big truck built tough

MAZDA BT-50

Earthmovers & Excavators - - Tow Test -

LOAD TEST

The Mazda BT-50 and the Ranger were de­vel­oped side-by-side for their re­spec­tive late 2011 de­buts and share most of the ba­sics. But where Ford did a sig­nif­i­cant re­make of the Ranger in 2015, Mazda tweaked lit­tle more than equip­ment – aside from, like Ford, fix­ing the awk­ward shift of the man­ual box when fit­ted to the 3.2-litre en­gine. Ap­par­ently Mazda and Ford haven’t seen eye-to-eye on a few things, and Mazda will look to part­ner with Isuzu for its next-gen­er­a­tion ute. But that’s a few years off yet.

What we have here is the tweaked MY16 BT-50 and, as be­fore and like the Ranger, it has six solid tie-down hooks to help to se­cure the 800kg pal­let on board. Even with the weight of the de­fault pay­load (driver, ob­server and tow­bar), that leaves up to 200kg pay­load to spare on the light­est BT 4x4 dual-cab pick-up, and around 100kg to spare on the heav­ier top-spec GT.

Along with the Ranger, the BT-50 has the high­est GVM, which is the rea­son why it has pay­load to spare over the most of the oth­ers here. The rear of the BT dropped around 65mm with the 800kg pal­let in the tub – a lit­tle more than the best, but cer­tainly not a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence.

With its ‘big’ 3.2-litre five-cylin­der en­gine at work, the Mazda had lit­tle trou­ble han­dling the weight of the 800kg pal­let up our test in­cline. Com­pared to the Ranger, Mazda’s en­gine isn’t quite as re­spon­sive at low revs (its peak torque comes in lit­tle higher than the Ford’s), and the en­gine is also a lit­tle gruffer and nois­ier.

No com­plaints, how­ever, with Mazda’s gear­box. Although, like most of the oth­ers, it was re­luc­tant to down­shift au­to­mat­i­cally on the de­scent, even when prompted via brake ap­pli­ca­tion.

With the load in the back, the BT wasn’t too nose-up and felt pos­i­tive in the steer­ing. While it lacks the elec­tric steer­ing of the Ranger and Colorado – some­thing you re­ally no­tice at part­ing speeds – the steer­ing weight once you get go­ing is re­as­sur­ing, as is the BT’s gen­eral sta­bil­ity and han­dling with the 800kg in the tub.

It did, how­ever, feel to bot­tom out on some of the bumps on the test hill, which was a bit of a sur­prise.

TOW TEST

The Ranger’s blood brother hasn’t al­ways shared the sales spot­light of its blue oval rel­a­tive. While run­ning changes have been made to the swoopy Mazda dur­ing its life, it’s me­chan­i­cally es­sen­tially pretty close to where it was when it was first launched. The BT-50 still re­tains the turbo of the orig­i­nal in­car­na­tion, as well as the Piezo fuel in­jec­tion sys­tem.

As a re­sult, the en­gine is a lit­tle more rau­cous un­der load and power comes in a lit­tle later. That said, the BT still feels con­fi­dent at max­i­mum

GCM. The five-cylin­der pow­er­plant has more than enough poke to pull a de­cent load. The hy­draulic power steer­ing still re­tains a de­cent feel, though it feels a lit­tle more old-school than the Ford. It also feels a lit­tle twitchy in com­par­i­son – it’s a big ask to put this kind of weight be­hind an empty truck at the best of times. Clearly it’s not go­ing to han­dle like a go-kart.

Mazda’s leaf spring rear end feels sta­ble enough, and you don’t have a sense of the load push­ing you on de­scents. As with the trans­mis­sions in most of the ve­hi­cles here, you still have to in­ter­vene man­u­ally on a long de­scent to save the brakes. But, as with the Ford, the big­ger cu­bic dis­place­ment of the 3.2-litre en­gine helps when bleed­ing off speed. The BT-50 is a wor­thy con­tender when it comes to big tow­ing, and its price point in the mar­ket doesn’t ex­actly hold it back, ei­ther.

Mazda’s BT-50 shares much with the Ford Ranger, but not as much as it once did.

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