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2018 Mazda BT-50 receives fresh front-end treatment

By Tristan Tancredi, 27 Apr 2018 News

mazda bt 50 rolling

Mazda's BT-50 gets a fresh facelift in an attempt by the Japanese manufacturer to stay relevant in the hotly-contested dual-cab ute space

IN AN attempt to remain relevant in a booming dual-cab market, Mazda Australia went to its bosses in Japan with plans to upgrade the front-end of its ageing BT-50 workhorse.

Japan HQ ticked off the idea and provided Mazda Australia with the technical requirements the new BT-50 must meet, and Mazda Australia went to work redesigning the outgoing model’s front fascia, with the intention of adding sharper style lines and crisp corners for a more rowdy look.

“First and foremost what we wanted to do was freshen it up. We all know cars age and design moves on,” Alastair Doak, Mazda Australia’s marketing director, said. “Given this is a ute and it’s the only ute we have, we had to evolve the design of the front-end. We wanted to essentially give the car a broader stance.”

READ NEXT: BMW Australia pushing hard for premium ute of its own

To this end, the grille and bumper were redesigned to catch up to market expectations of what a dual-cab ute should look like in Australia: aggressive, strong and with a wide stance. Spearheaded by Doak, the new-look BT-50 was designed locally, exclusively for the Australian market.

What’s new? The upswept lines of the previous model are no more, with the implementation of horizontal lines more befitting of a tough ute.

New squared-off edges also give the ute more of an on- and off-road presence. Straight lines feature prominently in the newly designed fog-light surrounds and trapezoidal lower section.

The lower-spec XT range gets satin black grille fins and a black-grained bumper insert; while the GT and XTR grades get chrome grille fins and a dark grey bumper insert; with the chrome meeting Mazda Japan’s spec requirements in terms of finish and durability.

The new design loses 0.3 of a degree in approach angle – hardly noticeable, according to Mazda – but it remains a market leader; in fact, at its launch, Mazda claimed improved cooling performance courtesy of the newly designed grille.

READ NEXT: 2016 Mazda BT-50 XTR Dual-cab 4x4 long-term car review, part two

The new bumper is made in Thailand, with Mazda fitting the parts – and recycling outgoing units – locally, before the new-look BT-50 is sent to dealerships. Local fitment is made easy as the new bumper utilises the same wiring, clips and brackets of the outgoing unit. This also means fitting an OE-spec bullbar is as just as easy to the new model as it is to the outgoing model. (Mazda is yet to confirm whether owners of older models can update to the new bumper design.) A lot of the proportions – including the position of the Mazda badge and the fog lights – remain unchanged from the previous model, so the full suite of safety technologies is unhindered.

Speaking of safety kit, a reversing camera has been added to the XT, which means it’s now standard across the entire range. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is now standard across the range, while the XT models now feature a seven-inch Alpine infotainment system.

The range-topping GT now comes kitted out with polished alloys, a chrome sports bar, a tub liner, remote tailgate locking, a 12V smart auxiliary socket and a light in the tub. New accessories – a black nudge bar, polished nudge bar, a black retractable tonneau cover, 12V single smart socket and trailer brake away harness – are now available across the range.

With the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux dominating the 4x4 sales charts – the 2018 March VFACTS report lists Ford Ranger (9457 year-to-date sales) and Toyota Hilux (9361) well clear of the next-best, Mitsubishi’s Triton (5737) and the BT-50 (2175) – something needed to happen to zap the BT-50 back to life. And with its lucrative pricing, the front-end upgrade may be the venom needed to shoot the BT-50 up sales charts.