2016 Mazda BT-50, 4X4 Australia

2016 Mazda BT-50

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Mazda has given the BT-50 one-tonner a facelift to address the main concerns of 4×4 ute buyers.

Primarily, the switches centre on styling and toning-down the grinning grille that turned many buyers away from the nevertheless popular model.

Outside, a fresh grille, headlights, bumper and taillights are the most evident additions, while inwards a fresh and more functional centre stack on XTR and GT models is a yam-sized step forward for the mid-life model.

The fresh, stronger-looking face of the BT-50 does away with the orange indicator lenses that previously exaggerated the swept-back look of the ‘eyes’ and substitutes them with clear lenses over dark housings, with darker finishes on the fresh grille.

The switches are designed to give a more horizontal look than that of the old model, which has the appearance of a girl’s face with her ponytail pulled too taut. Other exterior switches include fresh taillights with darker crimson lenses and no chrome trims, fresh alloy wheel designs, and tubular side steps on XTR and GT models.

The top-spec variants are the ones to benefit most on the inwards. While the XT retains the old centre stack with its plethora of petite buttons and no A/V screen, the XTR and GT get a fresh stack featuring a 7.8-inch HD touch screen with all the controls you need, including the sat-nav which, in a very first for a production vehicle, is available with utter HEMA off-road maps as a $295 option.

The BT-50 4×4 range proceeds, as before, with XT, XTR and GT specifications – single-cab, freestyle-cab and double-cab bods – and the choice of ute or cab-chassis. There are thirteen 4×4 models in the range.

The engine remains the Three.2-liter five cylinder turbodiesel backed by either a six-speed manual or auto transmission. The engine makes 147kW at 3000rpm and 470Nm from 1750rpm to 2500rpm as it did before, and is unchanged, unlike the similar engine in the Ford Ranger that has benefitted from some improvements to refinement.

The drive train resumes to employ part-time 4×4 with low range plus a rear diff lock that is standard on all 4×4 variants. The Two.2L four-cylinder diesel is only available in the 4×2 BT-50 models.

Like Ford, Mazda has also improved the shift quality of the six-speed manual behind the Three.Two. The fresh short-stroke shift is much more direct and positive than the vague shifter in the old model, making the manual much more pleasant to drive and will ensure it’s the transmission of choice for those who love the control and connectivity of rowing their own ratios, and a better/lower crawl ratio.

As more manufacturers switch to smaller capacity engines for their 4x4s, the Three.2L engine used by Mazda and Ford will find favour with many buyers who like the feel of fatter engines and the way they supply their torque.

In the BT-50, the engine is glad to lope along at a relaxed gait, only breathing intensely if you put your foot down. It’s well matched to both the manual and auto transmissions, whatever your choice. The updates to the interior of the top-spec versions also make the BT-50 an lighter car to live with. The fresh dash is far more practical, usable and more in-line with the high-spec levels of utes these days.

The BT-50 has always been a fine value for money package, but many would-be buyers couldn’t get over the styling. The value proceeds, with only an incremental rise in price on some variants, and these are made up for with the added features on the XTR and GT models. With the fresh look, we’re sure many buyers will make the most of the value.

The mid-spec XTR is the model that will appeal to most recreational 4x4ers and it includes in its standard kit: a rear diff lock, trailer sway control, 17-inch alloy wheels, and dual-zone climate control. It now also adds a reversing camera, tubular side steps, auto dimming mirrors, rain sensing wipers, and auto headlamps. The top of the range GT also gets heated exterior mirrors that fold and have embedded indicators, plus privacy glass on the rear windows.

Even in GT trim, the Mazda doesn’t have the refinement and features of some other top-spec utes, but it doesn’t have the $60K price tag either. It actually leaves room for Mazda to introduce a higher-spec model to cater to the lucrative top-of-the-range ute buyers.

As it is, the BT-50 range is modest and targeted to the majority of buyers, both private and fleet buyers, with Mazda hoping to pick up more sales in the fleet segment.

Mazda BT-50 4×4 XTR double-cab

Gearbox: 6-speed automatic or manual

4X4 System: Part-time 4×4 with low range. Selectable rear diff lock.

Construction: Figure on framework

Front suspension: Independent with coil springs

Rear suspension: Live-axle on leaf springs

Wheel and tyre spec: seventeen x 8” alloys with 265/65-R17 tyres

ADR fuel consumption*: 9.2L/100km

*Australian Design Rule ‘Combined-Cycle’ claim

Mazda BT-50 4×4 range and prices

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