety system settings using the steering wheel buttons. You might need to learn that, as the safety systems can be overbearing - more on that below.

Engine and transmission - What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 

There is just one engine option in the new-generation BT-50, unlike the previous model which had different motors 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 models).

The new-generation BT-50 runs the Isuzu 4JJ3-TCX diesel. The new-generation BT-50 runs the Isuzu 4JJ3-TCX diesel.

Instead, the new-generation BT-50 runs the Isuzu 4JJ3-TCX diesel. It has 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, but better than the 2.2L (110kW/375Nm). 

There are two transmission options available - a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic - and either rear-wheel drive (RWD/2WD) or 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 is rated at 750kg for an unbraked trailer and up to 3500kg for a braked trailer. Tow ball down load with the genuine Mazda towing package is 350kg.

Fuel consumption - How much fuel does it consume? 

The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure varies slightly depending on the model you choose in the BT-50 XT line-up, between 7.7 litres and 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres for diesel consumption. 

On test - in our 4x4 XT manual - we saw a real world consumption figure of 9.1L/100km across a range of testing including urban, highway, country road, and loaded up testing. 

Fuel tank capacity for BT-50 is 76 litres and there’s no long range fuel tank option available. The BT-50 meets Euro 5 emissions requirements and has diesel particulate filter (DPF) but no Adblue.

Safety - What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 

The Mazda BT-50 has been awarded with a 2020 ANCAP five-star crash test safety rating, which is no small achievement. It comes comprehensively loaded up with safety technology, just like the also-five-star D-Max that it’s based on.

All models have a standard-fit reversing camera (including cab-chassis models), and all XT Pickup models are fitted with rear parking sensors. 

It has an auto emergency braking (AEB) system that works at speeds over 10km/h, and there’s also a low speed mis-acceleration mitigation system that’s designed to stop parking speed bingles. The AEB system includes pedestrian detection and cyclist detection that work at all speeds, and there’s a forward collision warning light, too. 

All models have a standard-fit reversing camera. All models have a standard-fit reversing camera.

BT-50s have lane departure warning with active lane keeping assistance (between 60km/h and 130km/h), and turn assist which can stop you from turning in front of oncoming traffic if considered unsafe by the ute’s camera system (operational between 5km/h and 18km/h). 

All BT-50s also score blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and automatic versions have adaptive cruise control (manuals get regular cruise).

Auto high-beam lights with auto on/off headlights and windscreen wipers, are standard, as is speed sign recognition and driver fatigue monitoring. 

Airbag coverage includes a front-centre airbag to protect those in the front seats in the event of a side impact, plus driver's knee, dual front (head), front side (thorax) and full-length curtain airbags - making eight airbags standard.
 

Ownership - What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 

Mazda BT-50 buyers score a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, which is okay but not class leading. There is five years of roadside assist as part of the warranty, too.

The BT-50 servicing requirements are set at 12 months/15,000km (most Mazdas have 10,000km intervals), and Mazda is backing the BT-50 with 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. So the average cost per service is $496.28. 

Mazda offers a guaranteed future value program for customers who take out finance through the dealer. Buyers need to agree on a number of kilometres and ownership period among other elements, which allows a guaranteed trade-in value at the end of the agreed period.

What's it like as a daily driver? 

The thing about the BT-50 XT dual cab 4x4 Pickup is that it doesn’t really look or feel like a lower grade ute. I mean, with a price tag over $50k, it shouldn’t really. And in day-to-day driving, it was a very likeable vehicle. 

It’s a bit unusual for any brand to put a vehicle with a manual transmission on fleet, but these are utes, and so the manual is still a reasonable percentage of sales. Having stepped out of the automatic GT model, I’d probably choose an auto over a manual, but if you’re after a stick shift, this one is a decent choice.

First gear is a little short, meaning you’ll need second before you’ve even made much progress, and the throw to the shift action is quite long, but it’s easy enough to judge and the shift and clutch actions are light enough to make for easy driving.

It’s not quite “Zoom, Zoom” levels of enjoyment, but it’s not tedious either. It’s not quite “Zoom, Zoom” levels of enjoyment, but it’s not tedious either.

The engine is smooth and quiet enough without a load on board, and it offers honest, but not eye-watering, progress. There’s good in-gear acceleration, and the torque band allows you to leave it in a higher gear and rumble along. 

While the XT model has a more hardcore heavy duty suspension setup than the upper models, the ride is pretty good without weight in the rear. It isn’t supple or plush, but it does manage to get itself along without jostling cabin occupants too much - you’re always going to have some sharpness from the rear end without a load, and suffice to say, the BT-50 is more comfortable in that situation than, say, a HiLux.

The steering of the BT-50 is a highlight, as it is in the D-Max. It’s light and accurate, with a good feel through the wheel, too. It’s not quite “Zoom, Zoom” levels of enjoyment, but it’s not tedious either.

As with other examples of these new twin utes, the safety systems do a commendable job, but can be a little overbearing. The steering assist is a bit eager to push the vehicle around, while the forward collision warning will get on your nerves if you’re a tailgater - might be a blessing, that. 

What’s it like for tradie use?

Thanks to our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies, I managed to load in about 750kg of sandbags into the tub of the BT-50 XT dual cab. That’s 30x25kg bags you can see in the images.

As expected, the suspension dropped to accommodate the weight in the rear - the rear suspension dropped by about 90mm, while the front suspension lifted about 10mm.

  • Thanks to our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies, we loaded about 750kg of sandbags into the tub. Thanks to our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies, we loaded about 750kg of sandbags into the tub.
  • That’s 30x25kg bags. That’s 30x25kg bags.
  • Before we loaded 750kg into the BT-50... Before we loaded 750kg into the BT-50...
  • After we loaded it up, the rear suspension dropped by about 90mm, while the front suspension lifted about 10mm. After we loaded it up, the rear suspension dropped by about 90mm, while the front suspension lifted about 10mm.

Anyone who has driven with a load like this before will know that the suspension becomes a bit squishier, and in the BT-50’s case the ride was supple and comfortable with this much load. I could feel the weight bouncing the rear suspension somewhat, but it was generally really well sorted.

The steering was already accurate and nicely weighted, but it did lighten a little in its action with some much weight taking load off the front. 

Weirdly, however, this seemed to affect the BT-50’s safety systems. First was a warning that the front camera was not operational, then the lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and forward collision warning/AEB systems disabled. They stayed disabled for the duration of the loaded test drive, too, despite clear lane markings.

This happened in the D-Max SX I drove recently, too, but only for a couple of seconds. This was a matter of 35 minutes of driving. Suffice to say, Mazda and Isuzu are both working with their respective teams in Japan to try and resolve this issue.

The engine was up for the task: it was grunty enough to get the job done, though a little noisier with this much load on the engine than in unladen driving. The brake response was solid and trustworthy, too. 

The gearing was good in this context - in normal driving, first gear seems too short, but with a load first gear allowed a decent take-off. And unlike some other utes out there - mainly automatic ones that I’ve sampled - there was no shudder from the drivetrain. It was smooth and built progress easily.

Aside from the camera quirk, the XT dual cab felt entirely competent for this type of work.

If you want a dual cab work ute, there’s a chance the new Mazda BT-50 might be a bit too nice for your requirements. While we like Mazda’s audacious approach to giving customers a bit more for their money, the carpet flooring and colour-coded paint could actually scare some people off. Just get a bullbar and a set of rubber mats, and you’ll be sweet: the BT-50 XT deserves your consideration. 

Thanks again to our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies for helping out with this load test.

$44,090

Based on new car retail price

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5
Price Guide

$44,090

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data