It’d be easier to trace concrete lines of lineage among the vast colonies of wild rabbits roaming the Australian bush than the partner-swapping world of dual-cab utes but we’ll sketch out the Mazda BT-50’s upbringing for you anyway.
The new ute is a product of the brand’s partnership with Isuzu, with Mazda essentially handed a finished D-Max which it could then shape into its own ute offering.
That’s not the same as the last BT-50, which was a partnership with Ford and the Ranger, or the old D-Max, which was itself a partnership with Holden and the Colorado.
The upcoming new Ranger, for those keeping track, will now be twinned with the new Volkswagen Amarok.
OK, moving on.
On paper, the new BT-50 gets a pretty sweet dual-cab deal out of its partnership, with Mazda able to combine its own svelte styling with the tough-as-nails underpinnings of the D-Max, the benefits of which become evident from almost the moment your fire up the engine.
Nestled under the substantial bonnet is not one of Mazda’s city-focused powertrains, but Isuzu’s big diesel donk, which serves up more than enough grunt to get the BT-50 moving.
The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel isn’t the most powerful in its segment, delivering some 140kW and 450Nm, but there’s a thick, treacle-like consistency to the power delivery so it never feels like it’s running out of puff.
It communicates with the six-speed automatic (there’s also a six-speed manual on offer) well at low speeds, too.
While you can get a 4×2 BT-50 as an entry-level XT Cab Chassis (from $44,090), XT Pickup (from $45,490) and XTR Pickup ($49,470) in two-wheel-drive, only the four-wheel-drive models add a top-of-the-tree GT trim level, which will set you back a substantial $56,990 with a manual gearbox, or $59,990 as an automatic.
We spent time in the latter and, while the price is significant, so is the level of equipment Mazda has thrown at the GT. You get 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome-capped wing mirrors and door handles, plus LED headlights and daytime running lights.
Inside, you’ll find heated leather seats, plush cabin materials and, perhaps best of all, a massive 9.0-inch centre screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which makes the cabin feel plenty tech-savvy.
Safety is super commendable, too, with the BT-50 delivering a segment-equalling (equal with, you guessed it, the D-Max) level of kit, like adaptive cruise, lane-keep assist, forward collision warning and blind-spot monitoring.
In fact, so plush is the cabin experience you can almost forget it’s a ute that’s expected to do ute things, too, but the BT-50’s also got the basics covered, delivering a circa 3.5-tonne braked towing capacity and a circa one-tonne payload.
You can almost forget, that is, because no matter how much silk you wrap it in, there’s no way to completely disguise the fact the BT-50 is designed as a workhorse first and a passenger vehicle second. If you’re purely after a family transporter with enough room for the kids’ gear, you’ll uncover more comfort in a large SUV than a dual-cab ute.
Push the start button and you’ll feel a sharp vibration through the cabin as the BT-50 rumbles to life, and there’s an unladen bounce to its suspension that can have you jiggling in the cabin like setting jelly on the wrong road surface.
And while the steering is light and easy, it’s also not the most connected experience you can have with a pair of front tyres. But by ute standards, it’s a very good drive.
The cabin is a commendably quiet space that locks out most of the outside world, with only the rumble of the diesel engine under hard acceleration really disrupting the impressive ambience, and the front chairs are old-school-couch comfy, being both massive and soft and spongey to the touch.
It manages to feel not as big as its actual dimensions from behind the wheel, too, meaning you’re at peace navigating the city and its tight parking places.
If you’re looking for a vehicle straddling the divide between runway and work site, the BT-50 delivers plenty — regardless of its upbringing.
2021 MAZDA BT-50 GT SPECIFICATIONS
- Price $59,990
- Engine 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
- Outputs 140kW/450Nm
- Transmission Six-speed automatic
- Fuel economy 7.7L/100km