New Mazda BT50 – Built for serious business

The bakkie market has really become fiercely competitive lately with the release of the new Ford Ranger. Now, another challenger enters the fray - does it have what it takes to claim its place in the squad of top bakkies?   

For a long time, the Hilux has claimed the position of king of the hill without any serious challengers. The release of the new Amarok was greeted with snorts of derision from Toyota fans. Way too pretty – and underpowered - they said. The new Ford Ranger is a different kettle of fish altogether. Ford has built up an enviable reputation in the USA for its pick-ups, which dominate the market there like Toyota dominates here. Suddenly, the Hilux was looking a little long in the tooth and the fans weren’t quite so noisy.

Now there is another contender thrown into the ring. Always a bit of a red-headed country cousin, the Mazda BT-50 has been given a complete overhaul for this 2012 version. Its better looking, has bigger engines and it looks like a much more serious contender in the never-ending fight for king of the bakkies.

17 models to choose from
The first thing to be mentioned is that the new BT-50 is available in no less than 17 different models. There is single cab, double cab and Freestyle cab (more commonly known as a super cab). Then you get three engine options – 2,5 litre petrol, 2,2 litre diesel and 3,2 litre diesel. You can choose between 2X4 and 4X4 transmissions (all of which are available in shift-on-the-fly).

The next thing you notice is that the vehicle has lost a lot of its boxiness and become a great deal slinkier. In keeping with other new models like the CX-5, the face now features a prominent ‘smile’ with raked back headlights, for a much racier effect compared to previous models.

It bears a certain resemblance to the Mitsubishi Triton, which was such a radical leap forward when it introduced a few years back that most bakkies are still playing catch up. You may not think it’s that radical a change, but take a look at the old version and you’ll see just how dramatic it is.

The rear view is even more startling, with back lights that are split between the tailgate and the vehicle body. The ‘too hip to be square’  look is completed with aggressive and prominent alloy wheels. Clearly the intention is lift the Mazda’s image out of its ‘reliable but slightly dull and boring’ quagmire that it has always struggled to free itself from.

Feisty diesel engines
The new BT-50 is now available in three engine sizes, two of which are diesels. The 2.5 four-cylinder DOHC petrol engine is capable of 122kW/225Nm.
The entry level diesel is a 2,2 litre which shoves out 110kW at 3700rpm and 375Nm from 1500-2500rpm. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual. Plenty of torque available to you there for getting out of sticky situations!

Next up in the diesel engines is probably going to be the option that attracts the most attention from SA’s power hungry bakkie lovers. It’s a 3,2 litre capable of 147kW at 3000rpm and a monstrous 470Nm of torque which starts kicking in at only 1750 rpms. Once again the box is a 6 speed manual. This version also has several modes – two high for tarred surfaces, four high for gravel and four low for sandy and other low traction surfaces.

What’s also great is you have 237mm of ground clearance and an 800mm wading depth, which tells you that these bakkies are made to take on tough terrain. This sense of confidence is further enhanced by the suspension, which is a rigid axle with leaf springs at the rear, double wishbones and coilovers at the front which combined with a stiff ladder frame gives the BT-50 the tough yet flexible chassis it needs to handle Africa’s rugged terrain.

For those who really need to haul heavy loads around, the load bed can handle over 1100kgs and a maximum braked towing capacity of 3500kgs. So, not just a pretty face!

Although there are plenty of options to choose from, the pick of the bunch would probably be the 4X2 2.2 SLE diesel double cab. It doesn’t have 4X4 capabilities, admittedly, but at R372 760 that also means you save a whopping R78,000. Unless you really need it, why spend the extra? In every other respect the vehicles are the same.

Specced for your riding comfort
Like most new bakkies these days, the spec levels of the new BT-50 are very good. Gone are the days when a bakkie was a utilitarian vehicle with not much in the way of mod-cons. Almost all of the Freestyle and double-cab models come with and double-cabs have an MP3 compatible radio/CD with an auxiliary socket. Other features include dual aircon, power windows.

Taken on a test driver, drivers found that the seat comfort was reasonably good and fields of vision were excellent. Road noise is minimal, and it wasn’t a problem to make your voice heard to other occupants, even over the noise of the diesel engine.

Mazda is clearly aiming the BT-50 at a market that goes beyond the farmer who needs a workhorse. These days, most people pursue actitivies where some off-road capability in the family vehicle is a real bonus. Whether its towing a boat or hauling mountain bikes or just the family dogs, a bakkie is perfectly suited to the South African lifestyle. Whether the market chooses to make the BT-50 their bakkie is something that only time will tell. 

Watch the BT-50 in action:!

For further information and pricing contact McCarthy Mazda. Click here to view their website.



Single Cab
Mazda BT-50 2.5 MZI SL LR 5MT 4x2 S/Cab Petrol -
R190 330

Mazda BT-50 2.5 MZI SL LR 5MT 4x4 S/Cab Petrol -
R228 070

Mazda BT-50 2.2 MZ-CD SL LR 5MT 4x2 S/Cab Diesel
- R200 330

Mazda BT-50 2.2 MZ-CD (High Power) SLX 6MT 4x2
S/Cab Diesel - R266 020

Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLX 6MT 4x2 S/Cab Diesel -
R306 920

Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLX 6MT 4x4 S/Cab - R354

Freestyle Cab 
Mazda BT-50 2.2 MZ-CD SLX 5MT 4x2 F/Cab Diesel -
R231 950

Mazda BT-50 2.2 (High Power) MZ-CD SLX 6MT 4x2
F/Cab Diesel - R286 420

Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6MT 4x2 F/Cab Diesel -
R351 650

Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6AT 4x2 F/Cab Diesel -
R362 970

Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6MT 4x4 F/Cab Diesel -
R398 970

Double Cab
Mazda BT-50 2.2 (High Power) MZ-CD SLX 6MT 4x2
D/Cab Diesel - R340 480

Mazda BT-50 2.2 (High Power) MZ-CD SLE 6MT 4x2
D/Cab Diesel - R372 760

Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6MT 4x2 D/Cab Diesel -
R403 560

Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6AT 4x2 D/Cab Diesel -
R414 890

Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6MT 4x4 D/Cab Diesel -
R450 890

Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6AT 4x4 D/Cab Diesel -
R462 210

Service Plan 2.5 Petrol (compulsory – five yr/90
000km) - R10 383

Service Plan 2.2 Diesel (compulsory – five yr/90
000km) - R10 212

Service Plan 3.2 Diesel (compulsory – five yr/90
000km) - R10 780

Aircon - R7 250
Aircon and slip - Rear axle R10 870 

E&O. Prices are a guide based on published pricing by Mazda SA.


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