Top-end utes are big business in Australia and Mazda is getting in on the action with its BT-50 SP.
The Mazda BT-50 range comes in multiple body and tray styles and with either two or four-wheel drive. Prices range from the low-$40,000 mark up to $75,000.
We are driving the BT-50 SP, the second most expensive variant, which is priced from about $70,000 drive-away.
That’s a lot of money but Aussie ute buyers are routinely paying above and beyond this price for top-shelf utes.
The BT-50 is based on the same underpinnings as the Isuzu D-Max, but has softer, more car-like styling. The SP version aims for a tougher look, with gloss black exterior highlights, flashy 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, LED headlights and a sports bar.
The tub liner is also included, as is a lockable tailgate and tonneau cover that keeps items in the tray secure.
A nine-inch central display is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Digital radio, Bluetooth and in-built satnav are also included.
Mazda covers its vehicles with a five-year/unlimited km warranty and a capped price servicing program that’ll cost $2404 over five years.
Inside, the BT-50 SP feels more like a top-end CX-5 SUV than a ute, with soft-touch materials on the dash and other touchpoints to offset the usual mix of hard-wearing plastics.
Passengers are treated to leather and faux-suede seats that are heated in the front. The driver’s seat is electronically adjustable, allowing pilots of all shapes and sizes to find a comfortable position.
A leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter elevate the cabin ambience further.
Back seat room is excellent, with plenty of space for two adults or a trio of kids.
As with all utes, there is no convenient space for the weekly shop or luggage, except for the tray, which is hard to access for shorter people.
The diesel engine sounds less like a tractor than some diesel rivals and the cabin is quieter than most.
The ride is bouncy, but add a few items to the tray or a couple of passengers and the ride settles down.
The BT-50 SP matches its passenger car range with a long list of standard active and passive safety features.
It’ll automatically hit the brakes if it detects a potential collision with another vehicle, while a range of sensors helps keep the ute centred in its lane. If you start to wander, it will tug the steering wheel to pull you back into line.
It will also alert you if a car is in your blind spot and sound the alarm if a vehicle is approaching from the side as you reverse.
Eight airbags, parking sensors and a rear vision camera add further peace of mind, although the lack of radar cruise control is disappointing at this price.
The BT-50 has a 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine that makes 140kW and 450Nm, paired to a six-speed automatic and four-wheel drive. There are low range rears for more hardcore off-roading.
The diesel engine delivers decent grunt, easily shifting the ute with a decent load on board.
Despite its looks and interior fit-out the BT-50 is a commercial vehicle and it drives like one.
It can be a bit sluggish off the mark but the six-speed auto quickly finds the right ratio.
It can pitch and lean through corners but overall the BT-50 exerts surprisingly good body control for a vehicle of this size and height.
Four-wheel-drive grip adds confidence in the wet and it feels stable at highway speeds.
In the city it feels large and its girth is noticeable in carparks.
The BT-50 can tow up to 3500kg and has a 892kg payload.
Mazda claims the workhorse will drink 8.0L/100km but expect much more than that around town.
Ford Ranger XLT V6, from about $70,200 drive-away
Class-leading ute that delivers more punch and refinement than any other. Less standard equipment than the Mazda.
Toyota HiLux SR5 4WD, from about $66,200 drive-away
Reliable and cheap to own, but isn’t as flashy or as well equipped.
Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain, $64,990 drive-away
Mechanically identical to the Mazda but with a sharp price tag and longer warranty.
Originally published as 2022 Mazda BT-50 SP new car review