2023 Mazda BT-50 SP off-road evaluate

2023 Mazda BT-50 SP off-road evaluate
2023 Mazda BT-50 SP off-road evaluate

This story begins effectively, tempers within the center and crashes sadly on the finish. However removed from being a ‘spoiler’, I’m hoping you’ll dangle in there with me all the way in which to see if and why the Mazda BT-50 SP is a let down, or not.

Let’s maintain nothing again; on paper, and should you adopted any of Isuzu’s hype round their present D-Max, the BT-50 needs to be stomping all around the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger – but it isn’t – and it fails to ship in a number of areas.

However simply in case you missed the memo, sure, the brand new Mazda BT-50 is nothing greater than a rebadged and rewrapped Isuzu D-Max that’s jammed (or ought to we are saying crammed?) with each promise the flashy D-Max advertising workforce pushed, however presumably the engineering workforce didn’t assume by way of sufficiently.

Now that will sound a little bit harsh, and it most likely is, however what we’re referring to is the raft of digital security options that had been set to impress and take the D-Max and BT-50 to an entire new degree.

Like many automotive lovers and keen journalists, most automobile buffs had been initially impressed with the hype across the new Isuzu D-Max and for a lot of good causes; it introduced a raft of upgrades and enhancements that heralded an phantasm of ‘listening to their clients’ and went effectively past in delivering modern digital security options.

The information that the brand new BT-50 could be based mostly on the identical platform because the D-Max additionally had us ‘automobile buffs’ excited, presumably a tad shocked as effectively, because the Ford Ranger (the earlier BT-50 platform-mate) has continued from power to power, but the enhancements to the D-Max had been substantial and ample sufficient to have many feeling constructive in regards to the new BT-50 and its future.

However earlier than we give away an excessive amount of, let’s get again to our evaluate and undergo the great, the dangerous and the common of the Mazda BT-50, and what particular worth (or lack thereof) the SP model brings to the desk.

The present incarnation of BT-50 was launched in 2020, and the SP model arrived as a part of the newest replace.

From the skin the adjustments quantity to gray and black accents alongside the bodywork that do barely enhance its look, together with a wing excessive of the bathtub that aligns with the roofline. Whereas there’s nothing actually incorrect with the look of the unique automobile, the aesthetic enhancements do improve its presence.

Inside although, the adjustments are extremely efficient with a two-tone leather-based inside mixing with the window ledges and sprint to kind and encompassing cockpit-like seating space that’s each heat, protecting and confidence-inspiring. It actually does appear to embrace, nestle and shield you with out inflicting any claustrophobia or emotions of being cramped.

The sprint is trendy and trendy with out being excessive, and the one two attainable letdowns for me had been the shade of tan matched with the darker colored leather-based, and the end of the steering wheel which felt gentle, uninspiring and for need of a greater time period, low cost.

However other than these two objects, I might charge the inside as top-of-the-line within the class for design, format, look, styling and total consolation – each bodily and emotionally. Sure, it makes you’re feeling heat, fuzzy, secure and guarded.

Massive facet mirrors provide clear imaginative and prescient, wind and highway noise are noticeably quieter than different 4x4s, the sprint cluster is evident and nice (though presumably a contact extensive), and the display screen between the 2 dials is straightforward to learn and informative.

It’s break up into two halves; with the higher being continuously lit with info and graphics, and the decrease half reserved for warning, engine and different standing lights.

Typically talking, the highway manners are good, the suspension smooth, compliant and agreeable and the automobile format and operation is intuitive.

Cruising down metropolis streets is comfy and stress-free, and pretty much as good as these factors are in comparison with another autos now we have examined, that’s about the place the on-road positives finish.

The steering is a contact heavy at instances, the bonnet vibrates like a flimsy tin sheet, the accelerator pedal is sluggish and offers little or no responsiveness till it’s midway depressed, the gearbox clunks a little bit throughout some adjustments and at pace the steering turns into a contact obscure and unnerving – we’ll come again to this.

The automobile did, although, get us to the place we wanted to go, which total is the supposed use of most autos however not fairly within the inspiring method any fanatic would count on.


That is the place the BT-50 actually shone for me, and usually phrases did higher in respect of many in its class.

It wasn’t a lot that it severely outperformed its rivals in off-road situations, however extra in order that it was straightforward to work with, did what was requested and offered an affordable feeling of confidence, tractability and luxury while doing so.

The 4×4 selector is straightforward to achieve, engagement of each 4-Excessive and 4-Low was fast and straightforward, and lights on the driving force’s cluster clearly indicated which mode the automobile was in.

Energy supply was easy and exact, the suspension was supple and comfy, the steering agency and correct – which once more highlights and contradicts what we skilled when driving on-road).

