In the eye of the be­holder

A bar­gain hunter, an or­ange farmer and a shep­herd de­bate the BT-50’s rai­son d’être

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

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.

The shep­herd

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.”

PHOTO: QUICK­PIC

The BT-50 finds favour with an art col­lec­tor and or­ange farmer, although the shep­herd wanted a van.

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