In early 2013 we got our hands on the Mazda BT-50 XTR, one of the new generation of dual-cabs that appease not only the tradies but also keep Mum, Dad and the kids happy. But given the capabilities these types of vehicles have we thought we’d really put the joint Ford / Mazda creation to work. So Chris Bowen was sent on assignment and beach driving, water-wading and a full load of camping gear ensued!
Put To The Test.
A payload capacity of 1,097kg and space for 1,214-litres in the tray proved more than enough for my version of camping, or if you prefer glamping. My campsite paraphernalia has exploded in recent years, now nothing short of a seven-seat SUV with 2nd and 3rd row seats folded down or a dual-cab will make the cut. A four person dome tent, large gazebo, three Eskys, enough water for four days, camping stove, various items of furniture plus any number of other creature comforts really push the boundaries. In short the BT-50 was stacked to the hilt.
We headed for Forster-Tuncurry on the NSW Mid North Coast, a tedious four-hour drive up the now entirely dual-carriage Pacific Highway. For a light truck the Mazda is exceptionally comfortable and adept at dealing with long stretches at highway speeds. Sure it’s still some way off mimicking a family sedan but instead packs more of a large SUV feel. The BT-50 sports a relatively quiet cabin, with unexpected attention to detail when it comes to the dash layout and interior quality. In my opinion it’s only just pipped by the Volkswagen Amarok in the dual-cab opulent stakes.
At cruising speeds it’s a relaxed, confident performer. With added weight on board the BT-50 drives reassuringly well with a very robust attitude. Overtaking is effortless with a strong and willing 3.2-litre diesel ready to pull you along with ease. The Active Adaptive Shift technology fitted to the six-speed automatic cleverly shifts down a gear or two helping to maintain downhill speeds.
But it’s off the highway and onto the vast stretches of beaches and inland 4×4 tracks that a vehicle of this nature excels. With tyre pressures at the appropriate PSI the BT-50 seems almost unstoppable within reason. Torrential rain in the region turned the sandy tracks behind Nine Mile Beach into two foot deep rivers. At varying stages we found ourselves in an almost endless stretch of up to the wheel arches torrents of water. Peace of mind in these conditions is guaranteed with an 800mm water-wading rating. With 4H engaged and beefy levels of torque on offer the BT-50 just kept ploughing on and on. At a completely stock level, the Mazda still offers enough suspension travel and clearance to tackle anything thing this writer was prepared to throw at it.
Unladen the Mazda BT-50 is a little jittery with its rear leaf suspension best suited for a load on board. Back on the wet asphalt it pays to be a little cautious, the punchy torque on offer makes its very easy to get the tail wagging before the traction control intervenes.
Ins And Outs
A 3.2 litre in-line 5-cylinder inter-cooled turbo diesel produces 147Kw with 470Nm of torque, the latter arriving at 1,750 – 2,500rpm. It’s an exceptionally strong unit and far more refined than offerings from the likes of Toyota and Holden. A smooth shifting six speed auto rarely falters and perfectly complements the package. It’s tuned differently to its Ford counterpart, torque arrives a little later and doesn’t quite have that initial V8-like surge the Ranger packs. Manual mode is handy for applying a little extra engine braking when required.
A 5-inch LED screen houses the satellite navigation system and displays telephone and audio information. The audio system itself is above average with six-speakers and impressive sound quality. Dual-zone air condition, cruise control and sport cloths seats give the XTR added appeal.
The one thing I can’t cop about the Mazda BT-50 is the front end styling, with its awkward boomerang look grill it’s just not what a pickup should look like! We look forward to updated styling coming soon.
There are airbags all round with curtain airbags that extend to the rear seats, towing capacity equals that of many in the class at 3,500kg.
The Tech Inside.
Technology and dual-cabs haven’t exactly gone hand in hand over the years, but that was the dark ages. There’s satellite navigation, albeit via a rather crude and small screen, full Bluetooth connectivity and even voice recognition for some controls. In addition to the usual stability control systems you also score Hill Decent Control, Hill Launch Assist, Load Adaptive Control, Roll Stability Control and Trailer Sway Control. All these systems combine to overcome what would normally be a large, ungainly chunk of metal for the average driver. The four-wheel-drive system is activated on the fly with the push of a button. 4H can be selected at speeds up to 120 km/h and 4L can be selected after stopping and shifting to neutral. An electronic Locking Rear Differential is provided for extra traction on 4×4 models, handy for when you really get stuck in a quagmire.
The Hip Pocket
Before on roads the Mazda BT-50 XTR auto is priced from $50,890. Fuel economy is impressive with a claimed figure of 9.2L/100km that’s actually achievable. During our test I managed dead on 10.0L/100km, pretty good considering the cargo being carried and the off-road work. Warranty extends to 3 years/100,000 kilometres or 2 years/unlimited kilometres.
EFTM Rubber Stamp
The Mazda BT-50 is right at the pinnacle for attempting a car-like interior and layout, which makes it immediately appealing to me. The distinct cockpit-style driving position and separate but symmetrical seating up front just about dispenses with the whole light-truck feel. Sure you may need to tick the Mazda bull bar option to cover up that face but all in all it’s a great, versatile, efficient and competent piece of machinery. We award the Mazda BT-50 XTR the EFTM Credit Rubber Stamp.