Mazda’s new BT-50 ute is set to make its mark.

Story By Matt Raudonikis

Australian designed and engineered four-wheel-drive vehicles are few and far between. In fact, until recently there weren’t any at all unless you included the Ford Territory soft-roader, but that isn’t a real go-anywhere 4WD. Two new 4WD utes have changed all that: the Mazda BT-50 and the Ford Ranger. Although built in Thailand, the new ute is designed, engineered and verified in Australia.
Most of the pre-release work on the BT-50 and Ranger siblings was done by Ford Australia engineers with help from more than 50 Mazda engineers working in Australia. Mazda also had people working on the joint project in Japan where it led the development for the rolling chassis. The two utes share their chassis and suspension design but have different suspension and steering calibrations and there are variations for vehicles sold in different countries. The BT-50 will be sold in 168 countries including Australia.
Mazda gave the new BT-50 some individual flair by tuning what it calls ‘Zoom Zoom’ into the ute. What this means is the BT-50 is more like a passenger car in appearance and performance than other one-tonne utes. Mazda’s suspension and steering calibration is firmer and sharper to give a sportier ride and handling.
The BT-50’s styling has proved polarising – people either love or hate the smiling front-end and organic lines. The front facia ties in with passenger cars in the Mazda stable, while the tail-lights are styled horizontally rather than vertically as on other utes. The swooping wheel arches mimic today’s Mazda cars.
Under the skin the BT-50 is all business. There’s a heavy-duty chassis with coil-spring suspension at the front and load-bearing leaf springs under the back. The BT-50 has a payload of up to 1500 kilograms for the single-cab, two-wheel-drive model with the 3.2-litre turbo-diesel engine. All models, right up to the top-of-the-line GT dual-cab 4WD, have in excess of one-tonne payload.
The BT-50 has an extensive range comprising 2WD and 4WD models, three cab styles, utes and cab-chassis, and three specification grades, so there’s a model for everyone from tradies and farmers to recreational and family buyers. Prices range from $32,590 for the XT 2WD freestyle cab-chassis manual model to $52,710 for an automatic GT dual-cab 4WD ute. With their well-equipped and comfortable interior, extensive safety package and 3350kg towing capacity, the XTR and GT spec double-cab Mazdas are ideal for anyone who likes to tow a horse float or boat with the family on board.

This story excerpt is from Issue #81

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2012