In British terminology, to be ‘Pukka’ is to be great, top draw, excellent even, however, as we found out, in the truck or specifically the Ute market, it just means it’s a Mazda. The long awaited 3rd generation BT-50 has arrived and Mazda NZ let us try it out.
The BT-50 first hit the market in 2006 and in many ways was (or maybe still is) a break from their seemingly passenger vehicle specialist norm. Created upon a Ranger platform this undoubtedly capable on and off roader was arguably more ‘function’ than ‘form’ yet still offering a fair share of Mazdaness.
2010 saw the release of the 2nd generation, which although was still underpinned by a Ranger, virtually all the body panels were Mazdafied with only the windscreen, roof, and rear screen being shared.
Fast forward to 2021 and the silk has been pulled off the all-new BT-50 and boy has it changed.
First and foremost, it looks unmistakably like a member of the Mazda family, thanks largely to the large Mazda grille and badge. It’s also more Kodo in its design, with a shapely nose, bold LED headlight and a smattering of chrome where required.
Behind the scenes, the Ranger underpinnings have been swapped for the D-Max, which as you may already know, are outstanding, but rest assured that this new BT-50 is true Mazda with just the shell, mirrors and engine being shared.
The new Mazda BT-50’s footprint is enough to fill a space at a parking mall with a shade over 5.3m in length to contend with and around 1.8m in height and width, but there’s no need to feel overwhelmed, this new ute comes with a huge amount of driver and safety aids to ensure it stays blemish free (20 in fact) including a crystal clear parking camera, rear cross traffic alert and a lot of parking sensors.
The big ute’s profile boasts large (boot sized) running boards that make climbing on board a doddle, chrome door handles, 18-inch alloys and (in my Limited model case) 4WD. Ok, the rear is unremarkable (it’s a ute) but the new BT-50 will handle a near 1.1-tonne payload and 3.5-tonne towing.
The exterior may have been brushed with the Kodo design brush, but it’s the interior that really impresses. Seriously, if you take a moment to scan the cabin, you’d be hard pushed not to believe you were in a Mazda SUV. The seats, trim and wheel all have an upmarket leather look and feel with contrast piano blacks and chrome where possible. The finishing is excellent and the tech is both modern and easy to use.
The Mazda ‘Command’ dial has been removed, however, the 9-inch infotainment touchsceen is quick to connect, is full of apps and even has Android Auto and Wireless Apple CarPlay, what’s more, there’s an 8-speaker stereo which includes two roof speakers for those that like to raise the roof with their tunes.
Topping it all off is a LCD Multi-information cluster that is a mixture of analog and digital, it offers the driver plenty of data and is bright and clear for old eyes like mine.
Although I had the new BT-50 for around a week, and enjoyed taking it on the highways and byways that surround my north shore abode, it was the trip to Woodhill forest that really showed off the mettle of this new truck.
The weather was wet and wild but even in 2WD mode the BT-50 sits on the tarmac nicely. The steering is well weighted and the 3L turbo-charged diesel engine (140kW/450Nm) gives the impression that it’ll outlive tiktok. The truck alerted me to vehicles in blind spots, it kept me between the white lines and even gave me some time off driving with adaptive cruise control!
It would appear that Winter has not been kind to the unsealed roads at Woodhill, with potholes and slips aplenty. It looked to me like it was going to be a bone shaking ride, but the reality is, it wasn’t. I enlisted the help of 4WD high mode, (which can be done on the fly) and simply drove. The BT-50’s chassis felt strong but yielding enough so as not to make my brain rattle. The suspension lapped up the bumps and the cabin didn’t let off a hint of squeaking displeasure, much to the contrary in fact.
The added bonus is that the BT-50 comes with Mazda’s 5/5/5 cover. 5 Years/150,000 Km Comprehensive New Vehicle Factory Warranty, $250 (inc. GST) Fixed Price Servicing Programme for 5 Years/150,000 Km, and Mazda On-Call Roadside Assistance for 5 Years/Unlimited Km.
The new Mazda BT-50 is a touch of class both on and off the tarmac, it’s rugged and robust to take on an adventure that would raise your heart rate and yet looks smart enough to take to the most salubrious of suburbs. It’s a really pukka truck(a).