2013 MAZDA BT-50 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: 4x4 Utility
Price: $48,890 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 3.2 turbo diesel 5cyl | 6spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.2 l/100km | tested: 9.9 l/100km
We’ve reviewed the BT-50 before, and while it won us over with its off-road capability, strong diesel five-pot and car-like interior, there’s been something missing: an automatic variant for the BT-50 Freestyle cab.
That’s now been corrected - and a very nice six-speed auto it is too.
With a long tub and a couple of occasional seats, we think Mazda's BT-50 Freestyle is a strong choice for anyone looking for a working ute who has to haul more gear than passengers.
It's a changing sector, this ute market. Once upon a time you counted your blessings with a bench seat and a radio.
But while most now offer the latest in communication platforms and comfort features, most also place function firmly ahead of form - that is, you know you're at the wheel of 'a ute'.
Mazda has done things a little differently with the BT-50. Open the driver's door, and you'll see it works very well.
The BT-50’s interior is a lot more car-like in its layout and styling, and is thus a lot more welcoming and comfortable than many of its competitors.
It’s also feature-laden, with Bluetooth phone and audio integration, dual-zone climate control, satellite-navigation and steering wheel-mounted controls for cruise, phone and audio.
In Freestyle model format, it gets an extended cab, enough to accommodate a pair of rear 'suicide doors' and a couple of occasional-use seats. But make no mistake - this is no four-seater.
The back seats are flat, upright and generally not very comfortable, while legroom is also quite limited. They’re okay for giving a mate or two a lift in an emergency, but the space is better utilised as secure storage for tools, clothing or other gear.
With the thin rear seat squabs removable with just a pull of a tab, Mazda is clearly aware that the rear of the Freestyle cab is better suited to stuff, not people.
After all, why else would they put a handy lidded plastic tub under each rear seat? Useful, not comfortable.
And speaking of cargo, the sacrifice of rear cabin room means the Freestyle cab has got plenty more room in the tub than the dual-cab.
Tub width and height are identical at 1560mm and 513mm respectively, and there’s 1139mm between the wheel arches in both dual-cab and Freestyle cab.
Length is where the difference lies, and the Freestyle cab has a full 1847mm against the dual-cab’s 1549mm. For tradies who like to carry a dirtbike in the back on weekends, the Freestyle has the right proportions for that particular task.
Key interior features:
- Dual-zone climate control, sat nav, cruise control, steering wheel controls, power windows/mirrors.
- Tilt-only steering column.
- Cloth upholstery
- Occasional-use rear seats with waterproof storage bins underneath
- Bluetooth phone and audio integration.
ON THE ROAD
the Ford Ranger, the BT-50 is a great ute to drive.
Its on-road manners are exceptional for a big ladder-framed 4x4 utility, and off-road the locking rear differential provides excellent traction when the trail gets slippery or the going gets rough.
But its core appeal lies under the bonnet. There lurks a 3.2 litre turbo diesel inline five-cylinder with 147kW and 470Nm of torque.
The latter number gives the BT-50 prodigious pulling power. Though the torque band is narrow - peak torque is spread between 1750-2500rpm - the six-speed auto has no trouble keeping it in the meatiest part of the tacho.
It’s this grunt (and the long bed) which enables the BT-50 Freestyle auto to carry a payload of 1146kg in the tub (17kg less than the manual, but 49kg more than the dual-cab auto), and tow 3500kg on a braked trailer.
When it comes to shifting big loads, the BT-50 has the muscle to get the job done.
- 3.2 litre turbo diesel five
- 147kW @ 3000rpm | 470Nm @ 1750-2500rpm
- Six-speed automatic
- Selectable 4WD with low range transfer case.
- Electonically locking rear differential, hill descent control
- Double wishbone front suspension, rear live axle and leaf springs
- Fuel consumption claimed: 9.2 l/100km | tested: 9.9 l/100km
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 35.72 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control (switchable), traction control (switchable), ABS, EBD, brake assist, roll stability control, hill descent control, six airbags (front, front-side, full-length curtain).
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Yes, the rear 'jump-seat' is of limited use for adults.
But, truth to be told, if you plan on carrying more than one passenger on a regular basis, you likely wouldn’t give the BT-50 Freestyle cab a second glance - not when there’s a dual-cab model sitting right next to it in the showroom.
Instead the Freestyle makes more sense for tradies, farmers and businesses that need to move more cargo than people.
The late addition of an automatic to the Freestyle cab range will certainly boost this model’s appeal to those buyers.
When we line it up against its logical competitors, we think the BT-50 Freestyle cab emerges at the head of the pack.