Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

Mazda BT-50 2021 review: XT Freestyle cab chassis GVM test


Daily driver score

3.8/5

Tradies score

4.3/5

Mazda’s release of its all-new BT-50 dual cab ute in September 2020 was followed in November by single cab and extended cab (aka Freestyle Cab) variants. Like their dual cab siblings, these work-focused commercials share mechanical underpinnings with the latest Isuzu D-Max range from which the BT-50 is largely derived.

This is the first time that Isuzu and Mazda have shared ute platforms and, given Isuzu’s expertise in light truck development, the D-Max’s chassis architecture and drivetrain provide well-proven and robust foundations for Mazda’s latest light commercial range.

We recently spent a working week in a Freestyle Cab BT-50, which offers a longer tray than a dual cab but more interior space than a single cab. For some ute buyers, this is an ideal compromise.

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

The BT-50 single-cab and extended cab-chassis variants are available only in one work-focused XT model grade. 2x4 models come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission while 4x4 models offer a choice of either auto or six-speed manual transmission.

Our test vehicle is an XT Freestyle Cab 4x4 finished in Red Volcano Mica with a manufacturer’s list price of $47,550 in cab-chassis form. When fitted with a Mazda Genuine Accessories standard aluminium tray as seen here ($2300), the list price increases to $49,850 plus on-roads.

The BT-50 single-cab and extended cab-chassis variants are available only in one work-focused XT model grade. The BT-50 single-cab and extended cab-chassis variants are available only in one work-focused XT model grade.

Although XT is the base model it comes standard with upmarket features like 17-inch alloy wheels with 255/65 R17 tyres and a full-size steel spare, auto LED headlights with halogen DRLs, body coloured door handles, rear bumper and exterior mirrors plus a reversing camera, which is not commonly offered as standard issue on tray-tops.

Inside there’s black cloth upholstery, carpet, adaptive cruise control (automatic models only) and an infotainment system with steering wheel-mounted controls, 7.0-inch colour touchscreen, DAB+ digital radio and multiple connectivity including wireless/USB Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (USB only). This system is more user-friendly than previous BT-50 offerings but still not class-leading in terms of intuitive software.

Although XT is the base model it comes standard with upmarket features like 17-inch alloy wheels. Although XT is the base model it comes standard with upmarket features like 17-inch alloy wheels.

Design – is there anything interesting about its design?

Just as Mazda did with its previous BT-50, which was effectively a Ford Ranger with quirky styling, the latest BT-50 follows a similar theme. And it must be said that the stylists have done a much better job this time around, as it combines good looks with signature Mazda styling cues.

Our test vehicle rides on a 3125mm wheelbase with 5280mm overall length (not including tray), 1870mm width, 1800mm height and 12.5-metre turning circle. If you’re planning to use it in the rough stuff, there’s 235mm of ground clearance, 29.6 degrees approach angle, 23.9 degrees ramp breakover angle, 25.3 degrees departure angle and an excellent 800mm wading depth.

The spacious extended cab has four doors, although you’d struggle to notice at a glance because the rear doors have no external handles and are overlapped by the fronts when closed. They can only be opened after the front doors, providing ample full-length cabin access. The rear section has no seating or seatbelts provided, so it is strictly for extra storage only.

The spacious extended cab has four doors, although you’d struggle to notice at a glance. The spacious extended cab has four doors, although you’d struggle to notice at a glance.

The carpeted interior, with minor differences compared to its D-Max donor, has a more upmarket look and feel than you’d expect at this model grade, with exposed stitching along seams, quality seat fabrics and splashes of satin chrome and piano black. The instruments and controls are well laid out and easy to read and operate.

Our only criticism is the absence of a large volume control knob for the infotainment system. Only having screen and steering wheel-mounted buttons can be annoying at times, particularly on bumpy roads when you’re trying to locate small buttons with bouncing finger-tips.

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

The engine cover says Mazda but the new heart of all BT-50s is Isuzu’s latest Euro 5-compliant 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, with a bountiful 140kW at 3600rpm and 450Nm between 1600-2600rpm. With 300Nm from as low as 1000rpm and 400Nm available across a broad 1850rpm band width from 1400-3250rpm, there’s ample torque where you need it most and excellent flexibility.

The new heart of all BT-50s is Isuzu’s latest Euro 5-compliant 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel. The new heart of all BT-50s is Isuzu’s latest Euro 5-compliant 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel.

The smooth and refined Aisin six-speed torque converter automatic features fuel-saving torque converter lock-up from third to sixth gear, intelligent shift protocols including grade-logic auto downshifting and the option of sequential manual-shifting, which can be useful when hauling and/or towing heavy loads in hilly terrain.

The 4x4 system is dual-range, part-time with 2.482:1 low-range reduction. There’s also a rear diff lock, which simultaneously disengages the electronic traction control and stability control systems when engaged.

Fuel consumption – How much fuel does it consume?

Mazda claims a combined average consumption of 8.0L/100km but the BT-50’s dash display was showing 9.7 when we stopped to refill its 76-litre tank after 376km of testing, which included more than one third of that distance hauling a near-maximum payload. Our own figure, based on tripmeter and fuel bowser readings, was higher again at 10.6. So, based on our real-world driving figure, you could expect a realistic driving range of around 700km.

