TRADE COUNTER

The base model BT-50 gives Mazda a great start in the ute market

As the competition continues to increase throughout the ute market, Delivery has recently been returning to grass roots and evaluating the most basic model in the Mazda BT-50 range.

The 4×2 single-cab/chassis XT is where it all starts for Mazda, with the four-cylinder, 2.2-litre, diesel engine, a six-speed manual transmission and an alloy tray courtesy of Triple MMM bodies in Queensland. The only addition as far as the base spec was the inclusion of a factory-approved tow bar, complete with the latest multi-pin connector that includes additional pins in the same plug to power other items on the trailer.

It’s easy to get a little carried away when it comes to power and performance and to head straight for the five-cylinder, 3.2-litre diesel. Remember, though, what the parameters are for buying a reasonably priced ute for a tradie. The vehicle is goingMazda-BT50-8 to sit outside the workplace most of the time, carrying materials or tools only at the start and finish of the working day.

It’s not that long ago that the engine of choice would have been a 1.6-litre, petrol four-cylinder with a four-speed manual gearbox. Once you’ve got your head around that entry level, then a chance to drive a 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel is already looking like a significant step-up in specification.

The pricing at the start point for all manufacturers is always highly competitive, and for the 4×2 cab/chassis BT-50 in XT guise you are looking at $25,570 for the six-speed manual. It’s a further $3,245 to upgrade to a six-speed automatic, which, coincidentally, is the same price as the 3.2-litre, five-cylinder diesel but fitted with the six-speed manual gearbox.

We believe that the cost escalation of over $3,200 to include an automatic is an unacceptable price hike, given all the same reasons we have already stated concerning how little the ute will be driven during the day when used by a typical tradie. If you were a courier driving through the inner city all day then you can justify the extra cost of an automatic, balanced against reduced driver fatigue and further supported by not having to factor in clutch replacements. But for a tradie the figures just don’t add up.

Mazda is one of the few manufacturers that offers a bench seat or individual bucket seats and has obviously realised that in country areas the humble ute also gets used to run the kids to the school bus stop and collect them in the evening. While we are not suggesting there is seating capacity for three burly tradies lining up three abreast across the front, there is still room for a Blue Heeler to join a couple of chippies or sparkies.

The audio system is pretty basic but easy to figure out and Bluetooth phone compatibility is part of the standard kit. Powering accessories such as a phone charger are only possible through a standard 12-volt cigarette lighter-style socket, rather than a USB slot.

Each corner is held up by 16-inch steel wheels, air conditioning is standard, together with cruise control, a trip computer, and four-speaker audio Mazda-BT50_2system with steering-wheel controls.

You realise how far we have come in terms of making safety a standard feature when you find that on this base-level entry model XT the safety features include SRS airbags for the driver and front seat passenger, together with curtain airbags, ABS, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), and Emergency Stop Signal (ESC) that flashes the brake lights on a full emergency stop to alert the following drivers and hopefully prevent a tail-ender.

The safety features continue with Hill Launch Assist, Roll Stability Control, Traction Control and Trailer Sway Control. A reverse camera is available as a further option but comes with an additional price tag of $820. This can be reduced through buying an aftermarket unit, complete with screen, at lower prices from your local supplier. If you’ve seen the statistics of how many children are run over by accident when reversing, you’d pay up in a heartbeat.

The other big appeal point for buyers of the XT is that Mazda offers the whole package as a Lo-Rider tray installation, meaning that the suspension has not been jacked up to the point that the tray height is so far off the ground as to become annoying whenever loading or unloading takes place. Our suggestion here is not to be talked into buying the Hi-Rider version.

There is a trend for marketing executives to interfere with vehicle specifications for working vehicles as they hope to make the end product look stronger and bolder by jacking up the suspension and raising the deck height. It might look more bullish in the minds of some, but that appeal soon dissipates if you can’t reach your tools or equipment in the ute tub because your arms are too short. Not everyone relishes the thought of crawling into the tray or tub across the tailgate to retrieve the one thing you really need that just happens to be out or reach.

The BT-50 feels particularly solid on the road, with good levels of manufacturing quality, and, certainly in our case, no squeaks or rattles. Interior noise levels are low and seat comfort is particularly good.

The 2.2-litre is certainly up to the task for both urban use and out on the open road. The maximum power of 110 kW produced at 3,700 rpm is 37 kW shy of the larger 3.2-litre unit, and torque output is also down by 95 Nm, but is still an acceptable 375 Nm rated from 1,500 through to 2,500 rpm.

What you might lose out on in the traffic light grands prix you gain in fuel economy. The 2.2-litre combined fuel consumption figure is 7.6 l/100 km for the 4×2 manual, bettering the Hi-Rider 4×2 auto by 1.3 l/100 km and the 3.2-litre with six-speed manual 4×2 by 0.8 l/100 km. xxPayload for the XT manual is 1306 kg with a tow capacity for a braked trailer of 2500 kg and a GCM of 5275 kg. The kerbweight is 1619 kg.Mazda-BT50_3

Triple MMM has built a strong, rattle-free alloy tray for the BT-50, and on the example we drove it was fitted with ladder racks front and rear. The mounting bracket is a simple but clever design, and, by loosening one spring-loaded locking bolt on each side, the rearmost brackets that hold the tubular bar ladder rack just slide rearwards off the tray. Removing the sides and rear tray panels is an equally easy job, just fold them out flat to the tray and push inwards and the hinges disconnect, leaving un-interrupted access to the tray area for tying down loads onto the rope rails.

Mazda service intervals for the 4×2 are every 10,000 km with fixed-price menus of $373 for the first, $510 for the second, $373 for the third, and back to $510 for the fourth, etc.

As a base model the BT-50 XT 4×2 manual is certainly able to pull its weight and is worth making the visit to your local Mazda dealer.

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