Basing a ute on one of the best in the segment would seem like a guaranteed path to success — however, Mazda knows more than most this isn’t necessarily the case.
As many will know, the new Mazda BT-50 is basically identical to the excellent new Isuzu D-Max — in fact, they’re so similar we couldn’t split them when naming our 2020 Ute of the Year.
But this is Mazda’s second crack at such a plan: the previous BT-50 was based on the brilliant Ford Ranger, but never reached true sales success thanks to divisive styling and an unwillingness to continually update the ute to keep it competitive against its rivals.
We’ll have to see if the same story unfolds again, but for now Mazda has a topnotch light commercial.
As with its donor vehicle, the BT-50 is capable in the rough stuff while also offering a refined comfortable drive and new levels of safety kit.
Many utes double as family cars these days and these two are arguably the most family-friendly we’ve yet seen: comfortable, safe and also quite roomy for those forced into the second row.
So why opt for the Mazda over the original (Isuzu led all of the vehicle development)?
Most obviously, there’s the styling which is completely subjective.
To be honest, we thought Mazda had made a misstep when it unveiled the BT-50: though not as, erm, fugly, as the older version, the Kodo design as found on Mazda’s SUVs appeared a tad too soft for a ute.
But we stand corrected: in the metal, it’s more aggressive and tough, appearing more sleek and sporty than soft.
Unfortunately given Mazda makes some of the best interiors found anywhere, the interior is more Isuzu-like.
As good as it is for the class, we can’t help but feel Mazda could have really ramped up the appeal by applying its passenger car and SUV cabin approach here more than it has.
Using Mazda’s infotainment system would have also benefited. The system used is perfectly adequate, but not as easy to use as the MazdaConnect — we also had some issues with the system crashing and rebooting while driving.
Spec levels are essentially the same between the two line-ups, but for $57K plus on-roads, we’d have expected the XTR test vehicle to come with a lined tub.
Another point of difference is the warranty: Mazda has a five-year, unlimited kilometre program while Isuzu offers an extra year but is capped at 150,000km.
Again, some will want the extra year, others the extra distance.
Some may prefer to have Isuzu techs work on what is Isuzu running gear, but we don’t foresee it to be a problem.
Once again, Mazda has a top-quality ute in its showrooms — now to see if it pays off.
The Mazda BT-50 does everything a ute should while bringing refinement, comfort and safety to new levels. It also brings unique styling to the segment, which should appeal to more than just your average ute buyer.
MAZDA BT-50 XTR DUAL CAB 4×4 SPECIFICATIONS
- Price $57,210
- Engine 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
- Outputs 140kW/450Nm
- Transmission Six-speed automatic
- Fuel economy 8.0L/100km