Mazda unveils 'bush-spec' BT-50

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While Mazda South Africa is preparing to introduce the new-generation BT-50 double cab bakkie on the local market soon, the Hiroshima-based firm’s Australian subsidiary has introduced Thunder flagship derivatives that look a lot more purposeful than their urbane siblings…  

While the South African bakkie market saw a number of notable model introductions last year (2020), including the upgraded Toyota Hilux and new GWM P-Series, 2021 is going to be comparatively quiet for the double-cab segment… The new most notable models that will be introduced this year are the Mazda BT-50, a Nissan Navara facelift and, right at the end, hopefully, the Peugeot Landtrek.

That’s not to say that the main protagonists in the market, Toyota and Ford, haven’t tinkered with their popular Hilux and Ranger line-ups in the meantime: the former recently reintroduced the Raider specification and the latter has introduced Thunder, XL Sport and FX4 derivatives.

And that brings us to the first sticking point... Even if Mazda Southern Africa decided to co-opt the accessories that Mazda Australia’s in-house engineering team sourced and adapted for their top-of-the-range BT-50 Thunder derivatives, the firm would have to call those beefed-up bakkies something else in Mzansi, because there’ll definitely be no stealing of Ford’s Thunder.

The handsome and significantly more sophisticated BT-50 was launched in Australia last year (as was the next-generation D-Max, upon which the Japanese bakkie is closely based); our correspondents Down Under have already driven both the Mazda [read more] and Isuzu [read more]. Although we will have to wait until 2022 for the (locally-produced) D-Max to become available in South Africa, we understand that the local introduction of the BT-50 is a matter of a few months away…

Meanwhile, the BT-50 Thunder will be made available Down Under in double-cab 4x4 manual and 4x4 automatic guises; the derivatives are based on the top-of-the-range versions in that market and feature, as standard, dual-range 4x4 systems in addition to switchable rear diff locks. But before we whip the hardcore off-roading enthusiasts into a frenzy, the BT-50 Thunder is not going to leave the serious off-road machinery in the dust (and Mazda doesn’t claim that it will, to be fair); it’s merely a styling exercise.

From the front, the BT-50 Thunder can be distinguished by its single-hoop steel bull bar, a branded strike plate and a Lightforce dual-row LED lightbar. The newcomer’s 18-inch black alloy wheels are complemented by colour-matched chunky wheel-arch trims and side steps.

Plus, apart from the fitment of a premium sports bar, the Mazda features an electric roller tonneau on top of, and “Thunder” decals on the sides, of the tub.

The entire BT-50 range is powered by a 3.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine that produces 140 kW and 450 Nm of torque, the latter between 1 600 to 2 600 rpm. The 6-speed manual version is said to consume an average of 7.7 L/100 km and the 6-speed automatic 8.0 L/100 km.

Could there be enough local interest in hardcore-looking BT-50, once it arrives? You tell us.

Related content:

GWM P-Series (2021) Review

Mazda BT-50 (2021) International Launch Review

Toyota Hilux (2020) Review

Ford Ranger FX4 (2021) Price in SA

Best Double-Cab Bakkies for Off-road Driving

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