2012 Mazda BT-50 XTR Launch Review

Tim O'Brien | 42 Comments

2012 Mazda BT-50 XTR Manual Review

What's hot: Effortless 3.2 diesel, great tow-vehicle, sharply priced
What's not: Unsettled front-end on road, polarising style
X-Factor: Car-like interior comfort and refinement, with gutsy work-truck capability

Vehicle Style: Dual-cab 4X4 Ute
Price Dual-cab XTR (manual): $48,810
Fuel Economy (claimed): 8.9 l/100 km
Fuel Economy (tested): 10.1 l/100 km

OVERVIEW

Mazda has led with its chin with the new BT-50. In fact, it’s the lines of that chin that splits opinion.

Where most contenders in the ‘work truck’ segment have all the sculptural qualities of a beer carton, the BT-50 has had its sheet-metal massaged and squeezed for an individual Mazda-family look.

Certainly, the Ford Australia-developed Ranger, on which the BT-50 is based, is a bit of a box. So is the Amarok. But has Mazda come up with a face only a mother could love – and does it matter?

It doesn’t bother me: it’s no picture-plate but it’s different. You can make up your own mind, but don’t judge it too quickly (it grows on you).

So we’ve dealt with the styling, let’s move on.

The BT-50, like the Ranger, is little short of brilliant off-road. It’s as robust as a vault, will effortlessly clamber up – and down – almost anything, and has the pulling power of a train.

On road, while it’s more of a mixed bag and not quite as settled as the Ranger, it’s strong, quiet and effortless. Mazda Australia expects to sell around a thousand a month. It’s got a couple of easily-addressed flaws, but it’s a heck of a lot better than that.

We drove the upper-spec XTR dual-cab with six-speed manual. It’s a seriously good car as well as a seriously capable tough truck. Mazda has also pulled a rabbit out of the hat with very competitive pricing.

INTERIOR

Quality: Forget you’re in a work ute: the interior trims and finish of the BT-50 XTR is at least a match for most in the passenger segment.

From the soft-feel dash, to the brushed metal garnishes, the quality feel to the switchgear, leather-wrapped multi-function wheel, and smart door trims, this is a high-quality and very well-designed interior.

Comfort: The seats, long in the squab and generously proportioned are comfortable on road and off it. In the XTR, the addition of seat-height adjustment - useful for picking your line over the sloping bonnet - makes off-road work easier.

A debit, shared by the Ranger, is the curious lack of reach adjustment to the tilt-only steering wheel.

Equipment: All in the range (we won’t be seeing the freestyle cab for another month; cab chassis early next year) come with power windows and mirrors, Bluetooth, cruise control and air-con.

For the XTR grade we drove, add dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearknob, foglamps and 17-inch alloys.

Storage: Stand at the rear-tailgate and you realise it’s huge in the deep tub. For me (short), the top of the tray is at armpit height. It's 1549mm long, 1560mm wide, 1139 between the wheel-arches and 511mm deep. The maximum braked towing capacity is a very hefty 3350kg.

ON THE ROAD

Driveability: The BT-50’s shared five-cylinder 3.2 litre MX-CD turbodiesel engine is a beauty. It’s got 147kW and 470Nm of torque available under the toe and effortless low-end tractability (with 100 percent of peak torque on tap between 1750rpm and 2500rpm). Paddocks have been ploughed with less.

On road, in the six-speed manual, hills flatten beneath it, and swift, safe overtaking is a breeze. The throw of the gear-shift is chunky although a little wooly through the gate, but it's easy to use and the clutch is nicely-weighted.

Off Road: Like the Ranger, all that torque matched up with descent control, hill-start assist, locking rear differential, steep approach and departure angles (and ramp-over, even with side steps), makes short work of challenging off-road tracks.

There is so much torque, that, in the manual, you can simply point the nose at a gradient, engage first, slip the clutch and let it idle up and over.

There is even a cleverer trick when descending: engage descent control, grit your teeth (for the first time) and throw it out of gear into angel, take your feet off everything and let it simply carry you down.

It’s a little different to the Ranger in off-road feel. The answer we got from Mazda (as to its revisions) was a bit unclear. We think the front springs are softer, allowing more compression and travel, which helps in really rough going.

The dual-range transfer case can be shifted between 2H and 4H at up to 120km/h at the press of a button. For engaging low range, the car must be stopped.

