Mazda BT-50 SE $53,995
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).