The Mazda BT-50 could be considered an underrated 4X4 ute compared to the market-dominating Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger. The extra cab Freestyle XTR has a fold-down rear seat and extra storage space in the cabin. It has a huge tray and its gutsy 5-cylinder turbo diesel engine performs well on- and off-road.
- The BT-50 has a truck-like maximum tow capacity of 3500kg and can carry a class-leading 1427kg in its substantial 1549mm x 1560mm cargo area.
- It handles well despite being more pick-up truck than ute. The leaf-spring suspension feels a little spongy but comfortable, and the steering is smooth.
- The 3.2-litre five-cylinder intercooled turbo diesel gives it plenty of grunt – the 6-speed automatic version we tested took off surprisingly well from a standing start.
- It’s a good off-road performer too, helped by the 237mm empty ground clearance, big 17-inch stock tyres and traction control system.
- The interior finish manages to balance blue-collar ruggedness with the passenger-car refinement. It feels like an SUV, but you won’t feel compelled to take your work boots off before climbing in. The front seats only have basic adjustments, but are comfortable, with long-lasting back support and leg room is excellent.
- Technology includes a 7.8-inch touch screen, with the usual phone and entertainment options, and a trip computer. It has a reverse camera though the image is shown in the rear view mirror. The XTR comes with inbuilt urban and off-road satnav, which can be downloaded in lower-spec models. On the safety side it has an emergency stop signal (to help avoid being rear-ended) and trailer sway control.
- Pricing is pretty reasonable. The top-spec BT-50 Freestyle XTR retails at $49,975 (or $47,675 for the manual). That’s $2000 less than the comparable Toyota HiLux SR5 4x4 Extra-Cab, which has a smaller engine and manual transmission.
- The BT-50 is pretty thirsty compared to its competitors with a published combined economy figure of 8.9L/100km. WhichCar averaged 10.8L/100km during a week of testing.
- The rear seats in the Freestyle 4X4 cab are rudimentary, and you wouldn’t want to sit in them for a long drive. They feel like a park bench and have minimal leg room. Best look at the dual cab if you carry more than one passenger often.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
As far as extra-cab utes go, the Ford Ranger Super Cab is the most obvious as it shares the same basic platform and engine as the BT-50 Freestyle, but has been further refined both in terms of styling and performance. Other contenders include the Toyota HiLux Extra Cab, Nissan Navara RX King Cab and Isuzu D-Max Space Cab. The BT-50 provides a good-value option against each of them.
Click here to read the full review on the Mazda BT-50 range.