Mazda’s new BT50 ute replaces and improves on the popular B-Series Ute. The new Mazda shares underpinnings and engines with the new Ford Ranger.
Buyers can choose from three body styles (single cab, freestyle cab and dual cab), 2.5 and 3.0-litre diesel engines, and two or four-wheel-drive variants.
We drove the top specification SDX 4WD dual cab equipped with standard five-speed manual gearbox. An auto is available on this variant for an extra $2000. BT50 buyers will need an extra $1862 for airconditioning.
The new 3.0-litre, turbocharged, intercooled diesel is a ripper and features variable turbo geometry for better torque characteristics. It performs well, feeling strong from 1500 rpm through to around 3800 rpm, close to its 4250 rpm redline.
On smoother roads, the SDX proved to be one of the better handling and more precise steering light commercials. The Mazda’s ride is pretty firm, meaning some loss of ride comfort over broken surfaces. Unladen, the leaf spring rear end tends to be a little wayward, especially on low grip surfaces such as dirt roads, and is likely to skip off line over rougher surfaces.
Brakes are on par with its peers but only SDX versions benefit from anti-lock technology. The umbrella-handle style handbrake is a serious touch of ‘yester-tech’ and there’s a tilt-only steering column.
The BT50 was adept off road, while the new MZR-CD engine makes easy work of tougher tracks. Steep off-road descents aren’t a hassle, thanks to good engine braking in low range.
As in some other light commercials, parents may find accessing the child restraints on the rear seat a drama though, given the one-piece folding backrest and the fixed head restraints over which the top tether strap must pass. When tensioned, it didn’t feel that reassuring either, with the headrest compressing below it.
The clear plastic dots under the tonneau cover shock-cord anchoring buttons are a nice touch on the deeper double-skinned tray sides. They prevent dust scratches in the exterior paint when securing the cover.
Mazda claims maximum towing mass has risen to 2500 kg for auto versions and 3000 kg for those with a manual gearbox.