Boys love their toys and to be honest I’m no different. Consequently there’s something plaguing my DNA that induces a significant kick out of driving life sized adults only Tonka trucks like the Mazda BT-50 XTR.
The Mazda BT-50 XTR is the latest 4X4 pickup to squeeze into the EFTM garage. Our test vehicle was smothered in striking metallic Aurora Blue which makes the already daringly styled Mazda balance precariously on the edge of completely berserk.
There’s plenty of creature comforts in XTR spec. Dual zone climate control, Bluetooth Streaming, a basic voice recognition system, satellite navigation and cruise control.
Pay a little extra for the GT and further luxury is added such as leather seats, dusk sensing headlights, auto dimming rear-view mirror with reversing camera, eight-way power adjusted driver’s seat, and rain sensing wipers.
Mazda’s latest contribution to the tradie brigade is simply a re-skinned Ford Ranger. Far from being a crime, EFTM along with the rest of the motoring world regard the Ford Ranger as the current benchmark in this segment. There are in total 14 BT-50 models on offer.
THE BIG QUESTION
The BT-50 has copped the “Zoom Zoom” treatment and consequently there’s quite a number of unique features.
Firstly let’s start with the gigantic elephant sitting in the room. Is the BT-50 ugly?
Well it’s an enormous departure from what a traditionally large macho truck should look like. A bunch of Japanese designers have really gone out on a limb here to sex it up a bit.
What they’ve done instantly makes it obvious this particular light truck belongs to the Mazda tribe. However stealing the face of a Mazda 6 and smearing it all over the front of a Ford Ranger is a little regrettable.
Initially I cringed every time it peered like a peeping tom through the lounge room window at me. Then at the shops I’d see it towering above the weakling assortment of sedans and be left somewhat satisfied.
By about day eight I came to the following conclusion: the Mazda BT-50 is deceptively good looking. I hope you can decipher that statement, it’s the best I can do. It turns heads, for better or worse. I think it has personality, the U word is an unfair accusation.
Polarising looks aside and after very recently spending some quality time in Holden’s Colorado EFTM can faithfully report that the BT-50 XTR as with the Ranger is several notches above GM’s global ute.
There’s an increasing trend for light trucks of this nature to deploy passenger car like attributes. However EFTM’s Trevor Long summed it up best when he reviewed the BT-50’s donor car the Ford Ranger recently.
“Don’t be fooled by anyone who tells you this has a ‘car-like’ feel to it on the road.”
Something that weighs a tick over two tonnes and stands this tall will never steer and corner like a family sedan. However once ensconced behind the small sporty wheel and having cast your eyes over the cockpit it’s a pleasant surprise to be confronted with a car like interior. In fact it’s the best available in this category, barring a few plastics pulled from the cheap bin.
A 3.2 litre in-line 5-cylinder inter-cooled turbo diesel produces 147Kw with 470Nm of torque. It’s an exceptionally strong unit and far more refined then the still very capable 2.8 litre found in the Holden Colorado. It’s towing ability is rated at 3350kg, slightly down on the Holden’s class leading 3500kg. A smooth shifting six speed auto never falters and perfectly complements the package. It’s tuned differently to its Ford counterpart, torque arrives a little later and it doesn’t quite have that initial V8 surge the Ranger packs.
In terms of handling the BT-50 is a much firmer proposition then its donor Ranger. In an attempt to instil some of that famous “Zoom Zoom” the unique Mazda calibrated suspension is a little hypersensitive. It’s uncomfortably restless over even the slightest imperfections. The outcome however is sharp and precise steering, it corners better the a Ranger and absolutely slays the Colorado in this department.
When unladen and combined with wet conditions things can get a little perilous. The rear end easily strays off course if corners are attacked with excess gusto. Thankfully the now compulsory safety net computer systems will usually save the day. No doubt a couple of tool boxes thrown it the back would anchor things down a little.
Off road and as expected the Mazda can traverse just about anything thrown at it. On the fly 4H is available with a turn of a knob, and Hill Decent control makes life a breeze when navigating down near cliffs. The 800mm wading ability is pretty significant, although don’t become recklessly over confidant!
The rear tub is enormous and appropriately deep, it conveyed a payload of tree trimmings I thought would require two trips to the tip with ease. The rear tailgate is strong and more then able to accommodate a large adult standing on it. Speaking of the rear, as with its face things get a little awkward again. The rear angular tail lights sit quite high and wrap themselves around the corners of the tray on the rear side panels. The Ranger stylists have opted for a more simple but attractive vertical stack.
Profile wise things are ok, however there’s something a little Mitsubishi Triton about the C pillar.
At $50,810 the BT-50 XTR is a great machine, it also undercuts the $53,390 Ranger XLT price wise. If you can suck it in and handle the looks then go for it!
But it may be a case of taking one for the team.