Mazda BT-50 SE $53,995

NZ4WD - - 4WD UTE COMPARO -

The Mazda BT-50 SE is a lim­ited ‘Spe­cial Edi­tion’ model based on the GSX grade model. That means an ap­peal­ing mix of the in-line five-cylin­der turbo en­gine it shares with the Ford Ranger, smoothshift­ing six-speed auto transmission and some bonus SE ex­tras.

These in­clude the Alu­minium Metal­lic paint fin­ish and SE graphic pack­age, a set of unique 17-inch al­loy wheels, ROC Sports Bar (roll loop to you and I) and re­tractable hard lid, plus a BedRug tray liner, set of Mazda fender flares and Mazda bon­net pro­tec­tor and side win­dow weather shields.

You also get a 3500kg braked tow­ing ca­pa­bil­ity, lock­able tail­gate, lock­able rear diff (which all utes two as well as 4WD should have in my hum­ble opin­ion), auto on/off head­lights and rain­sens­ing wipers, the best (steer­ing wheel-mounted) cruise con­trol set-up of the three, plus a 7/8 inch touch screen with Blue­tooth au­dio and hands-free con­nec­tiv­ity and Sat­Nav and dual-zone cli­mate con­trol air­con.

What you don’t get is leather (or an elec­tri­callyad­justable driver’s) seats, and the re­vers­ing cam­era is one of those old-skool job­bies which pop up in the rear vi­sion mir­ror rather than in the (larger and eas­ier there­fore more ef­fec­tive) touch­screens in the mid­dle of the dash­board.

Be­cause the two mod­els’ de­vel­op­ment paths are now com­pletely sep­a­rate, the Mazda re­tains a hy­draulic power steer­ing sys­tem that Ford re­placed with an elec­tric one at the last ma­jor Ranger up­grade.

The Mazda has also al­ways had a firmer, more but­toned down ride, par­tic­u­larly at higher road speeds.

What most im­pressed me this time around, how­ever, was a com­pli­ance and lack of jar­ring from the rear end. Hit the wrong ridge or se­ries of stut­ter bumps ex­it­ing a typ­i­cal gravel cor­ner and you still get some lad­der chas­sis jig­gle. But this year the SE’s ride was quan­tifi­ably bet­ter than that of the GSX (with canopy) we tested last year. No idea why, but there ‘ya go!

Talk Mazda and it is also worth men­tion­ing cost of own­er­ship, one of the rea­sons you see so many BT-50s on work sites around the coun­try. As well as a three-year, 150,000km fac­tory warranty (com­plete with three-year/un­lim­ited kms Road­side As­sis­tance pack­age) you get a three­year/100,000km (which­ever comes first) fixed priced ser­vice con­tract lim­it­ing the cost of each ser­vice to $200 (incl. GST).

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