11 July 2016
Diesel Talk | Richard Edwards
While the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux continue to make the headlines in the market, we continue to be spoilt by a wealth of pick-up offerings in the market.
The Mazda BT-50 - being the engineering twin of the Ranger - is one of those left plodding away mid-market.
Possibly lower down the rank than it really ought to be.
The Thai-built Mazda ute had a mid-life update in the third quarter of last year, but nowhere near the level of the upgraded Ford Ranger and that means both good and bad things.
The BT-50 retains its grin - it's a rather dominating design feature. It's been softened and the headlights a little better blended, but it is still polarising.
Inside there is little change - a facsimile of Mazda's last generation passenger car interior but in harder-wearing commercial materials. It is pleasant but hardly industry-leading.
Technology - in comparison to some in the marketlets the Mazda down a little.
It retains its inherited Sync 1 system, which is functional but a little clunky. And in a world where the average tradie is likely carrying at least one heavily-relied on mobile, and probably a tablet, having just one USB, found awkwardly at the top of the glovebox. makes it far harder to stay charged up on the go.
Mechanically, it is unchanged, and that is where the positive side of the equation comes in. Where the Ranger gets electricallyassisted power steering the Mazda retains a good oldfashioned hydraulic setup - and all the better for it. Yes, it means no chance of the lane-change assist and other features the Ford gets, but it means a more direct, more responsive steer.
That accompanies what I think is one of the best-handling setups of any ute currently on the market. Laden with three people, luggage, and a few race-car spares on board, the BT-50 was car-like in its drive and quite happy to be hustled along.
The 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel continues to be a gem with its 147kW of power and 470Nm of torque from a stump-grinding 1750 rpm.
Trade practicalities include low-set handy tie downs in the tray, but no standard liner - perfect for dealer profit but not necessarily the best for the ute or the client - or intelligent racking systems. There is a notched step in the side bumpers for stepping into the tray.
The lack of tech and tray niceties may appeal to some - a cleaner base to accessorise from when choosing options at the dealership. Not to mention the Mazda brand is riding a wave of positive intent at the moment, and some may like their included servicing plans.
The new GSX model (as tested) inherits most of the equipment from the previous Limited minus the leather upholstery, electric seat adjustment for the driver, electrically folding mirrors, and side mirror indicator repeaters.
It offers tubular side steps, auto-dimming rear view mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, and auto on/off headlamps.
This model grade also receives an upgraded infotainment unit and includes Sat Nav, a reversing camera, and rear parking sensors.
All BT-50 model grades receive cruise control, Bluetooth, power windows and mirrors, air-conditioning, and a whole suite of safety technologies including ABB, DSC, EBD, EBA, ESS, HLA, LAC, RSC, TCS, and TSC.
A locking rear differential for further traction in slippery terrain is standard.
The range starts at $35,295 for the GLX single cab/chassis 4?2 manual and tops out at $57,295 for the GSX double cab well-side 4?4 automatic, as tested here.
Mazda New Zealand offers capped service prices of $200 plus GST through its Mazda Commercial Care package, roadside assistance and a three-year 150,000km warranty, which is the most generous in the segment.
Yes, the Ranger is the star in the market, and the Hilux the hard worker. But in our opinion, if you like a good driving experience as well, the BT-50 should not be forgotten.