Mazda BT-50 – Unlike nearly all other one tonne ute manufacturers who have gone with truck-style fronts, Mazda has chosen to run with a passenger car front for its new BT-50.
The look is almost a direct lift from Mazda’s CX-8 and 9 SUVs and is a vast improvement on the crazy face of the previous BT-50.
However, it’s a leap of faith to go down this path given most ute buyers are “blokes” who, given sales trends, prefer a tough face on their ute.
This new BT-50 is a huge change of direction for Mazda which has aligned itself with Isuzu D-Max this time around instead of Ford Ranger.
That means the engine is now a smaller capacity 3.0-litre four cylinder turbo diesel instead of a 3.2-litre five pot although there was a 2.2 litre four cylinder available in the previous models of both BT-50 and Ranger.
Isuzu has been making this engine in one form or another for yonks and it’s under the bonnet (cab) of numerous Isuzu light and medium size trucks so reliability wouldn’t be an issue.
New BT-50 is hooked up to either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto in either 2WD or selectable 4WD. There are numerous variants for a wide range of applications but this test is on the base 4×4 dual cab manual called the XT.
Mazda jammed in plenty of advanced safety tech’ this time around ensuring the BT-50 scores a 5-star crash rating.
They also generously equipped even this base model though it sells at a not insignificant $50,760. Just as well the government gives incentives to tradies to buy these things.
I haven’t figured out whether or not I am a fan of the new BT-50 yet.
Discounts are already being offered on the model which suggests tradies are not fans….
That leaves the recreation market which might take kindlier to the new look and the Isuzu underpinnings.
It’s a slightly altered CX-9 front with a ute cabin grafted on followed by a ute box at the back.
The front is pure Kodo design… the same style as applied to every current model Mazda.
And that’s nothing to criticise as Mazda has arguably the best looking mainstream cars available right now.
But as already mentioned, the Aussie ute market has come down heavily in favour of macho-looking, truck fronted vehicles which the BT-50 most certainly isn’t.
They might be ahead of the curve on this front as utes become even more dominant on the sales charts being pressed into service as the everyday practical vehicle, the new family car perhaps.
Time will tell.
Personally, I don’t mind the look of the new BT-50.
Put a nudge bar on it with a light bar and Bob’s your uncle… instant tough guy.
Inside is pretty much standard Mazda passenger car with an attractive, multi-function wheel, conventional looking single level dash, multiple fascia materials and some soft touch surfaces. There’s the obligatory centre mounted touch screen and an array of buttons underneath for various functions.
The multi grey tone cabin is roomy in most measurements even in the rear seat leg and headroom areas.
Seats for 5 are provided though you wouldn’t want to be in the centre rear for too long.
Access is aided by a number of grab handles and the seats feel firm but comfortable over a long drive. The base model XT test vehicle had a decent dark fabric upholstery that is all you really need in such a vehicle.
Six speaker audio was pretty good and the aircon’ keeps the whole cab cool or warm.
This was the XT model that will probably account for the most sales and Mazda has been generous with goodies that include:
- Rake and reach steering adjustment
- 17-inch alloys
- LED headlights
- Reverse camera
- Double wall load box (no liner)
- 800mm wade depth
- Cruise control
- Locking rear diff’
Drive and Engine
The “new” 3.0-litre, four cylinder turbo diesel is from Isuzu and has been refined over about a decade to the current level. It has a variable geometry turbo attached boosting efficiency and is mated to a 6-speed manual or auto, both of which have been tailored to the BT-50.
Power output nearly matches the competition at 140kW/450Nm though that benchmark has notched up in recent times to 150kW/500Nm.
The iron block engine has chain cam drive which is good for longevity.
It rides on a double wishbone front and leaf spring rear suspension with disc/drum brakes front and rear.
A dual range transfer offers 2WD and 4WD high and low range through a selector on the centre console.
A fair degree of lag exists when you take off from a stop which is surprising given the VGT set-up. Once it spools up, acceleration comes in with a bang.
The suspension is surprisingly firm creating a jiggly ride unladen. This resolves itself once there’s something in the tray or four passengers.
On the highway the BT rolls along easily consuming as little as 7.7-litres/100km and the engine is relatively quiet and smooth. Payload in the tray is around 1100kg and its rated towing capacity is 3500kg.
Funny thing is Mazda had its own 3.0-litre, four cylinder, turbo diesel a decade ago and it was a good thing.….
Five stars straight up made even better by the extensive amount of advanced driver assist technology. Eight airbags too and traffic sign recognition.
Though on a ladder chassis, the BT-50 scores well in ANCAP testing but I don’t understand how drum rear brakes cut the mustard in 2021.
The XT driven has all the safety acronyms; LKA, BSM, LDW, RCTA, AHB, AEB and the rest of it. That’s Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Automatic High Beam, Autonomous Emergency Braking. Only the auto gets adaptive cruise control… understandable really and the Lane Keeping Assist is super annoying.
However, drivers these days seem to need technology to drive safely so here it all is in a new generation one tonne ute, right from the base model…
- Attractive styling
- Generous advanced safety kit
- Heavy payload
Not So Good Bits
- Jiggly ride
- Throttle lag from stop
- No satnav (hard wired)
There’s plenty of competition in ute-land these days and darn good competition at that. Mazda had to do something with the styling of its previous gen BT-50 and this new Isuzu D-Max based model is a big step forward in that regard. But they got some of the basics wrong… the jiggly ride and the lag off idle are annoying as is some of the intrusive advanced driver assist tech. Pricey too.
Facts and Figures: 2021 Mazda BT50 XT 4×4 dual cab manual
- Engine: 3.0L four-cylinder turbo diesel producing 140kW/450Nm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Warranty: 5 years/ unlimited km
- Safety: Five stars
- Origin: Thailand
- Price: from $50,760 MLP*
*MLP – Manufacturers List Price includes GST and LCT but excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP. Does not include price of any options.