In a mix of on-road and heavy off-road work, we averaged 10.1 l/100km: that’s pretty astonishing for such a powerful big ute, working hard. Claimed average consumption is 8.9 l/100km.

Refinement: The strong, smooth-revving 3.2 diesel is one of the best in the business. Vibration and harshness is beautifully isolated from the interior.

Best though, on road, is the near-absence of tyre and wind noise. The BT-50 is quieter at speed over coarse bitumen than the improved Mazda6. There is a little fluttering from the base of the A-pillar, but shearing from the tyres barely intrudes.

The BT-50 and Ranger are best in class for refinement by a long chalk.

Suspension: On road, this where the BT-50 needs more work. Nothing wrong on paper with the double wishbone front-end and leaf-sprung rear, but the tuning is out of whack.

At speed, it can wallow through dips and over rises, and the nose will ‘hunt' as it settles. It’s different to the better-balanced Ranger; Mazda was reportedly looking for better on-road comfort (but the information about the engineering changes is a little mixed).

We reckon the front spring rates are revised for longer travel, but are a bit at odds with the damping. It’s not bad, but there’s an opportunity there for the aftermarket until Mazda sorts it out.

Braking: Strong and arrow-true, with ABS and all the gear, and no sign of fade when off-road (the hill-descent control means you barely need touch them when crawling down from the clouds).

SAFETY:

ANCAP rating: Not yet rated

Safety: Standard safety features for the range include dynamic stability control (DSC), traction control (TCS), anti-lock braking system (ABS), emergency brake assist (EBA), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and roll stability control (RSC). There is also an auto-dimming rear view mirror, and dual front, side and curtain SRS airbags.

Hill-descent control and hill launch assist also feature on the upper-spec XTR model we had in our care.

HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY

Ford Ranger XLT: ($53,390) Its twin, but you’d barely know it from a style point of view. Profoundly capable, the Ranger is the new benchmark. Better on-road than the Mazda, but the BT-50 is the more individual looking and holds a hefty price advantage.

VW Amarok Highline: ($52,990) A tough competitor but its 2.0 litre diesel is no match for the imperious power of the BT-50’s (and Ranger's) 3.2 litre five-cylinder marvel.

Toyota HiLux SR5 TD: ($50,990) Only slightly wearied by age, the king is still king of sales, but now bettered by the Ranger and BT-50.

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

Like the Ranger, Mazda’s BT-50 is a tour de force. Strong, capable, effortless on road and off it, it’s a very complete package.

It also offers passenger car seat-comfort, features and NVH refinement. We gave Ford’s Ranger 4.5 stars; the Mazda version is a match in nearly every way but loses half a star for the slightly unsettled front-end.

But, six-speed manual or six speed auto, the new BT-50 is a heck of a lot of tough ute for the money.

It's very sharply priced and undercuts its equivalent Ford twin by a very healthy margin. You absolutely won’t be disappointed.

Filed under: Featured, review, Mazda, diesel, turbodiesel, ute, 4wd, Mazda BT-50, BT-50, commercial, light commercial vehicle, commercial vehicle, 2wd, utility, pickup, launch, Advice, special-featured, 5cyl, 4cyl, 2door, 4door, 2012 mazda bt-50, 6m, 6a, tim o'brien, BT50

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  • 288gto
    288gto says,
    3 years ago
    7 likes
    What the f.....

    I need to vomit!
  • 611969698
    Martin1491 says,
    3 years ago
    5 likes
    The ladyboy of the car world.
  • Adam plate says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    That awful grille and ute tail are enough to move to Ford for my fleet purchases- any price difference wont last long- Mazda update next model will be better i'll wager
    • Gythan says,
      2 years ago
      You can keep your ford ranger. When it comes time to get a rear bar or head off road you can throw the tow bar away and buy your portable satnav and come to realize the 4500 dollar premium you paid over the Mazda was a waste of cash. The BT will grow on people very quickly. People brought the veloster, mahindra ute and S16 and they all fit into the inbred looking catagory.
  • Tassie John says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    It's taken me a couple of months to get around to road testing both the Ford and Mazda twins. Must say the Mazda does have slightly better handling but the Ford's ride is superior. There is not enough difference, either way, to make a decision in favour of one or the other. I prefer the Ford's instrument panel (the BT-50 is fiddly and fails to offer the ease of operation I would have expected) and, finally, even with a blue oval on its nose, the Ford is a better looking proposition. The old (but uprated) five-cylinder Ford diesel is a winner for both, as is the overall operation of the six-speed auto. However, the one black mark against both is the auto gearchange. I know it's the way of Supercars and others but the biodynamics of moving you hand UP to shift DOWN (and, obviously, vice versa) is non-existent. This is a surprise in the Mazda because I don't think there is another Mazda model with such an ***-about arrangement. I'm going to be spending around $50 - 55,000 on something of this ilk later in the year and think it could go on a Triton (which has to be coming up for an upgrade).

