THE MAZDA Bravo range of utes have been around for years now, and this model is the third of the Bravo range of 4x4s I've had the pleasure of testing. And, as is usually the case, they just seem to just get better and better.
The Bravo is a one tonne capacity ute, meant to work as well as play, and after testing it I'd rate this car as equally at home in either situation.
The new Bravo looks very good. The striking blue over silver paintwork of the test vehicle was eye-catching, and the exterior finish was very good – typically Mazda – with all panels nice and straight.
The revised body shape is nicely rounded, with proportions that blend in smooth lines, and the colour-matching canopy on the back helps to complete the picture of a neat vehicle. The canopy is part of the Bravo Plus package, along with the side steps, bull bar and air conditioning.
The stylish mag wheels fitted with the Michelin 15-inch tyres are also part of the SDX Bravo package, on which the Bravo ‘Plus’ is based. Also in the package are automatic free-wheeling hubs – virtually essential for any vehicle travelling off-road – power mirrors, and remote control keyless entry.
Inside the Bravo the joinery and general fitment of interior bits and pieces is of a high standard as well. I found that there was nothing loose, rattly or lopsided anywhere on the dash or around the gear lever console.
Notable interior features include well finished cloth trim seats, carpet throughout, power windows, a great stereo radio/cassette, and CD player with four speakers. The CD player is a six stacker and is located behind the rear seat backrest which pivots forward – and stays there very easily – to allow access.
Driving the Mazda Bravo Plus with its 2.5-litre inter cooled turbo charged engine was an enjoyable experience. The Bravo is a ‘proper’ four-wheel-drive, with low range (reduction) gear box and that all-important extra set of gears for when push turns to shove in the rough stuff. The five-speed manual gear change was one of the better ones I’ve used. There were no long lever movements between gears, no notchiness, glitches, or tendency to bind – just a nice sweet throw mated to a clutch that was very light yet precise.
The Bravo may have started life as a workhorse, but there’s nothing agricultural about the running gear, that’s for sure. My wife had a drive of the Bravo Plus while it was available, and she had nothing but praise for it.
I found the diesel engine to like a bit of a warm-up before hard work. This is not un-common in four-cylinder diesel engines, and once warmed up the unit was happy to do virtually anything asked of it. Certainly, the engine worked best when the turbo was doing its job, but for all that there wasn’t a great deal of turbo lag before power kicked in hard.
Maximum power for the Bravo diesel is 86kW at 3500rpm, while maximum torque is 280 Nm at 2000rpm. These are quite respectable figures for the indirect injection engine. The engine is also one of the quietest power plants in its class.
Around the city the Bravo was smooth and very tractable, on the open highway it was a smart little tourer, and off-road it was a capable four-wheel-drive. With 22cm of ground clearance, the Mazda can certainly travel off beaten tracks with ease. The ride is firm but not fierce. Independent double wishbone with torsion bar and double-action shockers are fitted up front, while leaf springs and double action shock absorbers are fitted at the rear. Like most leaf spring setups there can be some rebound on the rougher roads when the vehicle is empty, but a small load in the double-lined rear tray soon takes care of that.
On bitumen roads the ride is very good, with a suspension setup that’s very easy to live with. I'd see the Mazda Bravo Plus as an ideal family car for Mum, Dad, and a couple of kids. The bucket seats up front are very comfortable with a good degree of adjustment, while the comfortable bench seat in the back offers a lot of leg room plus room for three kids or two larger adults plus a youngster.
With fuel consumption figures of around nine litres per 100km during highway travelling, the 70-litre tank provides good distances between top-ups.
In all, the Mazda Bravo Plus is an ideal vehicle for the keen fisho. Finish is top shelf, performance is adequate, comfort levels are certainly there and the good looks complete the package. There is adequate ground clearance and true low range capability, which make it ideal for going up the beach or towing a boat up some of the awful ramps we have around the place! And that big canopy-enclosed rear cargo area is sure to be appreciated when it comes to holiday time.
The Mazda turbo-diesel Bravo Plus dual-cab is priced at approx. $46,620 (excludes on-road costs).
1) The Mazda made very easy work of towing this tinny.
2) A view of the dash layout and gear console of the Mazda Bravo. Finish is typically Mazda – very neat and everything in its place.
3) The Mazda Bravo is a very attractive unit. The bull bar is part of the Bravo ‘Plus’ package.Reads: 3808