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Mazda BT-50: A true workhorse

BY Rory Daley Observer writer
daleyr@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 26, 2018

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IN this world of 'lifestyle' pickups, the Mazda BT-50 charts a different path: one of function and honesty. It's a work pickup, pure and simple. Thus, it is equipped to carry out that task to the best of its ability and efficiently, no matter who is behind the driver's seat.

From the outside, the four-door pickup formula is set by function. Like many of its rivals, it doesn't stray far or provide anything radical. Instead, it gets a facia that is a nod to its Japanese maker. The nose is swoopy and curvaceous to bring it in line with the visual style of the rest of the brand's offerings. The theme continues around to the rear. the brake lights. To this end they get a very unique crystalline look. This keeps it recognisable from the front to the rear, despite the industry standard side profile for all double-cab pickups in its market segment.

Inside, the curves continue with the dashboard layout. There's no infotainment system as the Mazda BT-50 sticks to relative simplicity. Those preferring not to have vehicle controls buried under a myriad menus that can only be accessed through some screen can rest easy. The stereo lays out all its functions with easy-to-reach buttons backed up by two small screens — a 3.5-inch in the centre of the dashboard and the other in the middle of the binnacle — to confirm all operations. Techies need not fear as connectivity in the form of Bluetooth is standard. Those requiring more just need to make sure to get the optional USB port to allow phone charging and Apple iPod operation. The cabin is well appointed, having the mix of quality materials that are good to touch, but can handle the rough life a pickup is expected to face. There's a feel of spaciousness and refinement as it manages to keep exterior noise levels at a minimum. Niceties like keyless entry, dual climate controls and a host of storage enhance the convenience and utility factors.

With the basics covered, the BT-50's forte comes to life once behind the driver's seat. There's no distracting technology, no potentially annoying complexity to the way the Mazda does its job. It's designed to haul stuff over a wide variety of terrain and conditions, a task it manages well above expectations.

On the road, the cabin refinement continues to cosset passengers. The judder, common in other rivals, is barely perceptible making the BT-50 easy to live with even when unloaded. Steering is true and direct, and the chassis is taut — exhibiting little body roll when the vehicle is being hustled at speed. And speed isn't a problem as the Mazda wins out in the engine stakes. Boasting 3.2-litres and five-cylinders turbocharged diesel that puts it ahead of many rivals, both in displacement and cylinder count. This gives the lithe BT-50 near 200bhp and 346 lb/ft of torque from 1,750 rpm to 2,500 rpm. Fortunately the chassis and the six-speed automatic transmission are up to the task, on or off the road. That means when the going gets tough, the BT-50 gets tougher. A quick turn of a switch moves the Mazda between its three drive modes. Again, nothing fancy. Two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive high and low — all result in driving confidence when used at the appropriate times.

At its core, the BT-50 packs a serious punch with its engine, is sure-footed on the beaten path and has the haulage capacity for most. Yet its doesn't give an inch to add-on technology that many feel interferes with the driving experience, but it still is comfortable enough to be used everyday on road.

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