Mazda BT-50 Freestyle Cab Motoring Review
Mazda has upped the ante with their all-new 2012 BT-50. Its new exterior design combined with increased interior space, a longer wheelbase and greater engine power gives buyers all the comfort of a passenger car, with the versatility of a pick-up truck. Sharing many of its underpinnings with well-known Ford Ranger, the BT-50 comes in three different body types to suit individual, family or business needs: the Single Cab, the Double Cab and the Freestyle (extended) Cab, as well as four engine options, 4x4 and 4x2 drivetrains and manual and automatic transmissions. In total, there are 17 different models available.
Buy a car like this and you will get more length, width and height than the previous BT-50, providing a roomier cabin as well as a larger load capacity overall. The BT-50 Freestyle Cab provides seating for 2 (+2) with clamshell doors providing access to the rear area of the extended cabin. The load box at the back measures 513mm high by 1847mm long by 1560mm wide. Front end styling is striking and streamlined with swept-back, leaf shaped headlamps, curvaceous front fenders and a prominent five point grille. At the back flashy trapezoidal rear lamps overlap the tailgate further emphasizing a move away from utilitarian to more 'lifestyle focused' overtones. The tell-tale 'boxiness' of its rivals has been replaced with an exterior that is rounded and more SUV-like when compared to other cars for sale in its class. According to the Mazda team, the look was inspired by a feline – in line with the company’s 'KODO Soul of Motion' design philosophy - the BT-50 is said to be shaped after the lion.
Inside the BT-50 is car-like in every way with deep-set dials in the instrument cluster, a chunky steering wheel and soft-touch materials on contact surfaces. There are newly designed seats on all models and all have radios, MP3/CD players and an aux socket. SLE models gain a multi-function display and SLX models have a two-line display and centre consol. Air-conditioning is standard on most BT-50s and dual-zone climate control can be found on higher spec'd models.
The Mazda BT-50 engine line-up consists of a 2.2 and 3.2 turbo diesel and a 2.5 petrol variant. The top of the range 5-cylinder 3.2 turbo diesel delivers a muscular 147 kW at 3000 rpm and a maximum torque of 470 Nm between 1750 and 2000 rpm. The petrol engine delivers 122 kW and 225 Nm of torque. Creating further choice, the 2.2 litre diesel engine is available in a low or high power variant with outputs of either 88 kW or 110 kW. Transmission options are numerous with the two most powerful diesels coming in either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic while the petrol version and the smaller diesel variant comes with a 5-speed manual transmission. The new BT-50 is available in both 4x2 and 4x4 guises with all 4x4 models featuring shift-on-the-fly switching.
The BT-50 offers safety specifications identical to those found in passenger cars. These include ABS with EBA (standard across the range), traction control and dynamic stability control. The cabin is strong and rigid and has multiple steel reinforcements. There is also a shock-absorbing steering column and a crushable brake pedal to further protect the driver. The cabin comes with front and passenger airbags on all models. Further safety systems include: a Brake Override System, Load Adaptive Control, Trailer Sway Assist, Roll Stability Control, Hill Launch Assist and Hill Descent Control (4WD only).
The new Mazda BT-50's pricing and spec levels are similar to the Ford Ranger range, albeit tipping to the more expensive side of the scale. Overall, the new BT-50 package with its revolutionary styling and increased space and levels of SUV-like refinement is sure to attract attention in this very competitive segment. Prices range from R231 950 for the 2.2 MZ-CD SLX 5MT 4x2 Freestyle Cab Diesel to R398 970 for the 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6MT 4x4 Freestyle Cab Diesel. (Prices are subject to change according to various factors so please consult your dealer for the latest price.)