MAZDA has pulled the covers off its all new contender in the hotly contested one-tonne 4x4 ute segment.
The 2021 Mazda BT-50 won’t go on sale in Australia until Q4 this year, but the brand has given us a look at what to expect.
It’s no secret the new BT-50 shares its platform and drivetrain with the new 2020 Isuzu D-Max, which is expected to beat the Mazda to market some time in Q3.
The switch to the collaboration with Isuzu comes after Mazda and Ford had shared their pick-up platforms for past decades. Interestingly, the next-gen Ford Ranger, due in 2021, will share its engineering with the next Volkswagen Amarok, in what is a very incestuous segment.
The 2021 BT-50 is essentially a reskin and refit on the Isuzu architecture, as Mazda gives the ute its own look, style and features both inside and out. The Japanese brand has applied its current ‘Kodo’ design language to the ute, giving it a broad grille and slimline headlights reminiscent of the company’s current passenger car and SUV range.
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Fog and marker lamp clusters low in the front bumper emphasise that broad appearance, while heavy castellated ridges running up the bonnet give a muscular look.
The new ute adopts a far more conservative look than the previous generation of BT-50, which was widely ridiculed for its smiley face appearance when it launched alongside the PX Ranger back in 2011. It seems the designers have learned from that experience.
The rear view of the BT maintains the conservative look, with large tail-lights that wrap around the rear corners and a full width bumper fitted to this high-spec model. The top-spec model also wears 18-inch alloy wheels, while 17 and 16-inch wheels will be fitted to lower-spec models. The glasshouse, roof and doors are all expected to be the same as on the new D-Max.
The drivetrain is also shared with the new D-Max, which means the old five-cylinder Dagenham diesel has made way for the latest version of Isuzu’s venerable 4JJ 3.0-litre engine. In this trim it makes 140kW and 450Nm, which is a drop from the old Ford engine’s 147kW and 470Nm.
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That Ford five-cylinder might have been nice to drive but it was thirsty, so Mazda buyers will appreciate improved fuel efficiency of the Isuzu lump in what is also expected to be a lighter vehicle.
Both six-speed automatic and manual transmissions will be available, with a traditional part-time four-wheel-drive system with high and low range. A rear diff lock is also included.
Like other utes in this class, the new BT will have a 3500kg towing capacity and upwards of a one-tonne payload, depending on the spec.
Safety equipment will be top-notch, with AEB, radar cruise, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert all combining to deliver an expected five-star ANCAP rating.
The interior has premium feel to it, in this top-spec model we sampled at least. Plenty of stitched leather on the seats and dash, a big nine-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash, large functional buttons for many controls, and plenty of space inside.
While Isuzu says the new D-Max is a step up in size from the old model, the BT-50 and Ranger were always bigger than the Isuzu ute. This new BT feels similar in size to the current model, both in the cabin and the tray.
In the past, Mazda has always offered an extensive range of quality factory-backed accessories such as bullbars, lights, towing equipment and even a dual-battery system. It’s believed they are again working on such accessories and more for the new model, and you can bet the aftermarket brands will be too.
The advantage of using factory accessories is that they are covered by the vehicle manufacturer’s warranty and are designed to comply with and retain any safety rating the vehicle has.
It will be a few months before we get to drive the new BT-50 on some of our favourite tracks, but with a late 2020 launch date planned it will cap off a big second half of the year for one-tonne utes, with the D-Max landing in July, updated Toyota Hilux in August, and we expect some sort of mild changes to Ford Ranger.
With the promise of Isuzu ruggedness and durability wrapped in the stylish and well-equipped Mazda suit, the BT should be worth waiting for.