Practicality – How practical is the space inside?

Our test vehicle’s 1965kg kerb weight and 3100kg GVM results in a hefty one-tonne-plus payload rating of 1135kg. It’s also rated to tow up to 3500kg of braked trailer but to do that would require a massive 650kg reduction in vehicle payload to avoid exceeding its 5950kg GCM (or how much it can legally carry and tow at the same time).

Better for owners to base the braked towing capacity on the Mazda’s 3100kg GVM, which would lower the tow rating to 2850kg (more than enough for most) but retain its full payload. That way, the tow vehicle would weigh more than the trailer, which is obviously more desirable than the other way around. A tail should never wag the dog!

Cabin storage includes large-bottle holders and narrow storage bins in each front door. Cabin storage includes large-bottle holders and narrow storage bins in each front door.

Mazda’s standard aluminium tray, which only adds 125kg to the BT-50’s kerb weight, has external dimensions of 2155mm length and 1845mm width. There are seven internal load attachment points and three external rope rails along each side, plus a simple headboard frame with no load spikes.

Cabin storage includes large-bottle holders and narrow storage bins in each front door plus upper and lower gloveboxes, an overhead sunglasses holder and a small pull-out dash storage drawer near the driver’s right knee. The centre console also provides a front storage bin, small-bottle/cup holder in the centre and a box at the back with a lid contoured to support the driver’s left elbow.

Each rear door also offers a large-bottle holder and small storage bin plus there's heaps of usable space in the extended cab’s rear section, which also offers two underfloor storage cavities accessed by carpet-covered flaps.

There's heaps of usable space in the extended cab’s rear section. There's heaps of usable space in the extended cab’s rear section.

What’s it like as a daily driver?

It’s not hard to find a comfortable driving position, with the height-and-reach adjustable steering wheel and upper-body seat bolstering providing good lateral support. However, the driver’s base cushion could do with some rake adjustment as it can feel like you’re sliding towards the front of it at times. There is a left footrest, although it’s quite narrow.

The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel is relaxed at highway and freeway speeds, using only 1500rpm at 100km/h and 1600rpm at 110km/h to help maintain good fuel economy. Engine and tyre noise are pleasingly subdued on the highway, with wind buffeting around the door mirrors and headboard frame being the most noticeable but far from intrusive.

It’s not hard to find a comfortable driving position. It’s not hard to find a comfortable driving position.

Our only major criticism is the unladen ride quality, due to very stiff rear leaf springs designed for one-tonne-plus payloads. On bumpy roads it can feel like you’re riding a bucking horse, which can give the lower back and kidneys quite a pounding.

It's actually reminiscent of various current-generation HiLux models we tested before Toyota finally showed mercy with a long overdue revision of rear spring rates, to achieve a better balance between laden and unladen ride quality. The same would be welcome here.

What’s it like for tradie use?

The pay-off for its harsh unladen ride is the BT-50’s competence when subjected to the heavy loads its primarily designed for. We loaded 975kg onto the tray which combined with our 100kg driver equalled a 1075kg payload that was 60kg under the GVM limit.

The rear springs only compressed 47mm with a more than ample 60mm of static bump-stop clearance remaining, which proved the BT-50 was more than capable of supporting this substantial payload.

As expected, the ride quality was transformed, floating over bumps and ironing out other road irregularities with admirable composure, combined with strong engine and braking performance that instilled confidence in the driver.

As expected, the ride quality was transformed. As expected, the ride quality was transformed.

The pulling power of the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel and six-speed auto combination was highlighted on our 2.0 km 13 per cent gradient set climb at 60km/h, which it easily cleared in a self-selected third gear at just over 2000rpm, which was bang in the middle of its peak torque zone.

Engine-braking on the way down, in a manually-selected second gear, was just as impressive as it only reached 3750rpm on overrun, which was nowhere near its 4400rpm redline and required only one dab of the brakes on the steepest section to stop it exceeding the 60km/h speed limit. That was excellent retardation given the heavy load it was trying to restrain and another example of why we like larger displacement engines (3.0 litres plus) like this one.

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

Maximum five-star ANCAP rating (tested 2020) headlined by eight airbags and AEB, plus a suite of active safety features including blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, trailer stability control and lots more. A reversing camera is also standard issue and given the lack of rear parking sensors on cab-chassis vehicles, this unusual standard feature is most welcome.

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

There’s a five-year/unlimited km warranty with complimentary roadside assist for the warranty’s duration. Schedule service intervals are 12 months/15,000km whichever occurs first. Total capped-price servicing cost for first five scheduled services is $2291.

It has a quality look and feel with solid build quality, generous cabin space and strong performance on and off-road that represents good value for less than $50K. However, it would be even better with a less jarring unladen ride quality, which is important because utes are often driven without loads.

So, if carrying one-tonne-plus payloads is not a priority, we would recommend owners fitting a full-steel tray rather than an aluminium one. It will significantly increase the vehicle’s kerb weight and decrease the payload rating by the same amount, but with more sprung weight permanently over the rear wheels the more civilised ride with an empty tray could be well worth it.

$29,060

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Tradies score

4.3/5
Price Guide

$29,060

Based on new car retail price

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.