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Mazda BT-50 2021 review: XT Single Cab Chassis GVM test

The Mazda BT-50 XT Cab Chassis range is here in single- and extra-cab variety.

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Mazda used to do pretty good business in the entry-level ute segment, with single cab-chassis versions of the BT-50 often accounting for a decent lump of the brand’s sales mix.

There are still buyers out there who want a work-ready single-cab ute like this XT cab-chassis tray back table-top model, and even though this is a 4x4 version, the 4x2 model now looks identical, as both are the Hi Rider spec. 

Crucially, though, all versions of the XT range are substantially more expensive than the old model. This 4x4 XT cab chassis is no exception, at more than $50,000 on the road.

You can get some pretty decent 4WD dual cab pick-ups for less than that, and if you don’t need 4WD, the Toyota HiLux or the BT-50’s twin-under-the-skin Isuzu D-Max offer very compelling arguments at almost $20K less… where Mazda’s cheapest BT-50 in this generation is starts over $36,000.

But this ute is all about work, so we put it to the test to see if it can somehow justify its lofty asking price. 

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

Our previous BT-50 XT review was published before Mazda Australia announced pricing for the single-cab and extra-cab (Freestyle Cab in Mazda speak). We know you mightn’t be looking at exactly this spec of BT-50 XT - the automatic 4x4 single cab-chassis - so we’ve got a pricing list for the single-cab and extra-cab models below. 

                                         Mazda BT-50 XT
DrivetrainBody typeTransmissionRRPDrive-away price
4x2Single Cab ChassisAutomatic $36,550$39,990
FreeStyle Cab ChassisAutomatic $40,050$43,490
4x4Single Cab ChassisManual$41,550$44,990
Automatic $44,050$47,490
Freestyle Cab ChassisManual$45,050$48,490

Standard equipment for the XT comprises: 17-inch alloy wheels (no steel wheels here!), LED headlights but halogen daytime running lights, power-adjustable mirrors, body coloured door handles and mirror caps, body colour bumpers and a questionable rear step bumper - it really is a useless addition. 

The BT-50 XT wears 17-inch alloy wheels. The BT-50 XT wears 17-inch alloy wheels.

Other standard gear includes a 4.2-inch driver display with digital speedometer, black cloth interior trim, carpet flooring (not vinyl), and all XT models have a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto, and digital radio. There’s manual air-conditioning, power windows, rain sensing automatic wipers, and a polyurethane steering wheel with tilt and reach/telescopic adjust.

Inside is a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Inside is a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

A reversing camera is standard on cab-chassis models, but they miss out on parking sensors.

Tray choice is a matter of preference, but the 2550mm Standard Steel Tray fitted to our test vehicle was a $5100 (fitted) added cost. Meaning the price of our 4x4 auto XT Cab Chassis single cab was, as tested, $49,150 before on-road costs. Yikes.

The tray fitted to our test vehicle costs an extra $5100. The tray fitted to our test vehicle costs an extra $5100.

Other accessories available include bull bar and nudge bar options, mud flaps, tray liner mats, body protection, a snorkel, side steps, and - of course - floor mats. 

Colour options include the Ice White Solid you see here, which will be the most popular of all the no-cost paint options for the BT-50. There’s also Red Volcano mica, Concrete Grey mica, Gunblue mica, Rock Grey mica, Ingot Silver metallic and True Black mica. 

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?

Someone commented on a picture I sent them, saying: “Wow, Mazda3 ute!” Yeah, I can see that. 

That could be one of the reasons you like the new BT-50, or one of the reasons you don’t. The Mazda ute has been controversial for years now, with the previous-generation version garnering quite a bit of ill regard as it aged. Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

This new-generation ute is considerably more masculine and muscular, but still carries the brand’s design language off pretty convincingly. Some say it’s too pretty for a work ute. But there’s a lot of pretty tradespeople out there, right? 

The rear step bumper, with flashes of white paint help hunker it down a touch visual. The rear step bumper, with flashes of white paint help hunker it down a touch visual.

