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Mazda’s forgotten hero, the BT-50

14.09.2016

We South Africans love our bakkies. They form part of this country's culture and play a vital role when it comes to the economy. Businesses use them, farmers use them and even housewives drive them around.

The bakkie has really evolved over the years, most of them now offer a sedan like driving experience and some of them even feature impressive safety standards. It is with no doubt that there are two major players in the bakkie segment, the trusty Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. However, there is another bakkie that we sometimes forget about, the Mazda BT-50.

Since its breakaway from Ford, Mazda has been trying to re-establish itself in the South African market. Their cars are looking good and their after sales service is impressive. Mazda recently dropped off a brand new BT-50 3.2 CRDi Double Cab 4x4 Drifter auto and by new, I mean it had just 600 km on the clock.

Parked in the Autodealer parking bay, the Moondust Silver paint finish sparkled in the sunshine, while the optional Drifter pack beefs up the look by adding a set of menacing looking black 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Continental Cross Contact All-Terrain tyres, black Drifter badged nudge bar, chunky side steps, a Artav roll bar, heavy duty tow bar and black Drifter badges at the base of the front doors.

At its launch, the BT-50 was one of the first models to incorporate Mazda's KODO - Soul in Motion design language, with a lion allegedly being used as inspiration. As odd as this sounds, the design, aside from the somewhat questionable rear end, is something different from the usual bakkie norm.

Based on the range topping BT-50 SLE, the Drifter also uses the same 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi five cylinder turbodiesel engine as the Ford Ranger, that makes 147 kW and 470 N.m of torque. It’s got all the important things, like a big capacity load bay and the ability to tow a massive 3 500 kg.

Inside, the dashboard is nicely laid but it is also here where the BT-50 starts showing its age. Unlike the recently refreshed Ranger, the BT-50 has stayed pretty much and lacks modern mod-cons such a touchscreen display for the infotainment system.

Although the sound system does feature Bluetooth, the placing of the aux and USB input in the glovebox rates as slightly old-finished, while the static display screen above the button festooned dash is a touch to small and can be difficult to read.

This sentiment was also shared by our new editorial member Charl Bosch, who remarked that some of the plastics felt a trifle cheap and lacking of vents for rear passengers strange given the Drifter's range topping status. He did however express favouritism towards space on the back and fact that lifting the rear bench turned-up two storage areas.

Overall I enjoyed my time with the BT-50 and found the six-speed automatic gearbox made the daunting task of piloting such a massive vehicle so easy in stop start traffic. The added benefit of rear parking sensors made reversing that much easier, while a diff-lock and Hill Decent Control sweetens the deal further when you decide to venture off-road.

All in all the Mazda BT-50 might not be as up-to-date as its competitors, but it is a honest bakkie with power and comfort. What’s also extremely appealing is Mazda’s new five year/150 000km warranty on all models.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
14.09.2016
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