WELCOME TO THE FAMILY, BIG FELLA
MAZDA’S NEW BT-50 TAKES ON A GROWING FAMILY IN THE MIDDLE OF HOME RENOVATIONS
CAN MAZDA’S Zoom Zoom ethos, which imbues everyday cars with driving spirit, do the same for a dualcab ute? That’s the question at the heart of this longterm test. I want to see how one of the newest utes on the block handles my weekday work commutes and weekend DIY duties. You see, we bought a house during the 2020 Covid pandemic and it needs a lot of work. Bunnings is going to love me.
The BT-50 GT will have to keep up with all of that, plus it needs to cart me, the wife and our baby around, which will test the BT-50’s newfound interior class.
This BT-50 launched in Australia in October 2020, replacing the previous generation that had been around since 2010. While the last BT-50 was co-developed with Ford on the Ranger chassis, this all-new third-gen model is the result of a partnership with Isuzu. So everything short of the Mazda badge on its nose is new. That’s a good thing because, even though the last BT-50 wasn’t bad, the Isuzu D-Max’s reputation for bulletproof reliability and trust is second to none with owners.
But tough doesn’t mean spartan. All BT-50s come with alloys, LEDs, remote locking, cruise control, aircon, electric windows and mirrors, Bluetooth, Apple Carplay (and Android Auto) and digital radio.
The GT model I’ve got has a full leather interior (brown), electrically adjustable and heated seats, a folddown armrest in the rear, heated mirrors, front parking sensors, dual
zone climate control and a nine-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation.
The entertainment system is pretty much identical to the one in the D-Max and nothing like any other Mazda I’ve driven. Many of the settings are ‘locked out’ while on the move, presumably for safety reasons. For example, the passenger cannot enter an address into the sat-nav unless the car is stopped.
Also keeping the family safe is an impressive arsenal of features (reversing camera, AEB, ESC, blindspot monitoring, lane keeping and departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and speed assist) that help it score a five-star ANCAP rating. Few utes would have boasted such kit just five years ago, including the previous BT-50. These days many rivals have comparable safety credentials, though none beat the Mazda.
But how do they work in the real world? So far, it has been a mixed bag, primarily because some of the systems are too eager to intervene.
The autonomous emergency braking sometimes triggers when a car in front is turning left, which not only scares me but also the hardbraking car behind me. The blind-spot assist is overzealous, and the lane departure prevention sometimes tries to overrule my attempt to change lanes even though the gap is there.
I’m not game to try the BT-50’s intelligent speed limiter, which is said to keep the car’s speed below the speed limit shown on traffic signs, because I’ve caught it misreading digital signs a couple of times – one of which was on the Monash Freeway when it thought 80km/h was 40km/h.
All these ‘safety’ systems should assist the driver’s awareness, not detract from it. I’ve got a meeting with Mazda shortly to help me understand the different systems better and to attend to a couple of minor niggles elsewhere, like the
GT’s propensity to relock itself after I put something in the passenger side and walk around to the driver’s side.
And how to set the clock in the instrument binnacle, which shows a completely different time to the one on the entertainment system. Little niggles, but the kind an owner would want to be addressed.
Next stop after that? Bunnings!