September 23, 2014 @ 12:09 PM

We get sandy and muddy in a Mazda BT-50

We know Mazda makes good cars, but how about a truck. Asks Arvind Kumar



We know Mazda makes good cars, how about a truck. Asks Arvind Kumar.

I find a steep concreted path, which leads down onto white sands, It was a lesser populated and picturesque cove along the Batu Ferringhi coastline. An irresistible photo opportunity awaits.

A quick chat with a local “pak cik” about the location and I lined up the BT-50 for the steep-ish descent. Switch on the hill descent control, lock the rear differential and here goes nothing. I remember his last words were, “Don’t get stuck”.   

All lined up, I start clicking away with my camera. Once done, I start it up, and feather the throttle. I feel jiggles, and shakes, but no movement. Open the door to glance at the rear wheels and my worst fear has happened.

The rear tyres had dug in about six inches. Unbeknownst to this novice off-roader, having the drive selector in two-wheel drive mode and the rear diff-lock activated, made sure the two-wheels burrowed downwards at the earliest provocation. I guess it’s time to employ the front threads too.

Twist the knob on the centre console for four-wheel drive, I give it more revs. The Dunlops at the front claw for all available grip, inching closer to the concrete path. “Come on BT-50, bit more, hands shaking and palms sweaty, the car jinks and bounces.
 
The tyres bite the concrete and haul the 2,145-kg BT-50 up the incline with dramatic gusto. Phew. At least now I know it works.

Back on the road, turn up the wick, and let loose the MZ-CD 3.2’s 197bhp which pummels through at 3,000rpm. Torque numbers are manic too, a peak torque of 470Nm between 1,750rpm and 2,500rpm. Hence, you would also require the traction control which comes as standard for automatic variants.

When you’re coasting along, the engine is mild-mannered and smooth, refined even. You will hear the chirps of the wastegate and the mechanical whirr of the direct-injected common-rail five pot. Otherwise, it’s quite refined.

Give it a boot-full of revs, but don’t hold your breath in anticipation. Upon completion of the 80’s era turbo-lag drama, one tyre may break traction as the scenery swiftly blurs. Power kicks in around 1,950rpm right until 4,300rpm where it drops off slightly.

The oily bits are bolted on to a six-speed conventional automatic which is shared with the Ford Ranger. Upshifts are smooth and planned out, while a sharp prod of the throttle will urge a downshift into second or third gear. Which is where you experience the best forward motions the BT-50 can deliver.

The cabin space is usual Mazda fare, knobs and buttons are well placed and well built. The leather wrapped steering wheel is ace to hold while door cards and dashboard look durable and well appointed.

Rear legroom is adequate for a double-cabbed truck, I’m six feet tall and I did not feel pinched when an equally tall person was seated upfront. The seats themselves are nicely padded and offer good support.

Steering feel is tactile and well weighted. The steering setup allows for efficient communication between you and the tyre threads on-road, but insulated enough off-road on the rough and bumpy. The chassis is composed and very little body roll is present during cornering. Under braking, the front end is steady while the back end does not pitch around nervously.

While the Ranger advertises car like handling, the BT-50 is an honest truck, it doesn’t pretend otherwise. The chassis setup, tyre choice and suspension geometry help make it a great off-roader, yet composed when on asphalt.



The “Nagare” themed BT-50 does cut rather swoopy car like design details. I’ve had people say it looks too feminine, not “butch” enough. They’re wrong. The large front grille, those stretched head lamps which extend onto imposing front arches that flow towards a rising waistline creates an imposing stature.

At the back too, the height of the tail-gate and roof line accentuate the BT-50’s large footprint. Nearly 19sq.ft. of loading area is available for load lugging if the mood should require.

Prices start at RM92,883 for the 2.2-litre automatic and RM104,066 for the 3.2-litre automatic. This is a tad pricier than other 3.0-litre players in the segment. And the only way of obtaining the similar drivetrain in the Ranger means getting the pricy RM117,488 Wildtrak variant, so it does put the BT-50 in an advantageous position.

That doesn’t change my opinion that equipment levels and connectivity gear should be better.Plus, it’s slightly thirsty, over 1,000km driven, and the average was 11.8l/100km. If fuel consumption is paramount, the 2.2-litre would be the smarter choice while still providing adequate performance.

TO THE POINT

LOVE
In your face power, drives nicely
HATE
Thirsty, equipment lists don’t make it more attractive.
VERDICT
Truck with abnormal GT qualities.
4/5 Stars

Price
RM104,066 (3.2 AT)
Engine
3,198cc, 5 cyl, 20v common-rail diesel turbo, 197bhp@3600rpm, 470Nm@1750rpm – 2500rpm
Gearbox
Six speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Performance
N/A
Weight
2,145kg (gross)
On Sale
Now

 

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