Mazda BT-50 review

Mazda BT-50

The new BT-50 carries on in the tradition of ‘lekka’ tough, comfortable Mazda bakkies. Although based on the same platform as the Ford Ranger the BT-50 is a very different beast.

People are going to ask: Does the BT-50 have Zoom-Zoom? You betcha. It also has go,go,go. And, it goes well too. Drives and handles like an SUV.

BT-50 program manager Takasuke Kobayashi said of the BT-50:“I wanted to move into uncharted territory. I wanted to create a completely different kind of pick-up – one with the personality of a passenger car. So my team developed innovative, dynamic styling and equipment levels that match high-specification CD-segment cars. We re-engineered the technologies in the powertrain, steering system and frame to deliver the Zoom-Zoom driving pleasure that is Mazda’s greatest brand value.”

The BT-50 looks very different to the Ford Ranger. Brighter and softer. More car-like than the Ranger.

Driving impressions

The BT-50 sits well on the road, any road. It drives like a car. My wife found it very easy to drive, except parallel parking. That is a mission due to the sheer size. It is broader and longer than most cars and all previous generation bakkies except the likes of the Ford 150 and the Cruiser double cab. A similar size to the Amarok and Navarra.

The 3.2 turbo diesel engine fitted to the BT-50 we drove will only be tested if you are towing a big boat, large caravan or heavy trailer. It has oodles of power. The 3.2-litre inline five-cylinder diesel with six-speed automatic transmission pushes out 147kW/470Nm.  I think the 2.2 is more than enough for normal use. Its the one I would buy.The 2.2 litre in-line 4 cylinder 16 valve DOHC intercooled turbo diesel produces a useful 110 kW @ 3,700 rpm and torque of 375 Nm @ 1,500 – 2,500 rpm. More than enough normally.

The short distance I rode on gavel it seemed very settled and stable.

Acceleration, especially in gear, when overtaking for example, is excellent.

Cornering for such a tall relatively heavy vehicle is very good. The brakes on this truck are to be felt to be believed. they are really good. Steering is very good. Light at low speeds and progressively more stiff as the speed increases.

This is a great bakkie to drive. Parking, though, can be an issue.

Interior

The seats are really comfortable and highly adjustable. The driver’ s seat also has adjustable lumbar support.

The cabin has practical finishes and is well designed. It would put most large sedans of ten years ago to shame. It has all the nooks and crannies and storage places you would expect.

All the important controls are within easy reach and work intuitively. Switchgear feels solid. Audio controls are on the lest of the steering wheel, cruise control on the right.

The climate control is very effective.

The radio, CD, MP3 player works well and the speakers sound good. There are aux and USB points in the box between the seats.

The rear window has a brilliant little window.

Weak points

Loading or getting something off the loadbay is quite a mission, simply because she stands so tall. For normal use the loadbay is a little high. It is impractical. The same applies to getting in and out of this truck. It is quite a heave up into the cab.

I do not like the fake chrome trim around the lights, but I am sure many others will like it. Its a little “sudden” for me!

The fiddly little button used to control the ‘computer’ display is totally impractical and bordering on unsafe.

Fuel consumption is a lot better than older generation tricks but it is still stiff. At best I got 10litre per 100km unladen at 120km/h, while the big mill purrs at 2 000rpm. In town it shoots up. My average was 8.9l/100km.

I would have preferred a soft touch finish on a few surfaces. It just feels a little hard.

Summary

This is a bakkie to easily get used to living with in spite of the odd little niggle. Just remember she is big and high and wide.

Cost

The double cab range starts at R340 480 for the BT-50 2.2 (High Power) MZ-CD SLX 6MT 4×2 D/Cab Diesel. The Top of the range BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6AT 4×4 D/Cab Diesel costs R462 210.

The vehicle we tested, the BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6AT 4×2 D/Cab Diesel costs R414 890.

Air conditioner and slip rear axle is an extra option at R10 870.

Warranty: 4 year/120 000km

Service plan: 5 year/90 000km, 15 000km service intervals

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