In the New Zealand ute market, there are generally two utes at the top of the discussion: the Ford Ranger and the Toyota Hilux, both of which battle it out for the top spot in sales. I feel a lot of the reason for this is the range of variants and customisation they both offer. The ute market is huge and the top-selling variants, sell like hotcakes, all tricked out with a huge range of accessories.

Mazda has quietly stepped up its offerings with the Mazda BT-50 4WD Takami Wellside, which is a more sporty and adventurous version of the Limited variant. DriveLife got to spend time behind the wheel of this new ute to see what it’s all about. 

What We Like and Dislike About The 2023 Mazda BT-50 4WD Takami Wellside

What we like

  • Style
  • Specs & Features
  • Comfort
  • Rear tray sliding cover

What we don’t like

  • Auto brake
  • Reversing camera visibility
  • Front Grille
  • Lack of interior storage
  • Engine noise

What’s In the 2023 Mazda BT-50 Range?

Compared to some other brands that have up to 13 different double-cab variants, Mazda offers four main models, with both 2WD and 4WD options. All models share the same 3.0L turbo diesel engine, which produces 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque. These engines advertise a 7.7L/100km combined fuel consumption, and all variants come with a 6-speed automatic transmission. No manual variants are available in New Zealand.  

  • GSX Wellside 2WD – $48,740
  • GSX Wellside 4WD – $57,290
  • GTX Wellside 2WD – $52,740
  • GTX Wellside 4WD – $61,290
  • Limited Wellside 4WD – $63,790
  • Takami Wellside 4WD – $70,290

2023 Mazda BT-50 4WD Takami Wellside Standard Equipment Highlights

  • LED with High Beam Control (HBC) and auto on/off
  • Daytime running lights
  • Parking sensors, front and rear
  • Reverse camera
  • Infotainment AM/FM radio with Radio Data System
  • Bluetooth® hands-free phone and audio capability 
  • Audio system 8-speakers
  • Infotainment screen 9-inch
  • Satellite navigation
  • Apple CarPlay® & Android® Auto
  • Multi-information meter display 4.2-inch colour LCD Display
  • Air conditioning dual-zone climate control with rear vents
  • Power adjustment 8-way (driver)
  • Heated front seats
  • Auto Emergency Braking
  • Airbags Front (Driver & passenger); Side (front); Curtain (Front & rear); Knee (Driver); Far-side (Driver)
  • Attention Assist
  • Blind Spot Monitoring
  • Child restraint anchor points ISOFIX x2, top tether x2
  • Cruise Control Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Stop & Go
  • Dynamic Stability Control 
  • Emergency Lane Keeping
  • Emergency Stop Signal
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Hill Descent Control
  • Hill Launch Assist
  • Intelligent Speed Limiter
  • Lane Departure Prevention
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Lane-keep Assist System
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Roll Over Protection
  • Secondary Collision Reduction
  • Traction Control System
  • Traffic Sign Recognition
  • Trailer Stability Assist
  • Turn Assist

There was no optional equipment added, making our review vehicle retail price $70,290.

For a full list of specs and options available for the Mazda BT-50 4WD Takami Wellside jump on over to the Mazda New Zealand website.

How Does The 2023 Mazda BT-50 4WD Takami Wellside Compare To Its Competition?

The BT-50 stacks up well against the competition, however, the Ranger and Hilux have had a big head start in the top-end sports ute market. I feel that Mazda have a bit of a way to go in terms of options and variants, but overall the BT-50 is definitely one to consider. 

All prices below exclude the refund or additional cost of the New Zealand Clean Car Programme.

Make/ ModelEnginePower/
(excl CCP)
Ford Ranger Sport3.0-litre, V6 turbo-diesel184/6008.43,500$80,490
Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel140/4508.03,500$75,490
Volkswagen Amarok V63.0-litre, V6 turbo-diesel190/5808.93,500$75,000
Mazda BT-50 Takami Wellside3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel140/4508.03,500$70,290
Mazda BT-50 Limited3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel140/4508.03,500$63,790
Toyota Hilux SR5 Cruiser 4WD Double Cab2.8-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel150/5009.13,500$62,990
Mitsubishi Triton VRX2.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel135/4379.83,500$53,990

First Impressions Of The 2023 Mazda BT-50 4WD Takami Wellside

The BT-50 Takami looks good, it’s definitely a step in the right direction, giving it the style of a more luxurious/sporty ute. 

