More than just a cut-price Ranger, Mazda’s BT-50 is, well, like a cut-price Ranger.

New Zealand LCV - - CONTENTS -

Mazda’s BT-50 gets a vis­ual boost in the form of the Lim­ited Edi­tion.

With the same 3.2-litre five-cylin­der, the BT-50 is ba­si­cally a Ford Ranger in Ja­panese cloth­ing.

SOME­TIMES LOGIC DOES NOT PRE­VAIL. While Ford’s Ranger tops the New Zealand ute sales pole, Mazda’s BT-50 sits in a rel­a­tively low seventh, be­hind Nis­san Navara and Isuzu D-max, and ahead of VW’S Amarok. This is a lit­tle odd, not be­cause the Mazda is par­tic­u­larly bet­ter or worse than its near­est ri­vals, but be­cause the BT-50 is ba­si­cally a Ranger in Ja­panese cloth­ing, us­ing the same 3.2-litre five-cylin­der, pro­duc­ing the same 147kw and 470Nm, with an ar­guably bet­ter in­te­rior, and even a lit­tle faster than the Ford.

Against the clock, this BT-50’S 0-100km/h time of 10.9 sec­onds is 0.6 faster than the Ranger Wild­trak, and even 0.3 quicker to 60km/h – and it’s just five-per­cent lighter. While drag rac­ing isn’t ei­ther’s forte, it is an in­ter­est­ing com­par­i­son start­ing point, be­cause this Lim­ited Edi­tion BT-50 is not just $4000 cheaper than the spec-equiv­a­lent Ranger XL, it’s also $3,800 less than the reg­u­lar BT-50 GSX on which it’s based.

This BT-50 is a Spe­cial Edi­tion of just

50 units in ei­ther 2WD ($43,995) or 4WD is based on the mid-spec GSX ver­sion, and of­fers 17-inch black al­loys, whee­larches, ROC re­tract­ing hardlid and ROC Sports­bar, Be­drug bed liner, bon­net pro­tec­tor plus host of lit­tle ex­tras that are pop­u­lar dur­ing the show­room check­out, like cus­tom mats, tubu­lar side steps, weather-shields and matte graph­ics on Alu­minium Metal­lic paint.

With more for less, the ques­tion is where does Mazda skimp? Not in­side, with the Spe­cial Edi­tion also get­ting nav­i­ga­tion and rear park­ing sen­sors. The over­all in­te­rior feel is ba­sic but well done, with lots of black plas­tic; dual zone cli­mate, man­ual but com­fort­able cloth seats, Blue­tooth and a shifter from the Ford Fal­con parts shelf; all work well, as does Mazda’s own pro­pri­etary touch­screen – which isn’t as user-friendly as oth­ers, though it does of­fer Carplay/an­droid Auto. The di­als are clear and the cabin car­ries that red-lit and black look con­sis­tent across a few of its mod­els. Cuphold­ers, a sim­ple switch for 4WD mode and a re­vers­ing cam­era dis­play in the mir­ror make the in­te­rior an ac­com­mo­dat­ing place, while the rear seats get a flip-down cen­tre con­sole.

On the road, there are nat­u­ral sim­i­lar­i­ties to draw with the Ranger, and that’s a very good thing. The five-cylin­der is a lit­tle more muf­fled in the Mazda, but it still sum­mons a pile of power and torque across the range in any gear with a smooth, ef­fort­less wave of ac­cel­er­a­tion and pulling power. So no prob­lems there at all!

The gear­box glides be­tween the wellspaced ra­tios and the steer­ing is equally sharp, though not able to im­prove the Ranger’s size­able 12.4m turn­ing cir­cle.

With a Ranger-match­ing 3500kg tow­ing ca­pac­ity, surely the BT-50’S down­fall must be its sus­pen­sion. Nope, that’s ac­com­plished as well, of­fer­ing a solid com­pro­mise of ride qual­ity and load car­ry­ing that’s sim­i­lar to the ri­vals. With 10.0l/100km of­fered for fuel con­sump­tion, it is a frac­tion less fru­gal than the Ford on pa­per, but we found that the real-world fig­ures of both were al­most iden­ti­cal, and both from the same 80-litre tank of­fer­ing a range of more than 700km.

So it must be down to looks, which is en­tirely sub­jec­tive. The more swoopy styled BT-50 cer­tainly looks good in our books, but maybe ute buy­ers pre­fer the chunky, squared off look. And if that’s the case, then buy­ers are miss­ing out be­cause the BT-50 shares Ranger DNA for a frac­tion of its price and of­fers a great drive at a good price. And this Spe­cial Edi­tion makes the Mazda even more ap­peal­ing.

Story & Pho­tos: Dean Evans

Above: BT-50 in­te­rior is clean and func­tional with all the ba­sics: cloth seats, steer­ing wheel con­trols, touch­screen and dual-zone cli­mate.

Top: ROC re­tract­ing hardlid also a fea­ture of the BT-50 Spe­cial Edi­tion. Be­low: Spe­cial Edi­tion in­cludes non-slip Be­drug polypropo­lene bed­liner, which can be washed, doesn’t ab­sorb wa­ter and in­cludes a hinge.

Top: Re­vers­ing cam­era in rear-view mir­ror of­fers guide lines for both park­ing and lin­ing up a trailer hitch. Be­low: Rear seats are com­fort­able, fea­ture two ISOFIX mount­ing points and a flip­down arm­rest.

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