Mazda New Zealand extended the team at DriveLife the opportunity to join them in Auckland for the launch of the all new Mazda BT-50. It’s been some time since the BT-50 has been updated, as the second generation model was launched back in 2011. Close to 10 years between major updates – that’s a hell of a long time in the Automotive industry. So this gave Mazda the opportunity to really take the bull by the horns and set some new trends.
Mazda’s B1500 ute is where it all started, launched back in 1961. Mazda learned and evolved this model through the B-Series, Bounty and BT-50. Now in conjunction with Izusu, the BT-50 takes on a new lease of life with a strong new partnership. Redesigned from the ground up, Mazda wanted to think differently about utes, as they have become more than just a work truck in New Zealand. The term Mazda coined was built for dress and jeans. The new BT-50 needed to be able to go the job at hand, add value and be everyday lifestyle versatile. Something you could drop the kids to school in, tackle any of the big jobs onsite and take your partner out for dinner in the evening. The previous BT-50 wasn’t ticking all of these boxes. It was rugged, but not refined, which meant they needed something all new.
The Mazda award-winning SUV range had been built around the Kodo design philosophy, soul of Motion, which became the core for the all-new BT-50. Working with Isuzu, the new platform became lower, shorter and wider than the older model. It is paired with a 6-speed automatic gearbox and new 3.0L diesel engine, which produces 140kW or power and 450Nm of torque. Fuel consumption rating is advertised at 8.0 litres per 100km. Mazda claims that this is a 20% improvement over the previous model This chassis also allows for 3500kg towing and 1085kg max rear payload. Other features include; 2H, 4H and 4L, locking rear differential, hill launch assist, hill descent control, roll over protection and trailer sway control.
If you were suddenly teleported inside the new BT-50, no one would blame you for thinking you were inside a luxury SUV. This is not like any ute on the market to date, it’s refined and feels more like an everyday SUV than a work truck. The Limited model that I spent the day in was well appointed. Really comfy leather seats, with great side support. It’s wider than the old model which gives you a more spacious feel inside the cabin. The driver now gets a 4.2” digital driver’s display and a 9” touch screen central media display. The media system comes with Android Auto and wireless Apple Carplay. There are plenty of storage options, from cubbies in the doors and two gloves boxes, one of which is lockable.
If Mazda want their new BT-50 to become the lifestyle vehicle of choice, safety for all the family is key. Mazda are very proud to announce that the new BT-50 was top in its class and one of only two utes in the market with a 2020 5 Star ANCAP safety rating. The other is the Isuzu D-Max. What’s important about the 2020 ANCAP rating is that every year the level of safety is pushed and evolved. A 2015, 5 star Ancap vehicle is not as safe as a 2020, 5 star ANCAP vehicle due to the refined standards. One major criteria to pass the 2020 ANCAP test with flying colours is to have a far side impact airbag. This airbag deploys between the driver and passenger, making sure they do not impact each other in a side impact accident.
In addition to everything the new Mazda BT-50 comes with, Mazda New Zealand will be offering their 5+5+5 Mazdacare after sales service. This includes a 5 year or 150,000km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 Years roadside assistance and a 5 year fixed price service program. This service program guarantees that no service during the first 5 years will cost the owner more then $250 incl gst. That’s a serious offering to private and business, in terms of knowing the future running costs of their new vehicles.
The new BT-50 range starts with the 2WD double cab variants. The GSX starts from $47,490, the GTX starts from $51,490 and the Limited starts from $53,990. Sales of the 2WD models are predicted to be low with the 4WD double cab models taking centre stage. Starting with the 4WD GSX from $54,490, the GTX starting from $58,490 and the Limited from $60,990.
As the ute market continues to evolve in New Zealand, the accessory market is growing even faster. Mazda realise this and have a large range of Mazda accessories available to customise your new BT-50. All of these accessories are designed to work in conjunction with all of the new safety features available. So you do not have to sacrifice safety for style.
After all of that, what’s the new Mazda like to drive? Our drive program started in Auckland, with a bit of motorway driving out into the country South of the city. On the road the new BT-50 handles well, the engine and transmission are smooth and easy to control. Even though it’s a big vehicle, it’s no more difficult to drive than a CX-30. The ride was a bit bumpy, but that’s to be expected from an empty ute. Most utes on the market that can carry a 1 ton load need a little bit of weight in the back to settle them down and become a smoother ride. In saying that it was not uncomfortable at all. If anything it really shows how comfy the seats were, so good, and it almost felt like I had been sitting in it for years.
When we got to our offroad destination, by offroad I mean a gravel track. We got to experience the BT-50’s other features. Over the hills and ruts we went, nothing too challenging, but the BT-50 still handled it well. We tested the new hill descent, which has a different setup, where you control the speed with the brake and accelerator. I must be honest and say it felt far more natural than the typical hill descent system. The new BT-50 seemed right at home here, which was a bit odd as the driver was inside a very upmarket cabin, something not seen in any of the utes available in the market. This could be a big swing factor for many customers. Our day ended back on the motorway towards the airport where we dropped off the ute and headed back to Wellington.
Overall I am very impressed with the new Mazda BT-50. Mazda has pushed the bar up well above their previous station, which allows it to become a serious competitor if not a replacement for many of the other utes on the market. We are looking forward to doing a full review of the BT-50 later in the year.