Mazda BT-50 back on the market

HARARE - Mazda BT-50 is built tough to take on any task, and do it in style. It delivers grunt and refined comfort with every drive.

Fill it with gear, pull a load or take it off road. As a workhorse or a weekend warrior, it’s always up to the challenge.

The vehicle’s “Kodo design” became an instant hit in Zimbabwe in 2012 with its SUV-like styling and features taking the leisure market by storm.

Now a mild but carefully focused facelift has pushed the BT-50 even further away from its workhorse roots with a new front treatment, redesigned side steps and tail-light clusters, and 17 inch alloys. There’s also an automatic transmission option for the 2,2 litre doublecab for the first time.

The cabin has been updated with a raft of new features, including Bluetooth connectivity, a multifunction steering wheel and, as you move up the model ladder, a rear-view camera, an auto-dimming mirror and power adjustment for the driver’s seat.

Under the skin, the new BT-50 shares its underpinnings with the Ford Ranger. However, where the Ranger got a thorough mid-life refresh including revised fuel system, turbocharger, and suspension, the Mazda did not, sticking with its pre-update specification.

Mazda also includes a 7,8 inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation, including Hema off-road maps but the head-unit installed looks more like something from the aftermarket and the screen easily washes out in summer sunshine making it hard to use.

The BT-50’s system isn’t the same as that used in Mazda’s passenger car range which tends to rank highly for ease of use.

Interior space is hardly a problem though, with broad dimensions for both front and rear seats and enough room across the rear bench to pile in three adults in a seat that is neither too hard nor too upright and hides a pair of handy storage bins beneath it.

The added tough-guy appeal of the Boss Sports accessory kit deserves a mention too, with the alloy bull bar, rear sports bar, alloy wheels, driving lights and hard cargo lid coming as part of a dress-up package. That’s a decent fist-full of change, though still competitive alongside individual aftermarket accessories and covered by Mazda’s warranty.

Somewhat crucially for a vehicle that could see long hours spent behind the wheel the BT-50 is surprisingly decent in terms of refinement. Particularly at idle and cruising speeds, when there’s little shake-through from the engine to the cabin.

There’s still a few occasions where the engine can get raucous — loaded up with a decent payload and punted about at part throttle seems to generate the worst of it — but then the five-cylinder engine is more polite than most of its four-cylinder competitors, even putting its own four-cylinder versions (available in 4x2 variants) to shame.

With load carrying in mind, and a payload of 1 095kg, ride in the BT-50 XTR is expectedly firm when unladen. Add some ballast to the tray, be it in the form of tools, landscape materials, or dirt bikes and the BT-50 rides out bumps and dips free bucking and shuddering.

Mazda BT-50’s 2,2 litre turbodiesel four is rated, as before, for 110kW at 3700rpm and 375Nm, driving the rear wheels via a six-speed manual ‘box and locking rear differential.

The 2,2 SLE adds to that 17 inch rims, leather seats, his-and-hers auto aircon, auto headlights and wipers, an auto-dimming mirror, a power-adjusted driver’s seat with electric lumbar support adjustment, rear parking sensors with a reversing camera and a six-speed automatic transmission.

The flagship 3,2-litre turbodiesel SLE 4x4 has 147kW at 3000rpm and 470Nm on tap and, in addition to all-wheel drive, comes with either manual or auto transmission, load adaptive control, trailer sway mitigation, roll-over mitigation, hill hold and hill descent control.

Until next week, drive safely!

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