Looking better than ever – even after 50
The new Mazda BT-50 replaced the outgoing Drifter, with a minor facelift, the new model presents a more stylish package. Without decent contenders to compare the BT-50, I reviewed the BT-50 as anyone would: take it on a road trip, put it through its paces on some off-road terrain and just drive it to the shop and back.
Mazda have taken an eraser to the mundane utilitarian look of the previous model line-up and though it is still a draft horse – the new BT-50 is a striking looking bakkie: bold new front-end and swept-back headlights are kindred of a SUV. Perhaps to pretty looking to denote it can handle the wild outdoors. Considering Gauteng witnessed some of the worst heavy downpours and flash-floods in its history, I thought it appropriate to say the BT-50 might be adept for crisis and rescue situations.
This could be an over-reaching statement, but on a particular stretch of arterial road, was the aftermath of a flash-flood, mud, river reeds, almost two-feet of water and some water born parasites. Now I should have turned back, but I could not resist the temptation to put the BT-50 to the test. So I engaged the diff-lock and began my camel-trophy adventure. The front of the bakkie quickly sunk into the mud, with the front-wheels pinned down by boggy water; the rear wheels had enough tarmac for me to make a safe retreat. Nevertheless, the 147kw, 3.2L 5-cylinder turbodiesel engine, eager to impress, spurred me on and besides a loss of traction at the deepest point, the BT-50 certainly proved its substance. The BT-50 feels light and nimble, so instead of taking the long way home, I took the offroad way home. The BT-50’s ground clearance of 237mm, a 800mm wade-depth and shift-on-the-fly 4×4 capabilities enables you to articulate any on-road or off-road terrain – I cannot promise it will be a comfortable ride. What I mean is, drive it on any open road and it behaves like any cruiser, but without any significant weight in the cargo bay to flex its suspension, an axle with leaf springs at the rear, double wishbones and coilovers at the front – the BT-50 is a bit of a bumpy ride.
The 6-speed auto-transmission traverses the engines power into a sufficient 470nm of torque, open road cruising demonstrates the auto-gearbox’s prowess – making easy work of overtaking a long train of slow moving traffic. Interior wise, the BT-50 Double Cab is wonderfully spacious and comfortable. With the addition of a canopy and a 1100kg+ payload and a 3350kg braked towing capacity: the BT-50 transforms into a larger than life holiday people’s carrier. Interior functions include, dual aircon, radio/CD player, but if Ford included the option touchscreen display or reverse-camera – it would feel like a more complete package. The AUX/USB ports are awkwardly located in the back panel of the cubbyhole – really Ford! Otherwise, with soft-touch materials and accessible controls – it is an ergonomic interior.
The new Mazda BT-50 ticks all the right boxes: it is practical, yet stylish at the same time and it caters to a wide range of lifestyle needs – and the needs of others. As friends, friends-of-friends, ex-girlfriends and cousins will phone you to move their furniture and kitchen appliances. But just be upfront with them, that you did not spend R516 200 on a bakkie to be called on as some glorified furniture removal company.