When it comes to BT-50 sales, Australia has been a happy hunting ground for Mazda with around 50,000 of the current generation finding homes since release in 2011.
Late last year, Mazda gave the BT a mid-life refresh, as did Ford with the Ranger, a model that shares its basics with the BT-50. But despite the shared DNA, the series II upgrades to both makes bring increased differentiation.
Cosmetic changes to the bodywork, especially around the grille and front end, mean the latest BT-50’s looks are less polarising, a point acknowledged by Mazda.
Equipment levels have also been upgraded and inevitably modest price rises ($40 to $810, model-dependent) have resulted.
Series II standard extras for the mid-spec XTR, now $810 dearer, include tubular side-steps, auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, auto on/off headlights, and a 7.8” high-definition infotainment display with navigation.
A small reverse camera integrated into the interior mirror is now standard on the XTR and GT, or can be had as an $820 stand-alone option on other specifications. Only the top-spec Ranger Wildtrak comes with a standard camera, and for XLT models it is part of the $1100 Tech Pack option.
However, Mazda doesn’t offer other driver assistance technologies also found in Ford’s well-priced Tech Pack, namely forward collision alert, driver impairment monitor, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise, and lane keep assist. Despite this, BT-50 buyers still will have a five-star ANCAP crash-rated ute.
The BT offers solid virtues that have made it popular with Aussie buyers. The gutsy, five-cylinder turbo-diesel delivers excellent low- and mid-range torque, right where you need it in a vehicle designed to tackle tougher off-road conditions
Equipped with a rear diff-lock, hill-descent control and low range, the BT-50 is no shrinking violet when the going gets rough. Mazda offers XTR and top-spec GT buyers HEMA off-road mapping for the navigation system as a $295 option.
Despite plenty of recent new arrivals in the segment, the BT remains one of the class benchmarks. Unladen ride can feel a bit harsh and jiggly at times but, that aside, its dynamics are more sophisticated than expected in a light truck.
Mazda has stuck with hydraulic power steering, which remains well-weighted and consistent.