    Jach, Tas
  • Peter Orton says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Enjoyed your article on the BT50, but I think you will find that Mazda specs show it has rear drum brakes not discs all round as stated in your article.

    Thanks Peter.
  • Tassie John says,
    2 years ago
    'Egg On My Face' Department! I drove a lady friend's Mazda3 last week. It's an auto and has the same a...about gearshift as the BT50; up for down and down for up. Where are the biodynamics in that?

    Jack, Tas
  • Raul says,
    2 years ago
    esta muy linda diganme cuando llegara a mi paiz Ecuador pxfa ::::q me la compraria en este momento o apenas lleguese px q los de toyota se andan luciendose mucho con sus modelos llegaria la mazda y le matariamos en el Ecuador
  • Mic says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    I am driving a D40 2.5 Navara at the moment and about to upgrade. There is nothing around the price of the Ford and the Mazda that have the equipment level , power and towing capacity they leave everything for dead. the new V6 Navara is a great machine but you pay a huge price for it after options it came in 7k dearer than the Mazda and the Ford and the interior is outdated and the driver aids are nowhere near the other two.I drove the Ford and the Mazda a number of times but I could not split them by the time I was ready to make a decision I was wishing that one had a major problem so I could make an easier decision. They really are great utes I didn't notice the Mazda being unsettled on the road probably not quite as choppy on the road as the ford I ended up choosing the Mazda GT. Price was under the Ford with all the gear the ford has plus reverse cam ,Sat Nav and leather trim , the only thing the Ford has that the Mazda doesn't is electric folding mirrors. Amarok no auto and 2.8 t towing / hilux outdated and 2.6 towing / triton not my just not for me, I have to say the look of the Ford was my pick at the start but the Mazda grew on me the more I drove it and the driving position in the Mazda is very good the way the bonnet drops away makes it easier than the ford to judge the front of the car as I said before I could,t split them both are great trucks comes down to what you like the look of . Happy shopping.
    • Scott says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      The biggest problem i have found out about the new Ranger is the electrics. You cannot fit any accessaries to it(dual batt, spotlights,etc) as the extra current draw will burn out the computer. A friend of mine had signed up for one, then canselled it when he found out about this, an ford admitted it to him, now he has a triton.
      • Brad says,
        2 years ago
        3 likes
        I have seen them fitted with spot lights from factory. I think you need to recheck your information buddy.
  • Colin Manion says,
    2 years ago
    Have my order in for a 4x2 GSX Double Cab. Only complaint is having to wait till April or May for delivery here in NZ.
    Tried both the Ranger and the BT and the BT won hands down for what I need it for.
  • Geordie says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    Brought my new BT50 freestyle in January very impressed so far 6200km fuel consumption around Brisbane to and from work average 8.6lt yes 8.6 trip to bunderberg and back 8.7lt. Trip to Coffs and back with small boat on trailer in bad weather 8.7lt all good BUT Try and buy some accessories for them especially electric brakes to tow a caravan, electricians are scared even the Mazda dealers can't seem to put you in the right direction. Any information would be good
    • WorKev says,
      2 years ago
      Hi Geordie I have the prod.3 breakncontroler on my New BT50 it has to have a relay fitted don't let some one fit a break controler without it. as it can cause problems
      away the lads
  • Laurie Griffiths says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    biggrin Just picked up the new Mazda GT BT50 auto.
    Drove the Ranger and yes I think the suspension set up is better than the Mazda, dry so why did I buy the Mazda, well more for your bucks and besides it is going straight to ARB Northside for all the good bits to be added like suspension, bar work, winch, driving lights, twin battery system, drawers, canopy, snorkel.
    A couple of weeks for the suspension and the canopy a bit longer for the rest.
    The BT50 is one great truck and will be even better in a couple of months.
  • David says,
    2 years ago
    4 likes
    you say it has a couple of easily addressed flaws.
    what are they and how to get it fixed as i pick up mine on 24/3/12
  • Tom says,
    2 years ago
    3 likes
    I bought a new BT50 GT in early March, fitted a UHF radio, ECB Nudge Bar, Lightforce Genesis HID Spotlights, Dual Batteries, EGR Canopy, Hayman Reese Towbar, Tyre Monitoring System, Tunit Chip then drove it back from Brisbane to Darwin travelling approx 1600klms each day, no night driving as I need my rest at 63 years of age.
    The vehicle performed brilliantly, and after retiring from my 4wd accessory franchise, this is my retirement car.
    I, at times, left the ground on Queenslands "highways" in western Queensland, the cars suspension was no problem.
    Great car
    Tom
    • Michael Phillips says,
      2 years ago
      2 likes
      Tom, Sounds like my ideal set up as well. Would you mind advising me what is the tunit chip the purpose or function it performs and cost. Re the battery I take it the battery was fitted in the rear tray, is that right.
      Thank you for your response.