I have to say, it doesn’t look like a base model ute, and certainly not like a budget truck. It’s not that, I suppose, but elements like the LED headlights and alloy wheels add some desire to it, not to mention the chrome grille trim, colour-coded mirrors and door handles, and colour-coded bumper. I just wish Mazda would put LED daytime running lights on its vehicles - that’s a criticism leveled not only at the BT-50, but the Mazda 3, CX-30 and plenty of others. End rant.

The steel tray fitted to our ute was also a nice looking unit, and plenty practical, too. It had recessed tie-down points inside the side ‘gates’ of the tray, meaning we didn’t have to rope off over the edges. Neat. 

Our steel table-top tray measured in at 2550mm long. Our steel table-top tray measured in at 2550mm long.

Our biggest question mark is over the rear step bumper, which is there because it comes like that from the factory, and while the flashes of white paint at the back of the ute do help hunker it down a touch visually at the rear, it is one of the most useless bumper steps - you will bash your shins on it getting in or out of the tray area. Trust me.

Here’s a table of the body dimensions for Single Cab and Freestyle Cab models. The overall length is based on a standard tray fitment.

 Single cab-chassisFreestyle cab-chassis

Tray sizes will depend on your specified option, but our 2550mm long steel table-top was a standard size. 

And while there was no off road review component to this test, all models - 4x2 and 4x4 - have ground clearance of 235mm. The approach angle is 29.6 degrees, the rampover is 23.9 degrees, and the departure angle is 24.6deg for single cab-chassis models, and 25.3deg for Freestyle cab-chassis versions, with a standard tray fitted.

Next, let’s look at the payload capacity. These numbers are quoted as being fitted with the Mazda Standard Alloy Tray, which is lighter than the steel unit fitted to our test vehicle.

 Single cab-chassisFreestyle cab-chassis
Payload capacity1171kg (4x2),
1186kg (4x4)
1120kg (4x2),
1135kg (4x4)
Gross vehicle mass (GVM)3000kg (4x2) / 3100kg (4x4)
Gross combination mass (GCM)5850kg (4x2) / 5950kg (4x4)
Towing capacity750kg unbraked / 3500kg braked

Practicality - How practical is the space inside?

“Take your muddy boots off before you get in!” Expect to hear that on the worksite, because the BT-50 gets carpet flooring across the range. Maybe hold back on the retorts about your boss being too tight to get rubber mats. And wear clean socks.

But actual carpet isn’t the only plush inclusion in the single-cab BT-50 ute - you also get soft padding around the transmission area so you don’t bump your knees, and there’s soft finish material on the dashboard topper and the door armrests, but the centre console lid/armrest annoyingly misses out. Anyone with hairy arms can expect a static fest because of it, too. 

The Single and Freestyle Cab models only have two seats. The Single and Freestyle Cab models only have two seats.

The steering wheel badge is shiny and can glint in your eyes if it’s sunny, and the wheel itself is an Isuzu unit, is plastic rather than leather (come on, Mazda), but at least it has reach and rake adjustment. Both the Single Cab and Freestyle Cab models have two seats in this generation (no four-seater layout in the extra cab anymore), and they’re comfy fabric-covered spots with manual adjustment, including pump action height adjust for shorter drivers.

It’s a nice looking cabin, though, and the dashboard is distinct from the D-Max donor vehicle because of a revised design. However, it does miss out on the clever pop-out cupholders at the edges of the dash, which is a shame. And the centre cup holders are too large for smaller drinks - they’re more designed for bottles, or the largest Maccas coffee. There are additional bottle holders in the doors as well as storage trenches, plus there’s a double glovebox, but no dash-top storage caddy like you get in the Isuzu. 

The BT-50 has a nice cabin, which is distinct from the D-Max. The BT-50 has a nice cabin, which is distinct from the D-Max.

