BT-50 one of the gooduns

Riley Riley

20180821 125514 EditedWhat is it?

Mazda’s new look, top of the line 4×4 dual cab ute.

The five-seat BT-50 3.2 GT is powered by a 3.2-litre five cylinder turbo diesel.

It’s just undergone a major upgrade with a front-end re-design and equipment added across grades to help bolster sales.

It is the second and most comprehensive update the ute has received since the current model was launched in 2011.

20180821 124959 EditedWhat’s it cost?

Prices start from $28,990 for the bare bones, 2.2-litre 4×2 single cab-chassis with manual transmission, a very different beast from the one we’re looking at here.

Sitting at the top of the BT-50 ladder, the GT comes with a bigger engine, 6-speed auto, back seat for the kids, a tub on the back and more of life’s little luxuries — and it would want to for almost $55,000 plus on-roads.

The GT features a chrome sports bar with integrated high-mounted LED stop light, a heavy-duty tub liner to protect the tub and tailgate, tailgate central locking to secure gear in the tray and single 12 volt auxiliary socket and light to aid visibility in the tub.

There’s also an Alpine audio system to replace the Ford Sync unit from the donor Ford Ranger, because this time around it’s the BT-50 that is based on the Ranger and not the other way around.

20180821 124425 EditedWhat’s it go like?

Dual cab utilities continue to grow in popularity and as they are often used as family transport, this has brought a big step forward in safety with some utes like the BT-50 earning five stars from ANCAP.

At the same time it misses out on the latest advances, such as blind spot alert, lane departure warning and the biggy — automatic emergency braking (AEB).

The main problem with utes per se is that they are what they are — high riding, work based utilities with heavy duty springs — and as such they feel, sound and perform like a truck (not a car).

So, if you’re considering investing in one, please bear this in mind.

The flipside of course is that you can take them places a car simply can’t go, especially 4×4 versions, and they’re particularly handy when it comes to collecting firewood or going to the tip — no more pressure backs with everyone watching.

I might add that at one time I was dead keen to buy a dual cab, but Mrs Riley said she wouldn’t be caught dead in one and that was the end of that.

Fast forward and I’ve driven plenty of utes since then, both on and extremely off the road — and they’re plenty of fun.

The BT-50 is one of the better ones, and feels a little more robust than some, with plenty of options in terms of accommodation, tubs and trays.

The 3.2-litre five cylinder diesel pumps out 147kW of power and 470Nm of torque from a low 1750 revs, and is mated to a 6-speed auto, with fuel consumption rated at a round 10.0L/100km.

It has a locking rear differential, can carry a 1039kg load and tow a 3.5-tonne braked trailer.

Starting is still accomplished by inserting a key and it gets out of the gates smartly enough, but is large and unwieldy with a poor turning circle that can making parking an issue — in fact its very size is problematic in tight carparks.

Out on the road the ride is twitchy, which becomes tiring after a while, while the steering is vague and requires constant correction.

There is by the way no reach adjustment for the steering wheel.

Throttle response sharpens up with application of the sport button that retards gear changes.

Like most of the popular utes, it’s fitted with discs at the front but the rear brakes are drums.

The GT gets a mix of real and faux leather, with two-zone climate air — but there’s no air vents for the kids in the back.

The seats aren’t particularly comfortable, more so in the back seat with it’s short base and upright seat back, which won’t worry the kids but could be an issue for older children.

Auto lights and an auto dimming rear view mirror are provided, but the wipers don’t activate automatically.

Which brings us to the Alpine audio unit which features anb 8.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, DAB digital radio, rear-view camera, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

While it’s better than the tiny unit they used to fit in the BT-50, it still looks and feels very much like the after market add-on that it is, with no obvious volume control.

A full size steel spare resides under the back, while the tailgate itself is heavy to open and close.

In terms of fuel consumption, we were getting 9.3L/100km after 540km.

alpineWhat we like?

  • Tough
  • Distinctive looks
  • Off road capable
  • Phone cubby at top of console
  • New five-year warranty

20180821 124208 EditedWhat we don’t like?

  • Big and truck like
  • Poor turning circle
  • Too big for some carparks
  • No reach adjust for steering wheel
  • Vague steering that needs constant correction
  • Aftermarket Alpine head unit
  • Misses out on latest safety advances

20180820 154246 EditedThe bottom line?

If you want a ute, the BT-50 is one of the better ones. It hasn’t enjoyed as much success as the donor Ford Ranger, with it shares its underpinnings, but that doesn’t mean anything. Maybe the revised front grille will do the job for Mazda — but I doubt it?


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Mazda BT-50 3.2 GT Dual Cab, priced from $54,990
  • Looks - 7.5/10
  • Performance - 7.5/10
  • Safety - 7.0/10
  • Thirst - 7.0/10
  • Practicality - 7.0/10
  • Comfort - 7.0/10
  • Tech - 7.0/10
  • Value - 7.0/10

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