Mazda BT-50: Safe but not so bold

Riley Riley

2021 Mazda BT 50 XT cab chassis 3

What is it?

You’re looking at the entry model to the Mazda BT-50 range, the XT Cab-Chassis with standard tray fitted.

I had to do a double take when I finally go to see the latest BT up close and personal because it looks so much like the last FG Falcon ute.

It’s adopted a softer, generic Mazda face, but I’m not sure that it works in this context and I firmly believe it is not the look ute buyers are hankering for.

The safety story however is a strong one, with eight airbags and auto emergency braking standard.

2021 Mazda BT 50 XT cab chassis 11

What’s it cost?

Prices kick off at $36,550 for the bare bones, 4×2 manual XT single cab-chassis without a tray. The 4×4 is priced from $41,550 — both figures before on roads.

An auto adds $2500 but comes with the 4×2, while a standard alloy tray adds $2470 to the price of either and because it fits perfectly and is warranted, represents pretty good value for money.

The car we’re looking at today is the 4×4 XT auto, priced from $46,990 driveaway if you have an ABN or are a primary producer — or $48,809 if you are neither of these.

Standard kit includes cloth trim and manual air conditioning, 17-inch alloys, carpeted floors, power windows, power adjust mirrors, LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam, reverse camera, 7.0-inch touchscreen, two-speaker audio with Bluetooth, DAB+ digital radio, Android Auto and Wireless Apple CarPlay — plus single USB and 12V outlets.

The safety package is extensive and earns the ute a five-star crash rating:

  • Eight airbags
  • Attention Assist
  • Autonomous Emergency Braking
  • Blind Spot Monitor
  • Emergency Lane Keeping Assist – Overtaking
  • Emergency Stop Signal
  • Automatic High Beam
  • Hill Descent Control
  • Hill Launch Assist
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Lane Departure Prevention
  • Lane-keep Assist System (automatic models)
  • Locking Rear Differential (4×4 models)
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Roll Over Protection
  • Secondary Collision Reduction
  • Speed Assist System
  • Traction Control System
  • Turn Assist

2021 Mazda BT 50 XT cab chassis 4

What’s it go like?

Like a rocket.

I kept have to check the speedo because every time I looked in the rear view mirror the rest of the traffic was a couple of hundred metres back.

The big thing with this model is the move away from Ford and the Ford Ranger with which the BT-50 once shared a platform.

Mazda has done a deal with Isuzu and this time around BT-50 is based on the D-Max utility and its 3.0-litre diesel powertrain.

Nothing wrong with that, but Mazda reportedly had little input into the design process and as a result the BT-50 is simply a reskinned version of D-Max — although that sounds a little unkind (not meant to be).

Weirdly though the design incorporates two tiny body coloured sections of bumper under the rear — just waiting to be damaged in our opinion.

The turbocharged 3.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine, which replaces the previous Ford 2.3-litre five cylinder unit, generates 140kW of power along and 450Nm of torque, the latter from 1600 to 2600 revs.

It’s hooked up to a 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto, with drive to the rear wheels during normal operation, or all four wheels in 4×4 mode.

The 4×4 is available with a choice of manual or auto, while the 4×2 is auto only. The 4×4 also comes with a locking rear differential, designed to stop the rear tyre spin normally associated with utes in tight cornering.

The switch to 4×4 is via a rotary knob on the lower part of the console, with a decent 235mm of ground clearance and a wading depth of 800mm.

Ranger is noted for its excellent ride quality, but the feel in the BT-50, at least this particular model, is hard, truck-like and unforgiving, designed as it is to carry a load rather than cosset passengers.

Put something sizeable in the back and it will probably ride a whole lot better.

Oh, and the brakes are touchy.

This model can carry tow 3500kg and can carry an 1186kg payload, with the standard alloy tray that measures 2550 x 1777mm with 255mm drop sides.

The large touchscreen looks impressive, but the actual viewing area is only 7.0 inches and it is not particularly responsive and could do with a physical volume control.

Android Auto refused to connect, or at least stay connected for more than a few seconds, and so we were left without navigation. Apple uses gets wireless CarPlay.

Digital radio reception is terrible. Hint extend the rooftop antenna. Better but still not the best.

Fuel consumption for all models is a claimed 8.0L/100km. We were getting 8.7L/100km.

2021 Mazda BT 50 XT cab chassis 6

What we like?

  • Don’t mind the styling (can’t speak for tradies)
  • Powerful responsive engine
  • Digital speedo
  • Rear diff lock
  • Large tray
  • Active cruise control (tradie text friendly?)

2021 Mazda BT 50 XT cab chassis 1

What we don’t like?

  • Poor unladen ride quality
  • Terrible digital radio reception
  • No built-in satellite navigation
  • Nanny control prevents operation of touchscreen functions on the move
  • Couldn’t get Android Auto to connect
  • Limited cabin storage
  • USB port wouldn’t charge phone

2021 Mazda BT 50 XT cab chassis 5

The bottom line?

It’s good, especially in the all-important safety stakes.

You can argue the toss over the price which is $50K by the time you get it on the road, without any extras.

But the bottom line, at least as far as Mazda is concerned, is it good enough to knock off the rampaging Ford Ranger — that ironically it was the launch platform for.

The short answer to that question is NO. It’s gone from a “bolder” looking BT-50 that was introduced last year, to the adoption of a rounder, softer family face — and that is NOT what buyers in this segment.

It’s all about being BIG, BOOFY and BLACK (are you listening, Mazda?)

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Mazda BT-50 XT 4x4 cab-chassis, priced from $44,020
  • Looks - 7/10
  • Performance - 8/10
  • Safety - 8/10
  • Thirst - 8/10
  • Practicality - 7.5/10
  • Comfort - 6/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
  • Value - 7.5/10