There is only one USB port, and the 7.0-inch touchscreen is hooked up two just two speakers in both single- and extra-cab models. The screen looks a little tiny given it sits in the same bezel housing as the 9.0-inch screen in the upper models, but it has the same tech: Android Auto (via USB) and both wireless and USB-connect Apple CarPlay, and Bluetooth if you prefer to connect that way. There’s no built-in GPS sat nav, no volume/tuning knobs, and the screen takes some learning. The lag time when you get into the ute before smartphone mirroring works properly is frustratingly slow, too.

The 4.2-inch screen with digital speedometer for the driver is also where you can access the safety systems, to change the parameters or turn them off - which you might want to do, as they can be overbearing. 

The driver gets a 4.2-inch screen with digital speedometer.  The driver gets a 4.2-inch screen with digital speedometer. 

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

Want a new-generation BT-50? You’ve only got one engine option. While the previous base models had two choices - a 2.2-litre four-cylinder and a 3.2-litre five-cylinder - the current-gen version makes do with a one-size-fits-all approach.

Under the bonnet is an Isuzu 4JJ3-TCX diesel 3.0-litre four-cylinder motor, with 140kW of power (at 3600rpm) and 450Nm of torque (from 1600-2600rpm). That’s less than the old 3.2L’s 147kW/470Nm, but more than the existing entry-spec 2.2L (110kW/375Nm). 

The 3.0-litre four-cylinder diesel produces 140kW/450Nm. The 3.0-litre four-cylinder diesel produces 140kW/450Nm.

You can choose between a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic depending on the spec (see the pricing table above). The 4x2 models are rear-wheel drive while the 4WD/4x4 versions have traditional with high- (2H and 4H) and low-range (4L) gearing, plus a locking rear differential. 

Towing rating for all BT-50 models is 750kg (unbraked) and up to 3500kg (braked), and the tow ball down load with Mazda’s genuine towing package is 350kg.

Fuel consumption - How much fuel does it consume?

You might know all about the official combined cycle fuel consumption figure for a vehicle - that’s what the company claims it will use across a mix of driving. And for the cab-chassis versions of the BT-50, that number is 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres for diesel consumption. 

On test - in our 4x4 XT single-cab-chassis automatic - we saw a real world consumption figure of 9.9L/100km across a range of testing including city, highway, country road, and loaded up testing. For the record, the on-screen display said the ute was using 9.5L/100km.

The official fuel combined figure for the BT-50 is  8.0 litres per 100 kilometres. The official fuel combined figure for the BT-50 is 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres.

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

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

One of the key achievements for the new-generation BT-50 is its stellar safety technology equipment list. And stellar is a good word for it, because it nabbed a 2020 ANCAP five-star crash test safety rating - the same score as the D-Max it’s based on.

The cab-chassis range all come with a standard-fit reversing camera, but more impressively there is auto emergency braking (AEB) that works at speeds over 10km/h, a low speed mis-acceleration mitigation system to prevent low-speed bumps, and the AEB has pedestrian detection and cyclist detection (all speeds) as well as a forward collision warning light, too. 

There’s a lane departure warning system with active lane keeping assistance (between 60km/h and 130km/h), plus a Turn Assist function that can prevent you turning in front of oncoming traffic if considered unsafe by the ute’s camera system (between 5km/h and 18km/h). 

Also standard is blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and automatic versions have adaptive cruise control. There are auto high-beam lights with auto on/off headlights and auto windscreen wipers standard, plus speed sign recognition and driver fatigue monitoring. 

There are eight airbags, including front-centre coverage for side impact head clash prevention, as well as driver's knee, dual front (head), front side (thorax) and full-length curtain airbags.

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

You get a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty - not class leading, but strong. Plus you get five years of roadside assist for no cost, which is nice.

Maintenance requirements are 12 months/15,000km (unlike most other Mazdas - 10,000km intervals), and there is a seven-year capped price plan (just like the Isuzu ute it’s based on). The services aren’t cheap, averaging out at about $496 per visit. 

If you’re a ute buyer who upgrades regularly you might want to consider the brand’s guaranteed future value program. Finance through the dealer, agree on kilometres and ownership period, and you could sign up for a guaranteed trade-in value.

