Cir­cle worker

Herald Sun - Cars Guide - - IN THE GARAGE -

IT’S fit­ting we’re in a ute, Mazda’s BT-50, as a work­horse has just be­come our top-sell­ing “car” for the first time.

The Toy­ota HiLux has taken the crown af­ter over­com­ing last year’s sales slump and over­tak­ing its Corolla sta­ble­mate. Toy­ota punched out the dis­counts hard, so vic­tory was al­ways on the cards.

We’re in the Kuroi Edi­tion ($53,590 drive-away), which is based on the mid-range XTR and adds black sports bar, nudge bar, side steps and 17inch al­loy wheels, plus driv­ing lights, ton­neau and de­cals.

Hav­ing some de­cent time be­hind the wheel of one of the for­got­ten utes in the seg­ment (the BT-50 ranks sev­enth on the sales lad­der in the 4WD class) it’s easy to see the ap­peal of these ve­hi­cles.

You can throw kids’ bikes, beach gear or camp­ing equip­ment in the back, it can tow up to 3.5 tonnes (although if you reach ca­pac­ity, this lim­its what you can carry on board) and it’s com­fort­able in­side the four-door, five-seat cabin.

Econ­omy isn’t as good as the lat­est SUV diesels (most are pow­ered by 2.2-litre en­gines; the BT-50 shares its 3.2-litre five-cylin­der diesel with the Ford Ranger) be­cause it’s shift­ing more weight, but it’s still re­spectable.

So far, we’re get­ting 10.0L11.0L/100km on mostly open road driv­ing un­loaded or with­out a trailer. That will change once we load up.

One thing worth not­ing for SUV own­ers con­sid­er­ing a switch to a ute: the turn­ing cir­cles are not as tight, and this can make shop­ping cen­tre car park ramps a bit of a hand­ful. We’ve had to grab re­verse a few times to get around a tight squeeze that would be a snack in a car or SUV.

We’re also still not used to the rear cam­era be­ing in the rear view mir­ror rather than the cen­tral dis­play screen. And a dig­i­tal speed dis­play would be ap­pre­ci­ated. As would Ap­ple Car Play and An­droid Auto. And more USB ports. But at least the Blue­tooth works well.

Given the fam­ily ap­peal of the BT-50 and its ilk, no won­der one has be­come our top seller.

Joshua Dowl­ing

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