      Reds michael
    • pete says,
      2 years ago
      tom where did u mount the uhf and the the 2nd battery i would like 2 do the same. any info would help
      • Latex says,
        2 years ago
        Well here I am in Thailand and have been waiting 5 months for my 2 door 3.2 4x4....ugh!
        Really good to see the happy campers on here.
        Although the oz specs seem somewhat different from here, looks like I will be happy WHEN it arrives...with the Thai price tag of about A$29k don't think there will be too much to complain about.Have an old very abused Y2K 2wd B250 which don't owe me a cent...way to go Mazda.
        It does grow on you ...that "transformer" like appearance.
        Will be interesting to see how to mount all the "toys" though..hopefully towing gear is available in the after market..think there is an ARB shop in Phuket..smile
  • neil berry says,
    2 years ago
    I just wish that the writers doing these reviews would standardise their reports. I mean what is the warranty and service costs for this vehicle. They show the Navaras but not the Mazda nor the Colorado.
  • Inge Holst Jacobsen says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Quote:
    "Certainly, the Ford Australia-developed Ranger, on which the BT-50 is based, is a bit of a box."

    I'm afraid you got it a bit mixed up. Since the end of the original US Ford F-100, the original Ranger which developed into the US Ford F-150, the "new" and much smaller Ranger has been based on the Mazda B-2000, by agreement and cooperation with Ford in certain markets througout the world.

    So, the BT-50 is based on and developed on(cloned) the B-series of Mazda by Mazda, on which the Ford branded Ranger is based!

    No discussion, though I know that Australia have certain variationa of their own.

    By the way, there is no difference in the chassis and suspension geometry on the two brands. But you allways have to consider the "Psycological Factor".
    Inge
    • Neil says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      Inge, please do your research before you try to correct people.

      Sure, the outdated models were essentially identical, and based on the Mazda, but the PX Ranger was designed and engineered by Ford in Australia, and the design was given to Mazda. Even the window glass used in the BT-50 says FoMoCo!
      • draino says,
        2 years ago
        i havent read the responses but did he say discs all round i wish!
  • Peter Engelmann says,
    2 years ago
    One should never get a ford man to comment on other vehicles
  • steve whilesmith says,
    2 years ago
    Mazda warranty is worthless. I purchased a new BT50 in December 2011, after 17000Klm the tub is cracking. I took it back to Mazda and they declined to repair as I had fitted an ARB canopy and had strengthened the suspension. The suspension was required as I fitted a draw system and the back sagged. I also tow a Pioneer camper and guess what the ach sagged. I do not think an ARB canopy will cause the problems shown, I have ARB canopies on other cars with no problems. My son has a new Nissan with an ARB canopy and guess what no cracks.

    When asked about my thoughts about the BT 50 I will suggest a Hilux or Nissan,
    • Bezer Kay says,
      2 years ago
      Hey Steve, where was the 'cracking'. I've heard of this from someone else and just about to receive my BT-50 this week.

      I too was going to put an ARB canopy with the ARB rack, but was going to leave the suspension alone until...

      ...I have been advised about the canopy.

      I have also been warned that the GVM and 'Ball Weight' specified by the manufacturer is basically BS because the suspension the vehicle comes with cannot carry those sort of loads.

      So if I don't want to void my warranty I have to drive the vehicle around with sagging springs in an unsafe manner.

      Wish me luck towing the offroad caravan without upgrading the suspension.