The black wheel arch flares, tray sports hoop bar and upgraded front bumper give this BT-50 the aggressive stance it was missing when compared to other utes. The black alloy wheels also give it a nice point of difference from the other models in the range. The only part I was not a big fan of is the huge whale shark front grille. It felt like it was losing the brand styling in some way. 

It’s available in 7 different colours, with our review vehicle finished in Rock Grey Mica. Personally, I would have preferred Red Volcano Mica, as Mazda reds are amazing. 

What’s The Interior Like In The 2023 Mazda BT-50 4WD Takami Wellside?

The inside of this BT-50 is a bit different to what I am used to; two-tone Khaki leather runs across the dash and the seats. It’s a nice touch and adds a higher-grade spec-level feel to the entire interior. 

The front seats themselves are well sculpted, with good side and head support. I didn’t find it that hard to find a comfy driving position. The driver’s seat is an 8-way adjustable seat with both lumber adjustment and heating options. The front passenger seat is 6-way adjustable and heated. The legroom is good for both front seats, and the seating position while driving was nice. It would not be hard to do a long drive behind the wheel if required, as you’ll see Fred did further on in the review.

Rear seats were more in line with what we typically see in most utes, and could be described as a sculpted bench seat. The style matched that of the front seats with the two-tone Khaki leather, seating 3 across the back. The legroom was great, even behind a tall driver, I had no problem sitting in behind my front seat position. My daughter’s car seat popped in with ease and she had tons of room for her legs too.

My ongoing gripe with utes is the lack of interior storage space. The BT-50 struggles with the same issues, of nowhere to really store things out of the way in the cab, like a bag, phone or laptop if required. 

The infotainment in the middle of the dash is a 9” touchscreen display. The screen was nicely integrated into the dash, with easy-to-use buttons below the screen itself. The infotainment system felt a little dated and behind the overall feel of the rest of the vehicle. It did everything it needed to do, connected phones, radio, navigation, etc. But with all of the tech we have these days, the menus and overall GUI needs to be on point as it’s something that is seen and used every day. 

I also found the glare of the screen made it hard to see some of the settings at times, especially on the aircon controls screen below. I generally found the main screen was never bright enough, in any light setting. I would have to add an anti-reflection screen cover to it if I was buying one.

Being a ute, the reversing camera is very useful, for reversing of course, but also for towing to connect up. The view out of the rear window is ok, and I found the reversing camera good in its use and clarity, but not in its field of view, which was tight and restricted due to the location of the camera. It left a bit of doubt about what was behind you and its distance from the vehicle. 

The tray on the BT-50 Takami comes equipped with a roller cover, similar to a roller garage door. This is great and allows the ability to securely lock things away in the back. It’s easy to use, unlocked with a separate key, and the cover rolls back. This cover has a pull cord attached, so you don’t have to crawl onto the tray to grab the cover when you need to close it. One quick pull and it rolls forward into the locked position. The only thing to consider is that it may limit what you can have in the back as the roller cover is not flexible.

What’s The 2023 Mazda BT-50 4WD Takami Wellside Like To Drive?

I’ll be honest and say that I am not the biggest ute fan, much prefer something like a big SUV like my Discovery. But in saying that, I did find the BT-50 rather nice to drive as a whole. The steering feel is good, and the power from the engine is finely tuned, so it’s easy to apply power when and where you need it. I feel this would also be a good tow vehicle, being a diesel, something we may look to test in the future. 

The suspension was great for a ute, especially an empty one. I generally find that leaf-sprung utes are set up to drive well with a load in the back, empty they ride a bit too firm. The additional roller cover must give the BT-50 enough starting weight to offset this, allowing for a smoother ride.

The driver’s display is nothing too fancy, old school analogue dials for speed and rpm, and a 4” LCD screen in between with a wide selection of information – engine temperature, fuel gauge, speed, trip computer information, lane assist and the speed limit display. Overall it did what it needed to do, but will age quickly as other brands move to more dynamic displays. 

The simplicity continued onto the steering wheel and the controls available. On the left, you have the volumes, audio modes, and phone, and on the right you have the cruise control settings and menu options.

The fuel economy was rather impressive too. Mazda advertises a combined fuel economy of 8.0 litres per 100km, which is decent for a 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine. The impressive part is that I managed a combined fuel economy rating of 8.9 litres per 100km during my time behind the wheel. I was not expecting the figures to be so close, as I do not drive like a saint and can put the engine through its paces in our reviews. I am sure I could have achieved a lower figure if I was driving more efficiently. 

