MAZDA has said goodbye to Ford after its decadeslong partnership creating utes and other light commercial vehicles, and embarked on a new era, this time teaming up with Isuzu for its new BT-50 ute. While the earlier Ford/Mazda one tonne utes were primarily developed and built by Mazda and then rebadged as Ford products, the last generation of the partnership was primarily developed by Ford (in Australia) with input from Mazda, then reskinned and badged as BT-50s.
The new BT-50 is essentially a reskinned D-MAX, and that is the all-new 2020 D-MAX which launched just a few months before the BT-50 hit the market. Mazda is banking on Isuzu’s reputation for engineering strong, reliable vehicles and class-leading levels of safety technology in sharing the D-MAX’s platform while wrapping it in stylish sheet-metal to make it distinctly Mazda.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
WHILE many drivers appreciated the old Ford-built five-cylinder, 3.2-litre diesel engine for its relaxed and loping torque delivery which never seemed to raise a sweat, it did come at the expense of fuel consumption, which was always a criticism of the old BT.
Conversely, Isuzu’s 4JJ series of four-cylinder, 3.0-litre diesel engines have always been some of the more efficient on the market, and the latest iteration of the mill takes this even further. It’s pretty much an all-new engine with a new block, internals, turbocharger and fuel system designed to be more refined and economical than past generations.
In this XTR 4x4 auto transmission specification, the BT-50 is rated at 8.0L/100km of diesel use on the ADR combined scale. On our test it returned 11.4L/100km over a mix of urban and bush tracks, highway driving, and a couple of hours of off-roading. The engine’s power and torque figures of 140kW and 450Nm are at the lower end of the class standards and slightly down on the 147kW and 470Nm the old 3.2 made, but peak torque is available from 1600 through to 2600rpm, so it still maintains that bottom-end grunt you want in a working ute.
The engine is relatively smooth and quiet at cruising, light throttle speeds, but it has the unavoidable noise of a four-cylinder mill when you lean on the accelerator and make it work.
The auto transmission is a six-speed unit from Aisin that proves to be intuitive when you want it to be; downshifting on descents and holding gears at large throttle openings, while remaining smooth and out-of-mind when cruising on the highway or negotiating the suburbs. It is very quick to shift through to high gear at suburban speeds though.
THE powertrain delivers adequate but unremarkable performance, resulting in the BT-50 being no high-performance sports ute but something that will get the job done. As mentioned, it’s relatively quiet except at wide-open throttle where ist gets a racket on.
We were driving the BT unladen over highways, country roads and forest tracks and, as with all one-tonne utes without a load in the tray, the ride is a bit jittery, particularly in the rear end. The XTR and top-spec GT variants ride on 18-inch alloy wheels with 265/60 aspect tyres, while the entry-spec XT model gets 255/65 tyres on 17s. The 17s are the smallest wheels possible on the chassis due to the large 320mm front displayed nothing worth mentioning during this unladen drive, but with the big discs up front they should prove up to the task when towing or hauling a load.
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