      Can you confirm if you have a canopy rack and any load on it at all?
  • Thomas Trebor says,
    1 year ago
    2 likes
    It is utter rubbish to say the Mazda BT 50 looks terrible. This is a pickup that must be seen and driven to believe!
    As a long time Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux owner, I must thank my brother in law for introducing me to this new Mazda pickup. I found it excellent for daily trips to the city and occasional farming terrains. I am sick of reading Amarok being promoted as a supreme suv when it really is not any better and in fact nosier under stressed!
    • Gothy says,
      1 year ago
      1 like
      Sorry Thomas but the Mazda BT50 is pig ugly. It looks like a Mazda 3 on steroids! And because of this it's re sale will be nowhere near a Ranger .
  • Gothy says,
    1 year ago
    1 like
    The Ford Ranger is leaps and bounds better than the BT50. Better suspension setup, quieter and smashes the BT50 in looks. If you can stand day in day out waking up looking at your mother in law buy the BT50. But on the other hand if you are a normal human being and have taste, buy the Ranger! Even on the Mazda TV advertisement they have to cover the car up with a bull bar. Speaks volumes doesn't it?
  • Paul Maggs says,
    1 year ago
    I like the BT-50; however, I am having some trouble with a flat battery; does not seem to be lasting much more than a week without being driven. The head lights come on each time a door is opened and I am wondering if this is part of the problem. Anyone slse having the same trouble?
    • Peter says,
      1 year ago
      Yes - battery flat after being left idle for 3+ days. Nothing at all to do with accessories being left plugged in or lights coming on (have ruled these out after having been caught out 4 times now). Dealer says he has not ever heard of the problem but has offered to look into it if I leave the vehicle with them for a couple of days.
    • Dizzy says,
      1 year ago
      I'm quite concerned about battery life too with us doing a lot of stop / start , in / out work and the lights doing what they do.

      One thing I did notice today was upon opening the door there was a faint whir coming from behind the nav screen area. (Keys out, everything off)

      Sure enough, there is a fan somewhere in there, obviously to keep the electronics in that area cool.

      I hope it only turned on when I opened the door, as it'd be ridiculous if it was triggered by ambient temp and just recirculating the same hot air trapped in the car that caused it to heat up in the first place.
      • Dizzy says,
        1 year ago
        I should add that it was 40+ deg C
  • Ron says,
    1 year ago
    where do u put the second batterie
  • matt says,
    12 months ago
    I bought a brand new BT-50 in November 2011. After 8 days of having the vehicle i reported a paint defect throughout the whole car. It was taken back to Mazda and they said that they polished the vehicle and it is fine. When the car came home the same day i called to tell the salesman which i bought it from that the paint still has blotches through it and he told me Mazda Australia have asked me to wait 12 months and see what happens. I waited which ended up being 17 months before a Mazda Australia representative was able to make it out. By now the car is blotchy everywhere and looks like its 50 years old. They asked me to leave it for a few hours so the could take some photos etc. Anyway when i returned to pick the car back up i was told by the service manager that he feels it is due to environmental fallout. He told me that the Mazda representative also feels it was environmental fallout. I then responded with " i reported this when the vehicle was one week old". I also said i now know why they wanted me to wait 12 months, because then they could play the environmental fallout card. ill never return to mazda and buy another car again cant believe how disappointed i am. I will be taking this further.
  • elliot Shiripinda says,
    10 months ago
    What accolades has it won?
  • matt says,
    9 months ago
    Im 4 months and 16000k's in the life on my new BT50 and I couldnt be happy. Having been the owning of 4 SR5's in the past 5 years all I can say is toyota is not on the same playing field any longer. Yes fair enough if you wish to cross the simpson desert the hilux would prevail.
    The mazda is truely twice that of the hilux in the way of refinement and technology.
    The looks have really grown on me and im sure if we were all honest didnt we choke at tge look of the hilux when it was released in 05?
  • sheryl ryan says,
    8 months ago
    looking at buying a bt50 dual cab, only because they don't sell a space cab in auto. We are going long term travelling and carry a 3.5 metre tinny on top. We will have canopy, not sure what at this stage, does anyone have any info on the best way to mount the tinny? We use a winch with plasma rope to lower it off the GU patrol we have at the moment. Would love to hear feedback from anyone with ideas
    • Bluey says,
      7 months ago
      Hi Sheryl
      Good news BT50 Freestyle now in auto if you ask the dealer. I've been holding off for months waiting and now I can order what I'm really after.
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