On the road

Road test: Mazda BT-50

Few test drives put a vehicle through its paces like a surf trip. You need space for salty bodies, sustenance, clothes for all kinds of weather and, of course, all the bulky surf gear. A dual cab ute ticks a lot of those boxes, but how does the new Mazda BT-50 hold up on a trip to the Tasman Peninsula?

Checking the surf at Clifton Beach at sunrise is a great way to start the day. We’ve parked the Mazda BT-50 at the south end, using the view of Storm Bay as a barometer for what the waves might be like down the Tasman Peninsula. The swell is pretty small, so we jump back into the ute, enthusiastic about the potential of good surf waiting further afield.

As a dual cab 4WD owner, I’m already pretty familiar with utes in this class, but it’s amazing how much like ‘cars’ they handle these days. As well as its on-road feel, features such as pushbutton start, electric power-assist steering and blind-spot monitoring makes the all-new BT-50 very approachable for a regular road user.

Apart from the mechanical technology, nothing immediately stands out when you’re sitting in the cab, which is a good thing. The dash display is simple and a 9-inch touch screen doesn’t seem out of place. Most importantly, Mazda hasn’t compromised on function, with comfy access to controls and ample seat room. A USB charger in the back is a handy feature.

Looking out the windscreen of the Mazda BT-50
Red Mazda BT-50 ute driving down a dirt road
 
Ariel view of red Mazda BT-50 driving down coastal road
  
Buying coffee at the Cubed Espresso van
 
Looking out over Pirates Bay in the red Mazda BT-50
 
Fish and chips from Doo Town
 

The best thing about the interior of this model – the top-spec GT – is the front seats. They give your shoulders a hug, indicating the designers have put decent thought into the shape. This, combined with the leather trim, makes for a pleasant experience travelling along the Tasman Highway.

By the time we’ve worked out a sounding alarm is actually the intelligent speed limiter, and tested the lane-departure prevention more than once, we’re at the breath-taking Tasman Bay National Park Lookout. We’re pretending we’re here for the view of Eaglehawk Neck, but really we’re satisfying our caffeine addiction at Cubed Espresso Bar. The quality of coffee that comes out of this little roadside silver van is a real treat this far from Hobart.

The stopover has alerted us to a curious feature of the BT-50 – surprisingly deep cup holders. If you like large coffees or are using the holder for a drink bottle, you’re in luck. Otherwise you might find yourself fishing for short cups.

Surfer catching a wave
 
Surfing looking out at waves
As we wind on through the bends between Taranna and Port Arthur to check some preferred surf spots, the BT-50 handles gravel and tarmac equally well.

As a lifelong ute driver, I have come to expect a bit of lightness in the rear end on gravel, but with the BT-50’s dynamic stability control you really don’t need to think about your right foot as much.

As we pull up at Remarkable Cave, the surf is picture perfect, with clean conditions and not a soul around (a rarity for a surf spot on the tourist trail). Getting gear in and out of the tub tray is easy. There’s nothing ground-breaking about the tub – a tailgate with a mechanical handle in the middle that’s incorporated into central locking. It’s another tried-and-tested system that has become integral to the reliability of a ute. We don’t have a cover on the tray and our surfboards have made it safely this far (although a cover would be recommended).

Aerial view of waves, beach, bush and the red Mazda BT-50

After a few hours out on the waves, we retrace our steps to Eaglehawk Neck and tuck into the famous fish and chips at Doo Town. This is the first time we’ve encountered a crowd and the BT-50 gets a few comments. We show off the remote start function to a couple of interested folks before heading back to Hobart.

Despite this model representing a complete overhaul, Mazda hasn’t favoured flashy or exclusive additions at the expense of practicality. The new BT-50 has been brought up to speed with late-model vehicles, but it remains a simple ute at heart.

The specs

Pricing: From $64,456*
Safety: ANCAP 5 Stars (2020)
Engine type (Cylinders, turbocharging, fuel): 3.0 litre in-line 4-cylinder 16 valve
DOHC intercooled turbo diesel
Engine capacity: 2,999 cc
Max. torque: 450Nm @ 1,600–2,600 rpm
Max. power: 140kW @ 3,600 rpm
Body style: Dual Cab Pickup GT
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive type: 4X4
Seating: 5
Fuel consumption: 8.0L/100km (Combined); 9.8L/100km (Urban)
*Driveaway pricing based on MSRP and on-road costs.

 

 

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