Mazda beefs up BT-50 work­horse

Pilbara News - - Motoring - Ewan Kennedy

■ Mazda is in se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion for the No. 2 spot in the Aus­tralian sales race.

While Toy­ota is in first place by a huge mar­gin, Mazda, Hyundai and Holden are at it ham­mer and tongs for the sec­ond spot on the podium.

What bet­ter way to in­crease sales than to up­grade its BT-50, Mazda’s en­trant in one of the hottest of all mar­ket seg­ments in Aus­tralia.

Though this area is ap­par­ently that of light com­mer­cial pickup trucks the big movers aren’t the work­ing ve­hi­cles, rather du­al­cabs with stacks of ac­ces­sories are the big sellers.

We sus­pect these have by far the big­gest profit mar­gins.

The brief to the Ja­panese pro­gram man­ager, Taka­suke Kobayashi, for Mazda BT-50 was sim­ple; make it look tougher and more mas­cu­line.

Kobayashi-san, who comes from a coun­try that’s less brain­washed than Aus­tralia in po­lit­i­cal correctness, said the BT-50 should ap­peal to “the yummy mum­mies, as well as the Crocodile Dun­dees”.

The lat­ter’s a smart move be­cause Aussie mums ap­pre­ci­ate the ad­van­tages of hav­ing a big pickup with stacks of in­te­rior room, and that can more than hold it’s own in the park­ing bat­tle out­side school at pickup time.

Any­how, Mazda BT-50, while still hav­ing a more of a slop­ing front than is the norm for this class, has been tough­ened up by hav­ing a big­ger, bolder grille shape.

In­ter­est­ingly, while this does give the pickup a harder look the front guards are un­changed in their swoop­ing lines.

At the rear, the tail­lights still oc­cupy the same area of real es­tate but have been given stronger shapes and con­trasts in their lenses.

The Aus­tralian mar­ket is very im­por­tant to Mazda, be­ing the largest out­side Ja­pan on a pop­u­la­tion ba­sis, so Kobayashi-san, with 21 years ex­pe­ri­ence in Mazda com­mer­cials, came over to ex­plain the up­rated de­sign. Still re­garded purely as a com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle in Ja­pan, the BT-50 hasn’t had a huge num­ber of changes such as are nec­es­sary to keep a car fresh.

Some of the bits that were pre­vi­ously chromed are now fin­ished in black; the satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, when fit­ted, has been sig­nif­i­cantly up­graded; rearview cam­eras aren’t stan­dard on all, but are on the op­tion’s list for ev­ery ve­hi­cle.

En­gines re­main as be­fore, a four-cylin­der 2.2-litre turbo-diesel with 110kW of power and 375Nm of torque be­tween 1500 and 2500 revs; and a 3.2-litre five­cylin­der with 147kW, and 470Nm from 1750 and 2500.

The big­ger en­gine isn’t there to pro­vide straight-line per­for­mance, but give sig­nif­i­cantly more tow­ing abil­ity — 3500kg ver­sus 2500kg (though given the rapidly in­creas­ing num­ber of “sports utes” on the roads we wouldn’t be sur­prised to see them tak­ing on one another in traf­fic-light drags).

Six-speed man­ual and sixspeed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion are of­fered.

The auto re­mains as be­fore but the man­ual has been mod­i­fied to give bet­ter shift feel.

Mazda BT-50 can be bought with 2WD (rear wheels) or 4WD.

Body types are sin­gle-cab, ex­tended-cab (Freestyle in Mazda speak) and dual-cab.

The lat­ter is ex­pected to make up close to two thirds of all sales.

Freestyle has small back doors with a rear area that has a pair of sort-of seats with safety belts.

Com­fort is not their strong point.

A cab-chas­sis is of­fered in both the sin­gle and dual-cab mod­els.

Ac­tive safety sees not only car­type ESC trac­tion con­trol and ABS sys­tems, but also a unit to sense pos­si­ble rollovers and pre­vent or mit­i­gate them.

The anti-rollover is handy in a tall com­mer­cial pickup.

Pas­sive safety is pro­vided by twin front and side airbags in all, with cur­tain bags in the Freestyle and dual-cab.

Trim lev­els are XT and XTR through­out the range, with the top-line dual-cab get­ting the un­likely tag of GT.

Dur­ing an ex­ten­sive road test pro­gram or­gan­ised by Mazda we drove a se­lec­tion of ve­hi­cles, though only with the 3.2-litre five-cylin­der en­gine.

We were im­pressed by the of­froad abil­ity on a fairly se­ri­ous trek through the bush and found the 4-Low mode with elec­tronic aids took most of the hard work out of driv­ing.

On-road there’s no doubt these are light trucks, al­beit pretty so­phis­ti­cated ones for their class.

There were lower noise lev­els than we re­mem­ber from the su­per­seded model and han­dling was safe and pos­i­tive.

About 10 per cent of all Mazda sales in Aus­tralia are of the BT-50 and we feel this mid-life up­grade will boost the sales fig­ures.

The large BT-50 range com­prises 23 vari­ants, 10 4x2 and 13 4x4s.

Prices of the 4x2 mod­els range from $25,570 for a 2.2-litre diesel man­ual XT sin­gle cab chas­sis through to $43,630 for a 3.2-litre petrol au­to­matic dual cab XTR pickup.

The 4x4 range starts at $36,850 for a 3.2-litre man­ual XT sin­gle cab chas­sis and peaks at $53,790 for a 3.2-litre petrol au­to­matic GT dual cab pickup.

Pic­tures: Mar­que Mo­tor­ing

The frontal look of the Mazda BT-50 has been tough­ened up.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.