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TAS Country : February 16th 2012
16 Tasmanian Country Friday, February 17, 2012 News Ute favours families over tradies Country Wheels DUAL ROLE: Mazda BT-50 compares WELL with the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux. THE dual-cab light commercial ute is fast-becoming the family wagon of the 21st century and just because it's got a tray, that doesn't mean it's a hose- out workhorse. Although capable of plenty of hard yakka, the new Mazda BT-50 is also well suited for family duties. Mazda's BT-50 has often played the poor second cousin to its Ford Ranger twin and the segment's reigning monarch, Toyota's HiLux, but there's less reason for an inferiority complex now. We had all three recently back to back and it was a close run thing, with the BT-50 ending up in third but in a photo-finish. VALUE: This is where the Mazda scores well. It is priced from $48,810 for the six-speed manual -- and the price rises to $50,810 for the same number of ratios without a clutch pedal, which is several thousand below the equivalent Ranger. The XTR model is not even the flagship (that's the GT, which is more likely to stand for Grunty Truck than Grand Touring or Gran Turismo) but it gets cruise control, Bluetooth phone link, dual zone climate control, power windows and mirrors, side steps, 17in alloys, front fog lights, three 12-volt outlets, a leather-wrapped gearshifter and steering wheel, and satnav. There's a good quality sound sys- tem with single CD for the six speakers to utilise, as well as USB and Bluetooth connections, with steering- wheel-mounted controls and a 5-inch LCD colour screen that also displays the satnav. TECHNOLOGY: The 3.2-litre in-line five-cylinder engine is chief among the technological highlights, packing 20 valves and an intercooled turbo- charger -- peak power is 147kW at 3000rpm and torque of 470Nm is on offer from 1750 and 2500rpm. The engine is fed by common rail direct-injection system with a high- pressure fuel pump delivering fuel at 1800 bar (200 bar up on the outgoing engine), and piezo injectors. The five-cylinder engine -- a first for something with a Mazda badge -- claims a thirst of 9.2l/100km, which gives it an easy range in the realm of 850km from the 80-litre tank. Running the six-speed auto is prob- ably the better option, with the massive torque making it unlikely you'll miss swapping cogs yourself, such is the ability of the auto. DESIGN: If you want a traditional look to your LCV then Mazda is not the place to look . . . Mazda has gone where Mitsubishi did with the Triton. While its kissing cousin, the Ran- ger, has adopted a squared-off tra- ditional aesthetic look, Mazda's load- lugger takes the family face from the passenger car brigade and stretches it across the front of a big ute. A few seem to like it but plenty don't -- given the ads for the BT-50s hardly feature a vehicle without a bullbar and other accessories, I figure I'm not the only one who's not a fan. The cabin is less confronting, with more space than the outgoing car, particularly in the rear, which has been endowed with a more com- fortable backrest angle. SAFETY: A five-star NCAP rating has been awarded to this workhorse -- aside from the engineering work on crumple zones and crash perform- ance, the BT-50 has six airbags dual front, front-side and full-length curtains), stability and traction con- trol (with anti roll-over function) and trailer sway control. The trailer control system uses the same tricks as stability control (brak- ing individual wheels and adjusting engine torque) to counteract any fish- tailing by a towed vehicle. The front seatbelts have pre- tensioners and load-limiters and all five seatbelts are lap-sash jobs. DRIVING: These machines are pretty much wasted on tradies --- anyone who stepped out of a 20-year- old work ute would be double- checking these things had a rear tray. The interior is comfortable and refined -- for the most part; the children did get a little grumpy at the ride in the back as the tray wasn't weighed down with a lot but at least there are proper side steps for clam- bering in. Seat comfort is reasonably good, as is the cabin space -- the driver has good fields of vision and is only let down by the absence of reach adjust- ment on the steering and rear drum brakes, which work fine but might be a little old-tech for some of the younger new-car buyers. The pay off for the firmer ride than its Ford twin is crisper steering and better body control. Where much of the segment resorts to leaning heavily and torturing front rubber, the Mazda feels more capable. It also shrinks around the driver to some extent, feeling smaller than the 5.3m length and 1.8m width listed in the specs sheet. Four-wheel drive can be engaged at speeds up to the state limit, with the back-up of a locking rear diff, alth- ough that's only going to be required when the going gets seriously rough as there's no shortage of off-road ability, with 237mm of ground clear- ance and an 800mm wading depth. The workhorse side of this vehicle offers decent capacity. The payload is over 1100kg and the maximum bra- ked towing capacity is 3350kg, with old-school leaf springs under the rear. VERDICT: Mazda has shown what it can do in sales volume terms without a lot of fleet business but there's little doubt that the BT-50 can mix it with the mining-fleet favourite, the HiLux. Once the dislike of the exterior subsides, there's a capable dual-cab ute to be had. This one can cart kids, pets, tools or toys without sacrificing too much in the way of off-road prowess or towing capacity. The value equation might just be enough to offset the aesthetics. WE LOVE: External mirrors, proper side steps, fuel economy, the good spread of torque and the refined interior (for a truck). WE LOATHE: Small satnav screen, tilt-only steering adjustment, jumpy ride, and front-end looks. STUART MARTIN Great cars, Great prices. 275 Main Road, Glenorchy Phone: 6213 3315 37-- 41 St John Street, Launceston Phone: 6334 8444 $24,990. Drive away. Metallic paint $350 extra. $22,990. Drive away. $23,990. Drive away. Metallic paint $350 extra. $17,990. Drive away. Diesel arriving soon X240 4X4 Petrol V240 4X2 Petrol SINGLE CAB V200 4X4 Turbo Diesel SINGLE CAB V200 4X2 Turbo Diesel DUAL CAB
February 9th 2012
February 23rd 2012