Mazda BT-50: ready for work, play or the opera


What is it?

What is it with the prizefighter face?

There are two strong utes on the market, same size, same engine, same factory, different make-up.

The one that looks as if it’s ready to take on Mike Tyson is a major seller and the second most popular vehicle on the market, while the Clark Kent one doesn’t even come within cooee of the top 10.

Yet, now with a ‘new look’ face, Clark, aka Mazda BT-50, and other improvements, it adds up to a much better buy.

It’s a fair bit less pricey (think around -$10K in some models) and the latest one has a lot of added items, including extended service intervals, a longer warranty, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera and some subtle styling changes in its most comprehensive update since its launch in 2011.

The smiling grille is unique to Australia, was locally designed, and claims to channel more cooling air to the five-cylinder 3.2litre diesel than before.


What’s it cost?

BT-50s come in a bonkers big range – 23 of them – so you can spend weeks figuring on whether you want a single cab-chassis 4×2 with 2.2-litre motor and six-speed manual at $28,990, or upgrade to a $51,990 3.2-litre dual cab automatic GT 4×4, or settle for something in-between.

The 4×4 models start from $37,990, and all the prices are drive-away.

There’s a variety in cab-chassis, Freestyle, single or dual cab and in XT, XTR or GT spec and in manual or auto.

We got an XTR 4X4 dual cab, which came with a six-speed self-shifter and a sticker price of $48,990.

Hop in behind the wheel and what you get is a far cry from the ute of yesteryear.

This one comes with SUV-like looks and feel, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, satnav with live traffic updates, an auto dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers, steering wheel-mounted audio controls – and what an audio system it has: a top-quality Alpine, no less.

The XTR also has bright side steps and a tailgate lock.

It has a big cabin with loads of room for two front and three back seat occupants, with wide-opening doors and easy slide-in access for old fogeys.

Oh yes, forgot it’s a ute.


What’s it go like?

It has a quite big tub for your tools, goods, beer or whatever you need a ute tray for and the cargo bit obviously varies depending on your choice of cab.

The XTR’s business end measured 1560x1549x513mm, pretty close to a big square.

It’s powered by the well-proven 147kW/470Nm five-pot, 3.2-litre turbo-diesel, which is strong enough to pull a stranded army tank and it can propel the big 2000kg machine to 100km/h in about 13 seconds.

It doesn’t consume much fuel either.

That, of course, depends largely on what it’s harnessed for.

If you attach a disc harrow to plough your corn field it will obviously be in low range 4WD all the time, and drink like a dragon at a brewery, but ours was employed as a suburban family-cum-business vehicle and our travels included a 200km stint into the country, so we were pretty impressed with a 10.4L/100km reading.

If you need to drag a trailer or an army tank, well the BT-50 has a towing capacity of 3500kg (braked), 750kg (unbraked).

It drives well, with seats comfortable enough for all day behind the wheel and that diesel clatter all but disappears once you close the doors, then turn up the Alpine thingo for complete audio euphoria.

The ride is also impressive, with the long wheelbase and 17-inch alloys plus the double wishbone front, and leaf-sprung rear suspension providing good compliance on most surfaces.

Steering’s good too.

The BT-50 has a five-star safety rating, with airbags all over the show as well as ABS, dynamic stability control, hill descent control, hill launch assist, a locking rear diff, traction control and trailer sway control .

The warranty has gone from two to three years and servicing intervals have been extended from 10,000 to 15,000km/12 months.

Mazda says the savings can amount to $1920 over five years.


What we like?

  • The ‘new look’
  • Sharp price
  • Great standard features
  • Strong performance
  • Frugal fuel use
  • Driveability


What we don’t like?

  • Big bugger to park


The bottom line?

A tough, capable workhorse smart enough to take milady to the opera in, and at its price, definitely worth a good look.

It was Clark Kent, not Mike Tyson, who won the approval of Lois Lane. And as everyone knows, she’s one sharp lass.

CHECKOUT: Bolder BT-50 – but has Mazda done enough?

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Mazda BT-50 XTR 4X4 dual cab ute, priced from $48,990
  • Looks - 7.5/10
  • Performance - 8/10
  • Safety - 8/10
  • Thirst - 8/10
  • Practicality - 7.5/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
  • Tech - 8/10
  • Value - 8.5/10

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