In the eye of the beholder
A bargain hunter, an orange farmer and a shepherd debate the BT-50’s raison d’être
WHEELS received the new Mazda BT-50 bakkie to test, courtesy of Mazda’s media fleet, and had an auction bargain hunter, orange farmer and shepherd test it.
It is common knowledge that the BT-50 shares a platform, engines and transmissions with the Ford Ranger, but the big smile on the Mazda’s nose makes the big Ford look rather square.
With everything below the bodywork basically the same, we wondered why they badge-engineered two bakkies?
The short answer is that the marketers aimed the Mazda BT50’s more vulnerable lights at city slickers with an outdoor lifestyle, which was where our auction bargain hunter Brian Bassett stepped in, or rather, clambered up, as the bakkie is a mite higher than Bassett’s normal low-slung Bavarian chariots.
The bargain hunter
Wearing his art connoisseur hat, Bassett said: “One cannot but use the word stylish to describe the new BT-50. It is certainly better looking than most other bakkies on the market, although its stylish exterior still manages to project an overall image of raw masculinity.
“I could somehow not imagine a woman behind the wheel, but my wife assures me that she has several friends who use this bakkie as a mom’s taxi because they feel safe and secure in the high cabin and their families have a useful vehicle for the holidays.”
Bassett pointed out the good industrial design and ergonomic controls that make the BT-50 such a pleasant interior to occupy, front and back. The rear-seat space is excellent and three adults had no problem with the comfort offered. The seats in the vehicle we drove were leather covered and lent a grand feel to the interior, and the rest of the dashboard and door interiors were upholstered in excellent quality plastics. “Driving the BT-50 was a pleasure, and I am not really a bakkie man. There is ample torque for traversing very bad road surfaces and two of the roads on which I took the BT-50 were rutted badly and sandy to boot. On rock-strewn surfaces it also behaves well and with carlike handling.
“The 3,2 litre diesel is a delightfully powerful motor and delivers 147 kW and 375 Nm of torque, expressed on road by, in our case, a six-speed manual gearbox, although an auto is also available.”
Bassett aimed the nose first to Cannon’s Auctioneers, where the big load bin on the double cab came in handy for four diningroom chairs which he bought for a song.
It was there that Alwyn “The Van Man” Viljoen, who boasts a diploma in sheep management, had his usual grumble about the best bakkie always being a panel van. “With a van, I don’t have to tug on tonneau covers and struggle to lift chairs onto high load beds,” he pointed out.
Viljoen, who is on record for feeling the happiest in his old Land Cruiser, said bakkies are basically ego extenders (only, he did not use the word “ego”) and said if he HAD to chose a bakkie, he would go for the prettier Mazda.
“Mazda dealers used to be able to compete on price against the Ford, but the 2016 Ranger is coming, which will see a lot of specials among Ford’s double cabs.
“For me, it all comes down to which style of headlights you prefer. Note, if the Mazda’s beauty beholds your eye, you would do well to also take the JMC Vigus on a test drive. It’s all Ford technology under that nose too, albeit of a previous generation.”
The orange farmer
Johan van der Merwe is the former orange farmer who also writes for Landbou Weekblad.
He admitted to thinking he has seen it all when he got the keys to the BT-50 with the 3,2 V6 Ford diesel engine.
“There have been four 3,2 V6 Ford Rangers in our family over the past eight years,” he said, adding he has done almost 60 000 carefree kilometres in his 2,2 Ford Ranger.
Inside the BT-50 he recognised glimpses of the Ford, but said the Mazda’s design gave him “that young-boy grin”, as it had a little more than the Ford.
“The BT-50 reminded me of my own Ford Ranger 2,2, but has loads and loads more power.
“The BT-50’s on-board technology made the drive just that much more enjoyable and the parking easier.
“That said, there is not much to choose between the Drifter and the Ranger except looks and resale values.
“The look of the Mazda, with its raised eyebrows, did, well, raise a few eyebrows.
“Choosing between the Ford and the Mazda is going to come down to your desire for technology inside the cab, where the Mazda offers more, and your intention to resell your bakkie, where the Ford is the better option.”
The BT-50 finds favour with an art collector and orange farmer, although the shepherd wanted a van.