Driver visibility is good all around, being tall helps this but I didn’t find that it was lacking anywhere that was not expected. The two main areas were the front left wheel, and anything below the bonnet line. Also, right behind the truck, which was assisted with the reversing camera but this did not have the most ideal field of view.

There are many safety systems on board the BT-50, however, on several occasions, the autonomous emergency brake activated where I didn’t feel it needed to. It comes on very aggressively and shocks you as it doesn’t sound like it’s very good for the engine or vehicle. This happened when I was approaching an intersection or traffic light with a vehicle ahead of me, slowing down to a stop. Then the vehicle would think I am going to impact and activate the auto brake. It happened about 5 times and was very frustrating.

For a 2023 engine, I found it to be a bit loud, or the cabin insulation was a bit light. Even my own SUV (which is a 2014 diesel) is a lot quieter. This was noticeable when on the motorway, with a constant drone in the cabin. This was on top of the road noise that was also fed into the cabin. My 2c would be to up the level of cabin insulation, as most ute cabs can act like a drum and reverb the sound around the passengers. 

The drive modes available are really the 2WD and 4WD modes. You can go into manual mode on the gear selector, but just allows selection of the gears, no change to performance. The change to and from 2H to 4H is fluid and can be done without stopping. The 4H is noticeably different in the wet, allowing much more confidence in poor conditions.

Fred’s Point of View

I took the BT-50 from John on a 600km drive to work on our project car. This meant my first experience with the Takami would be all open road, and then some commuting after that.

Jumping in the ute, I found the two-tone leather finish exceptional. It’s not to everyone’s taste I am sure, but for me, that the leather wasn’t all black was a huge win. It makes the Takami feel like the luxury ute it’s purported to be.

On the motorway, the BT-50 and I settled in for the 300km drive to Hawera, and all was well. The ride wasn’t as bouncy as I thought it might be (I had no load in the tray) and the engine is quiet at a steady throttle opening. 

My first McDonald’s coffee for the day in Bulls highlighted a small but annoying issue; the cup holders are VERY deep, meaning my cup just sort of floated there, the lid stopping it from falling into the depths of the cup holder. Still, that’s a minor point.

The user interface is pretty bad on the BT-50, so I switched to using Apple CarPlay. This is an area where the BT-50 seriously needs upgrading.

After all the flat roads I had been on, I hit the few hills on the road to and from Whanganui. This is where the engine isn’t so quiet, and makes it feel quite old-school. Cars like the Hilux and Ranger have it all over the BT-50 in engine refinement and noise in this respect.

After returning home from Hawera, I used the BT-50 as a commuter for a few days. Visibility for the driver is excellent with tall windows and blind spot monitoring but the ute feels quite cumbersome around town. On Wellington’s narrow streets, I had a few moments of sucking breath in. I didn’t get that with the Ranger or Hilux so not sure why the BT-50 would feel different.

Overall however, I thoroughly enjoyed my 700km driving the BT-50; there’s something about it that makes you feel like it’s on your side, and will take whatever you throw it at. 

2023 Mazda BT-50 4WD Takami Wellside – Specifications

Vehicle TypeUte
Starting Price$70,290 (excl CCP)
Price as Tested$70,290 (excl CCP)
Engine3.0L Turbo Diesel four-cylinder
Power, Torque
Transmission6-Speed Automatic
Spare WheelYes
Kerb Weight, Kg3,100
Length x Width x Height
5280 x 1870 x 3125
Payload – kg1,085
Fuel tank capacity,
Fuel Economy,
Advertised Spec – Combined – 8.0
Real-World Test – Combined – 8.9
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing Capacity
Kg, unbraked/braked
750 / 3,500
Turning circle
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty5 Year 150,000 km warranty
5 Year Mazda on-call roadside assistance
5 Years fixed price servicing
Safety informationANCAP Rating – 5 stars – Link – 5 Stars – BT50

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John Galvin (JSG)
It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.
2023-mazda-bt-50-4wd-takami-wellside-car-reviewI think Mazda is getting on board with the wide variety of options required for the New Zealand ute market. Not just offering the practical options, but now with the Takami Wellside, offering a sports ute too.  <br><br> A few of its systems need a bit of refinement, most noticeably the emergency brake and reversing camera. But overall the BT-50 Takami Wellside stands up with the competition.  <br><br> If the Ranger or Hilux are just too common for you, then you should put the new BT-50 Takami Wellside on your list of vehicles to test drive.


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