Is this handsome Japanese newcomer set to become the best-looking bakkie in South Africa? The new-generation Mazda BT-50, which shares its underpinnings with the upcoming Isuzu D-Max, blends bold styling cues with a smarter cabin and advanced safety features.
This BT-50 marks the end of the 48-year relationship between Ford and the Japanese brand, as previous iterations of the BT-50 were based on the Ford Ranger platform. It now remains to be seen whether the Thailand-produced Mazda, which will arrive in Australian showrooms around the end of the year, will debut in South Africa before production of the bakkie on which it is based, the new D-Max, begins in Port Elizabeth in the second half of 2021.
But, fear not, the new BT-50 is coming to South Africa. "We can only confirm actual timing of the new BT-50 closer to our launch time," Mazda Southern Africa brand manager Melané Bezuidenhout said.
Compared with its predecessor's love-it-or-hate-it looks, the new BT-50 is more classically handsome (for a bakkie, anyway).
It's a handsome bakkie in anyone's book. The distinctive frontal aspect is characterised by a bulging bonnet (with a pair of broad ridges) and an expansive chromed grille that underscores the sculpted slim LED headlamps and is flanked by 3-dimensional wraparound fenders. The low- and wide-positioned foglamp clusters further broaden the look.
There are elements of the brand's Kodo design language in the sweeping crease lines that flow from the grille to the side mirrors, as well as the pinched waistline (just above the running boards), while the defined shoulder line aligns with the load bed and the tops of the BT-50-specific tail-light clusters that feature the brand’s signature circular motif.
The BT-50's tail-light clusters (with Mazda's circular lighting signature) and tailgate are unique to the Japanese bakkie.
There are more similarities with the D-Max on the inside, however. Like the Isuzu, the new BT-50 features a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system that features, inter alia, satnav and wireless(!) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and its steering wheel design, heating and ventilation controls are the same as those of the D-Max.
However, the sweeping soft-touch dash, instrument cluster (with digital speedo) and air-vent designs are unique to the Mazda. In some markets, top-spec BT-50 derivatives feature electrically-adjustable (including lumbar) and heated front seats, leather trim, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry/start, auto headlights and -wipers, and parking sensors both front and rear. The rear seats are said to offer decent legroom and are fitted with ISOfix child seat anchors, and aft passengers are availed separate air vents.
Mazda was determined to make the BT-50's cabin as plush and passenger-car like as possible. The switchgear is shared, however.
Meanwhile, Mazda says the BT-50 "offer(s) the renowned capability and reliability the Isuzu brand enjoys in the light commercial segment, with the striking design and leading safety credentials available on the rest of the Mazda range".
The Ford-sourced 3.2-litre 5-cylinder turbodiesel (147 kW and 470 Nm) has been replaced by a slightly-less potent Isuzu 3.0-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel motor that produces peak outputs of 140kW and 450 Nm, in combination with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, in 2- and 4-wheel-drive guises, the latter with a locking rear diff. Thanks to the new-generation bakkie's "reduced body weight and more frugal engine", the BT-50 "will offer a significant improvement in fuel economy", the firm says.
Mazda South Africa has not confirmed when the new BT-50 will be made available in South Africa.
In keeping with the BT-50's leisure activity orientation, the newcomer is claimed to have a 3 500 kg towing capacity (braked) and a payload in excess of 1 000 kg.
Mazda has further incorporated new features such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Auto Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert in its double cab in some markets.
We'll bring you updates on the BT-50's local arrival date, as well as the range's line-up and specifications, as soon as more information becomes available.