More than just a cut-price Ranger, Mazda’s BT-50 is, well, like a cut-price Ranger.
Mazda’s BT-50 gets a visual boost in the form of the Limited Edition.
With the same 3.2-litre five-cylinder, the BT-50 is basically a Ford Ranger in Japanese clothing.
SOMETIMES LOGIC DOES NOT PREVAIL. While Ford’s Ranger tops the New Zealand ute sales pole, Mazda’s BT-50 sits in a relatively low seventh, behind Nissan Navara and Isuzu D-max, and ahead of VW’S Amarok. This is a little odd, not because the Mazda is particularly better or worse than its nearest rivals, but because the BT-50 is basically a Ranger in Japanese clothing, using the same 3.2-litre five-cylinder, producing the same 147kw and 470Nm, with an arguably better interior, and even a little faster than the Ford.
Against the clock, this BT-50’S 0-100km/h time of 10.9 seconds is 0.6 faster than the Ranger Wildtrak, and even 0.3 quicker to 60km/h – and it’s just five-percent lighter. While drag racing isn’t either’s forte, it is an interesting comparison starting point, because this Limited Edition BT-50 is not just $4000 cheaper than the spec-equivalent Ranger XL, it’s also $3,800 less than the regular BT-50 GSX on which it’s based.
This BT-50 is a Special Edition of just
50 units in either 2WD ($43,995) or 4WD is based on the mid-spec GSX version, and offers 17-inch black alloys, wheelarches, ROC retracting hardlid and ROC Sportsbar, Bedrug bed liner, bonnet protector plus host of little extras that are popular during the showroom checkout, like custom mats, tubular side steps, weather-shields and matte graphics on Aluminium Metallic paint.
With more for less, the question is where does Mazda skimp? Not inside, with the Special Edition also getting navigation and rear parking sensors. The overall interior feel is basic but well done, with lots of black plastic; dual zone climate, manual but comfortable cloth seats, Bluetooth and a shifter from the Ford Falcon parts shelf; all work well, as does Mazda’s own proprietary touchscreen – which isn’t as user-friendly as others, though it does offer Carplay/android Auto. The dials are clear and the cabin carries that red-lit and black look consistent across a few of its models. Cupholders, a simple switch for 4WD mode and a reversing camera display in the mirror make the interior an accommodating place, while the rear seats get a flip-down centre console.
On the road, there are natural similarities to draw with the Ranger, and that’s a very good thing. The five-cylinder is a little more muffled in the Mazda, but it still summons a pile of power and torque across the range in any gear with a smooth, effortless wave of acceleration and pulling power. So no problems there at all!
The gearbox glides between the wellspaced ratios and the steering is equally sharp, though not able to improve the Ranger’s sizeable 12.4m turning circle.
With a Ranger-matching 3500kg towing capacity, surely the BT-50’S downfall must be its suspension. Nope, that’s accomplished as well, offering a solid compromise of ride quality and load carrying that’s similar to the rivals. With 10.0l/100km offered for fuel consumption, it is a fraction less frugal than the Ford on paper, but we found that the real-world figures of both were almost identical, and both from the same 80-litre tank offering a range of more than 700km.
So it must be down to looks, which is entirely subjective. The more swoopy styled BT-50 certainly looks good in our books, but maybe ute buyers prefer the chunky, squared off look. And if that’s the case, then buyers are missing out because the BT-50 shares Ranger DNA for a fraction of its price and offers a great drive at a good price. And this Special Edition makes the Mazda even more appealing.
Above: BT-50 interior is clean and functional with all the basics: cloth seats, steering wheel controls, touchscreen and dual-zone climate.
Top: ROC retracting hardlid also a feature of the BT-50 Special Edition. Below: Special Edition includes non-slip Bedrug polypropolene bedliner, which can be washed, doesn’t absorb water and includes a hinge.
Top: Reversing camera in rear-view mirror offers guide lines for both parking and lining up a trailer hitch. Below: Rear seats are comfortable, feature two ISOFIX mounting points and a flipdown armrest.