The gearing was well-controlled and supplied intuitive ratios, and total the automobile felt secure and steady it doesn’t matter what angle we put it on.

As a primary 4×4 automobile, the BT-50 will get a strong thumbs up from me, and that actually comes right down to the softer suspension, low-range switch case and rear diff lock.

Plus, as we’ll see a little bit later, that efficiency will simply be improved with a small funding into the precise 4×4 equipment.

With the usual suspension (pretty much as good as it’s) the BT-50, like most IFS 4x4s, shortly runs out of wheel journey which vastly limits its off-road means.

However its rear selectable locking differential is a saving grace, and together with the dual-ratio switch case as talked about above, these are the primary causes the BT-50 works so effectively off-road.

What’s below the bonnet? 

Powered by a straight 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, the drive from the BT-50 is something however inspiring.

It’s sluggish and underpowered, at the very least for me. The six-speed auto, whereas typically a little bit agricultural, is well-geared and at instances preferential to the eight- and 10-speed transmissions of some rivals which might be incessantly shifting and trying to find the optimum gear.

With 140kW of energy and 450Nm of torque, the BT-50 has sufficient mumbo on paper however fails to ship below the pedal, which demonstrates one in every of two issues provided that the gearbox ratios really feel ample; one, the ECU is vastly detuned; or two, the throttle is grossly under-calibrated.

You could ask why both of those could be the case, and the reply is straightforward; within the seek for optimum gasoline economic system, higher emissions and a minimised threat of harm to the driveline, producers arrange the electronics, tuning and controls inside the ECU and throttle to restrict efficiency in lieu of the absolute best emissions and economic system.

The BT-50 SP suffers vastly from this however as you’ll learn under, the reply is cheap and straightforward.


Like most section rivals available on the market, and contemplating this new BT-50 (other than the latest SP) has been round for a number of years, there isn’t a scarcity of high quality gear and equipment to completely pimp out this sluggish ute and switch it right into a significantly better performing experience on- and off-road.

Most noticeably, a throttle controller needs to be the primary merchandise on any BT-50 proprietor’s procuring listing. A unit just like the EVC or EVCX from Final 9 will present the driving force a range of settings for a lot improved driveability.

These throttle controllers are removed from a gimmick and principally remap the sign despatched from the accelerator pedal to the ECU for higher acceleration response and minimised response delay. For a number of hundred {dollars} they’re one of the noticeable and efficient equipment you should purchase.

From there the sky is the restrict; with piggy-back ECU chips, whole ECU remaps, dyno tuning, aftermarket exhausts and intercoolers – and shortly there will likely be modular diesel energy upgrades based mostly round high-performance alternative injectors available on the market.

Normal suspension is already surprisingly good, however a top quality suspension equipment like Outdated Man Emu will present substantial enhancements to experience high quality, automobile dealing with in addition to on- and off-road efficiency.

Different equipment will present enhancements throughout the board relying in your preferences and desires together with tyres, bull bars, roof racks, canopies and lots extra.

CarExpert’s Tackle the Mazda BT-50 SP

What actually hit the nail squarely into the coffin of the BT-50 for me was the drive again from the bush.

I bought to see first-hand how invasive, over reactive and harmful a few of the digital security options might be.

Aggressively shunting the automobile again into its lane, jamming on the brakes when it perceives a risk forward, the loud alarms, limiting your pace when making an attempt to overhaul, and flashing lights that spotlight attainable risks whereas drawing your consideration away from the visitors, the highway and your environment.

OK, you’ll be able to swap them off to an extent, however the means to take action is hidden deep inside the menu system and it’s not simply discovered. The purpose stays that these security options will not be well-calibrated, are too delicate and overreactive.

However I do nonetheless have a smooth spot for the Mazda BT-50; it’s an honest ute with lots to supply regardless of its shortcomings. It sits ready of mediocrity with options and styling that some will hate and others will love, at a value level that raises related feelings.

Let’s be frank; it’s an excellent base automobile, and if it ticks a number of bins for you then it’s value contemplating. However in case you are anticipating any ‘Zoom Zoom‘ pleasure, neglect it.

For me although, the poorly-calibrated but highly-touted digital security options will be near harmful on the highway, which is counter-intuitive to what they’re attempting to attain.

When you’re after a no-thrills but reasonably succesful farm ute, the BT-50 might be appropriate. In different phrases, in case you are the kind of driver who actually sleeps on the wheel, the protection options will preserve you awake and in your lane.

Conversely, in case you are an fanatic, in tune with the lifetime of the automobile and you might be expert, these security options will provide you with a coronary heart assault, drive you nuts or presumably get you killed

Click on the photographs for the total gallery

MORE: Every thing Mazda BT-50


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