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Date: 27 Nov 2017 Author Type: Public Review
Author: Julian Lurie Edited by Liam Mothilall
Source: Julian Lurie Edited by Liam Mothilall
The KODO design inspired Mazda BT-50 was first introduced to the South African market in 2012. It was launched as an “Active Lifestyle Vehicle” with modern and refined styling that defied the conventional work-horse image of a bakkie. The new BT-50 is sourced from Thailand. Recently I had the pleasure of renewing my acquaintance with the new BT-50 when I spent an enjoyable few days with the Double Cab 3.2 litre 4x4 6-speed automatic, with the Drifter package, on test. Whereas most pick-ups and double cabs are boxy, with perhaps a few rounded corners, it is refreshing to see that the new redesigned Mazda BT-50 has put some style into the segment, giving a sportier and more powerful presence than before. The derivative we feature in these road impressions is the Mazda BT-50 Double Cab 3.2L 4x4 6AT SLE.

Looked at from the front, the new 2017 Mazda BT-50 can be recognized by its newly designed front face, it’s tough looking bulbar and front fog lamps. Viewed from the sides, the sporty 5-hole aluminum wheels, which on the press vehicle were shod with Dunlop 265/65R17 All- Terrain tyres, contribute to the high ground clearance. Getting in and out however, is made easy by the side steps, grab handles mounted low on the “A” pillar and another four grab-handles above the side windows. At the rear, just behind the cab window, is a substantial cab protector bar, a black rear bumper with a built-in step with a tow-hitch below, while the unique horizontally-aligned rear combination lamps are quite sporty in design. The load-box volume is more than generous, and a tonneau cover is available as an option.

The interior has also been refined to give a higher-quality feel with the addition of Bluetooth, steering wheel switches, cruise control, a rear-view camera incorporated into the auto diming interior mirror and electric driver seat adjustment, and “hill launch assist.” The new Mazda BT-50 3.2L DE SLE comes standard with a full house of luxury and convenience features which includes; leather seats, a leather gear lever, dual zone automatic air conditioning, Integrated Audio system, tailgate lock, electric adjustable mirrors, auto on/off headlamps, rain sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, electrical driver lumbar support, which all adds up to a high-quality and well-designed interior. The front seats; long in the squab and generously proportioned are comfortable on road and off road, and combined with generous head- and shoulder room, proved to be comfortable, and not at all tiring on the long runs. The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable, but surprisingly, the steering column can only be adjusted for rake and not for reach. The rear bench seat will comfortably accommodate three adults and there are three headrests.

Space in the rear of the double cab is also much improved and three adults are comfortably accommodated on the wide bench seat. For the storage of oddments, there are four door pockets, two beverage holders, a sunglass holder, a lidded box between the front seats, and a smallish cubby.

The Mazda BT-50 incorporates all the safety features that you would expect in a fully-loaded passenger vehicle. Active safety begins with good all-round visibility and operability, excellent braking performance, and a full range of vehicle control technologies. Passive safety features include six airbags, shock-absorbing steering column and a crushable brake pedal to protect the driver. It has all the electronic driver aids including; an electronic locking diff, ABS backed up by Dynamic Stability Control, Load Adaptive Control, Hill Launch Assist, Trailer Sway Assist, Traction Control and Roll-Over Mitigation.

The Mazda BT-50 3.2L DE SLE 4x4 6 speed automatic is powered by a 5-cylinder turbo-charged multi-valve diesel engine, built locally by Ford. It pushes out a healthy 147 kW at 3 000 rpm and max torque of 470 Nm from 1 750 - 2 500 rpm and mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual override. Mazda claims a fuel consumption figure for the auto of just 9.7 lt/100 km, but the trip recorder on the press vehicle gave me a figure of 11.2 lt/100km. In performance tests, holding the gear till the 4 400 rpm red line before changing up to the next, it did the 0 to 100 km/h sprint in a reasonable 12.8 seconds after two gear changes and a top speed of around 180 km/h. Driving the Mazda BT-50 4x4 is quite a pleasure as despite its size, the steering is well weighted, the turning radius good, and with the rear parking sensors, it’s fairly easy to handle in confined spaces.

The Port Elizabeth made diesel engine is a gem. Yes, there is some diesel rattle at idle and at parking speeds, but once on the road it becomes really quiet in the cab. On the open road, the 3.2 motor has ample reserves of power and the BT-50 cruises comfortably at the legal limit with the motor revolving at a lazy 2 100 rpm at a steady 120 km/h in 6th gear. Hills are taken in its stride and quick, safe overtaking is easily achieved by dropping a gear and flooring the accelerator. Meanwhile in the cab, things are pretty quiet. A little bit of engine noise does seep into the cab at high speeds on tarred roads, but other than that it was quiet with no intrusive tyre or wind noise.

I took it on a short stretch of poor surfaced gravel road, and was suitably impressed by the supple ride and good road holding, and that was without a load aboard. For off-road excursions, the selector knob in the floor console offers a choice of travelling in 2-wheel high, 4-wheel high and for really tough conditions select 4-wheel low. I took the BT-50 to my usual off-road course for testing. I selected 4-wheel low, and although , the course is not extreme, it never-the-less showed that the BT-50 is extremely capable in the rough, and with its high ground clearance, it just walked over all the obstacles with ease, while on the gravel stretch getting there, the BT-50 4x4 sits firmly and squarely on the ground.

In summary, the smooth-revving 3.2 turbo-diesel is one of the best I’ve tested. Vibration and harshness is well isolated from the interior, the double cab is car-like to drive, and the ride comfort is good. The recommended retail selling price for the Mazda BT-50 3.2L DE SLE 6-speed Automatic 4X4 is R555 700 and that includes the BT-50 Mazda Care plan of a 3-year unlimited kilometer factory warranty, 3-year service plan and 3-year roadside assistance.
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