BT-50 keeps strong Mazda character
We might have seen the last of the Mazda BT-50 as we know it because Mazda is about to get together with Isuzu to produce its next-generation pick-up trucks.
Isuzu already makes Mazda trucks for the Japanese market, now it is going worldwide.
The current BT-50 shares many components with the Ford Ranger and much of the design was carried out by Australians.
After the BT-50 was launched in 2011, Mazda went down a new track, creating a utility with the personality of a passenger car — well, sort of.
The latest model arrived featuring a refreshed front and rear end design, a new infotainment system, reverse camera and further inclusions to attract buyers.
There are now 23 BT-50 variants, including 10 with 4x2 and 13 with 4x4 capabilities.
There are two diesel engine types, the MZ-CD 2.2-litre 4-cylinder and a MZ-CD 3.2-litre 5-cylinder, and a choice of either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
The test vehicle was a Mazda BT-50 XTR 3.2-litre 4x4 automatic Freestyle Cab, which sells for $49,675, plus on-road costs.
Hooking in to Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom DNA, both front and back of the BT-50 have come under the stylists’ pens with a straighter radiator grille, redesign of the front and rear lights and modern new 17-inch alloy wheels on the XTR.
The BT-50 XTR models also come with tubular side steps, auto dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers and auto on/off headlamps.
Out back, side walls and tailgate of the cargo box have double-wall cross-sections and contoured outer panels, creating a strong, chiselled look without compromising cargo capacity.
The Freestyle Cab, which is Mazda-speak for crew cab, is basically a two-seater with room in the back only for incidental passengers.
Two rear seats are more like a shelf with thin cushions and backs at right angles, pushing the occupants into an abrupt upright position.
Any more space back there would have meant losing cargo capacity in the tray.
Forward-hinged front doors and rear-hinged rear access panels leave a 1408 mm wide opening that allows people to get in and out of the front and rear seats easily.
The rear access panels open to about 90 degrees, making it easy to lift cargo in and out of the rear seating area.
A new infotainment display makes its debut on Mazda BT-50.
The 7.8-inch high-definition screen gives access to satellite navigation. HEMA maps are also available as a factory option.
There are Bluetooth and iPod connections.
However, the angle of the screen makes it almost impossible to read when bright external light reflects off the surface.
The reverse-camera view is projected on to the left side of the rear-view mirror above the windscreen. It can be difficult to distinguish in certain light conditions.
On the bright side, the driver’s side of the instrument panel is centred on a compact meter hood and is deeply contoured. No problems reading the info here.
The 3.2-litre diesel engine has an in-line five-cylinder configuration, it has four valves per cylinder, an inter-cooled turbocharger, and common-rail direct injection.
It produces maximum power of 147kW at 3000 rpm and peak torque of 470Nm between 1750 and 2500 rpm.
The six-speed automatic transmission has ratios with a wide spread.
Mazda BT-50 has much of the active safety technology commonly used in vehicles these days, such as dynamic stability control and ABS anti-lock braking with electronic brake-force distribution; it also includes trailer sway control function and roll stability control.
Passive-safety features a strong body and frame reinforcement, following comprehensive impact analysis; front, side, and curtain airbags; and all-round three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners and load limiters for the front.
We got reasonably low fuel consumption of about 9.2 litres/100km on a mix of town and country driving.
This latest Mazda makeover has reduced noise and vibration for a more comfortable, quieter atmosphere in the cabin.
The ladder frame of the previous generation BT-50 has been carried over, with increased rigidity making for better ride comfort.
The Mazda BT-50 is fresh-faced and ready for work or play.
The positioning of equipment up front can make it hard to read at times.