The all new 2012 BT50 is a design Mazda should be very pleased with. They have brought the BT50 from a mid-range, average 4WD utility to a well-designed and powerful class leader.
The new BT50 comes in 12 different models starting with the 4x2 single cab chassis XT model, which has a 2.2L turbo diesel engine. The rang then peaks at the well appointed XTR dual cab 4x4. Apart from a couple of base models, Mazda have equipped the range with the 5 cylinder 3.2L turbo diesel, which turns out 147kW of power and 470Nm of torque. The big engine is mated to either a 6-speed auto or 6-speed manual gearbox.
There have been some comments in the motoring press regarding the Mazda’s front design of the BT50. While it works on the Mazda 6, Mazda 3, even the CX-7 and CX-9, apparently it’s just a bit out there on the BT50.
The sculptured bonnet and guards have been described as polarising – you either love it or hate it. Let me assure you that it can certainly grow on you, especially when sitting at the wheel of the refined vehicle. It has plenty of grunt, lots of interior features, a high degree of on-road comfort and superior off-road competency.
Reviewed in this article is the XT dual cab 4x4 5 cylinder 3.2L turbo diesel with six-speed manual transmission. It’s not quite top of the line but still comes with goodies such as Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, hill launch assist, all electric functions throughout, excellent climate control air conditioning, and a towing capacity of 3350kg.
On first impressions it’s easy to forget that this is basically a work ute – the interior trim and finish is of a quality you would find in a more luxury vehicle. Dash controls are centred around the audio and air conditioning systems and easy to identify. A handy information screen in the dash area is a great asset.
The steering wheel is soft-feel, with Bluetooth and cruise control functions mounted on each side. Controls are sensibly small and easy to use.
The driving position was quite good with the only omission being a lack of steering wheel adjustment; similar to the Ford Ranger.
I found the fabric covered seats to be just as comfortable on road as off, with ample squab length coupled to a fair degree of side support.
Four wheel drive on the fly is available via a dash mounted knob, with low range also part of the package. Power to all four wheels is available as soon as the knob is activated up to speeds of 120km/h, although selection of low range requires the vehicle to stop first.
The deep rear tub with its 1097kg carrying capacity reminds us that the BT50 is primarily a work vehicle – but one which can double as a great weekend and holiday tripper. At 1549mm long, 1500mm wide and 511mm deep, it will certainly do its job throughout the working week, and on the weekend it can swallow up a mountain of fishing and camping gear.
In many respects it’s the complete package given its endless safety features such as traction control, brake assist, ABS, EBD, and roll stability control.
The BT50 five cylinder engine is a powerful, smooth, and very reliable power plant. With variable vane turbo technology, peak torque comes in between 1750rpm and 2500rpm. This provides the vehicle with easy and seamless power as soon as the clutch was engaged.
Highway driving saw the engine virtually inaudible, with the lack of wind noise from the vehicle at speed also a very pleasant surprise. Pulling a boat up a ramp is never going to be a challenge thanks to the ease of slipping into 4WD and making use of the engine’s power.
Punting through city traffic was also easy going. The manual six-speed box was a bit glitchy and could not be hurried if you wanted to move to the next in line gear, but with that amount of power and torque on hand it was a breeze to overtake.
While cruising at highway speeds, the BT50 sat at 110km/h comfortably with the tacho just touching 2000rpm. I achieved an average fuel consumption of 10.2L/100km.
The leaf suspension at the rear of the Mazda was a little firm when unloaded but some weight in the rear tray soon settled it down quite well. I had no problems with the suspension set up for bitumen work but travel on some rougher back roads and gravel tracks left me with the impression that the BT50 coil-sprung double wish-bone front end and leaf spring rear suspension seemed a little out of whack at times with the vehicle becoming a bit unsettled through dips and over sharp rises.
It’s believed that Mazda have revised the front spring rating for longer travel and better on road comfort but there’s a need for another look at the set up. Mind you, this was a minor issue with what is a very good vehicle given it’s five star ANCAP rating. The BT50 sets new standards for one tonne utes.
The Mazda BT50 is a strong, capable, and effortless tourer that is just as good on road as off. Like the Ranger it sets new standards for one tonne utilities in many respects. It is a sheer pleasure being behind the wheel of such a good car.
Work or play, it’s a winner. Service intervals are 15,000km or twelve months, warranty is 3 years or 10,0000km.
Price for the XT dual cab 4x4 as reviewed is a very sharp $46,050 from Oldmac Mazda at Springwood on Brisbane’s south side.Reads: 4380