What's it like as a daily driver?

You might think there are people out there who would only ever need a ute like this as a work vehicle - but head a few hours inland from any coastal part of Australia and you’ll see that these sorts of utes are still very prevalent for those who have small acreages to full-time farmers and tradies.

And more and more of those sorts of customers are trading in their old, tired Falcon and Commodore utes in search of something as comfortable and capable. They might get the capability over-indexed with utes like these, but none are as comfy as the old sedan-based workhorse utes.

The BT-50 is not comfortable without a load. Then again, I haven’t driven a single-cab cab-chassis ute that’s made me think: “Yeah, this is a perfectly acceptable level of comfort.”

So it’s no surprise that, when unladen, the ride is quite punishing. It’s not really very comfortable at all – I mean I know that it’s to be expected, but I would’ve expected a little better to be honest. It felt sharper over the same roads that I drove the single cab D-Max SX on, with the rear bucking the cab over sharp bumps and hard edges. Not to the point of being like a HiLux single-cab, but it still can give you a kidney punch every now and then over big lumps and bumps.

The BT-50 is not comfortable without a load. The BT-50 is not comfortable without a load.

But the steering is good - easy to judge and fine around town - and on the open road, if it’s smooth, the drive isn’t overly fatiguing. 

The engine is much more audible when loaded, but without a load it is pretty hushed considering it’s work focus. 

The six-speed auto transmission can be a little eager to shift gears at higher speeds when it could easily make do with just the torque available to it. Clearly that’s a play for better fuel economy, and while there’s nothing wrong with it and it doesn’t detract too much from the drive experience, sometimes it doesn’t seem necessary.

What’s it like for tradie use?

We headed down to our good mates at Agriwest Bomaderry to load in some serious s##t. Literally, there was 1000kg of chicken manure in the back of the BT-50 for this test.

There was some suspension droop at the rear to accommodate the load - about 80mm - while the front suspension lifted only slightly, by about 10mm. But that did seemingly affect the way the BT-50’s forward collision/lane keeping camera system operated.

We loaded 1000kg of chicken manure in the back of the BT-50. We loaded 1000kg of chicken manure in the back of the BT-50.

In previous load tests with the BT-50 and the D-Max, we’ve noted the camera system can disable when loaded up. We’ve raised it with both brands, and both have assured us they have passed on the details to their technicians for investigation.

I’m no automotive engineer, but it seems clear what’s happening - the cameras that usually look down towards the road are not looking up more, thanks to the load at the rear pulling the nose of the ute upwards. That’s causing the camera system to fail in reading the road markings and looking for obstructions. Thus, the camera system disables itself. 

The suspension settled down once there was a load in the back. The suspension settled down once there was a load in the back.

So if you’re buying a ute like this for full-time loaded work, that might be something you need to consider, or at least ask about when you’re shopping.

On with the test, and the suspension settled down once those weight is in the rear. The chassis still felt stiff, but the ute dealt really well with bumps and harsh edges with this much mass on board. There was very little concern in terms of the way that the body controlled itself in that sort of situation.

The engine and transmission worked well together. The engine and transmission worked well together.

The steering is very good too and has a nice lightness to it which makes it more agile, but still with enough feedback to know what’s happening at the front - which can be an issue when you’re fully loaded.

The engine and transmission worked well together – there’s a good amount of pulling power available, and the transmission offered smooth and clever shifts. It never felt like it was out of its depth - even when I called on it to overtake, pulling from 80km/h to 110km/h without any fuss even with this much weight. 

The Mazda BT-50 XT cab-chassis single cab is a strong option for work-focused customers who need safety technology and quality more than they need a really strong price. It is expensive - perhaps prohibitively so, for some customers - but for those who will load their ute up and use it for hard work all the time, it’s worth checking out. 

Thanks again to our mates at Agriwest Rural in Bomaderry for helping out with this load test.

$35,990 - $79,826

Based on 295 car listings in the last 6 months


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Price Guide

$35,990 - $79,826

Based on 295 car listings in the last 6 months

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.