Mazda BT-50 pickup: top-level power

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Mazda BT-50 pickup: top-level power

Friday, October 02, 2020

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IN 1991, Mazda became the first Japanese manufacturer to win the famous Le Mans 24-hour endurance race. They did so with a rotary engine and that record remains to this day, the only non-piston powered engine to do so.

In 1995, the Miata made its debut and eventually cemented itself in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's best-selling two-seater sports car. How does that affect the Mazda BT-50 pickup? In the ways that matter it does.

The BT-50 is distinctively Mazda, fully bearing the brand's sporty design language. The wedge-shaped front profile projects a flowing sense of speed similar to that of the company's sedans. The rear does its best with function following form as dual-cab pickup specifications dictate. There's the bed, the obligatory large badge on the tailgate, and rear lights that do their best to continue the visual link to those on the sedans.

The passenger car theme continues on the inside. Being responsible for the driving position of the Miata, that effort is put into the BT-50 with an asymmetric layout offering the space and comfort of a sedan. Seating, front and rear, is comfortable for all and there's plenty of storage spaces throughout the cabin. The driver-focused instrumentation makes operation as simple as reaching out one's hand, aided by an unpretentious spread of controls across the dashboard. In base trim, the BT-50 is rather sparse instead delivering rough and rugged workmanship-like materials more geared for the work site. For luxury and technology, the BT-50 Pro is available.

Where the BT-50 earns it bread and connects to the rest of the Mazda brand are under its bonnet and beneath its wheels. Motivating the pickup to class-leading performance is the MZ-CD 3.2 in-line five-cyclinder common-rail, direct-injection turbocharged diesel engine. These specifications run contrary to a market filled either with four or six cylinder motors, but nothing new for the company that perfected the modern rotary power plant. Mazda says their choice offers up the performance of larger displacement while retaining a compact footprint along with top-level power and excellent fuel efficiency.

It works as the BT-50 packs a punch. Horsepower is 197 at 3,000rpm, but the real magic is the torque figure. Step into the throttle and the pickup lights up the rear tyres as the six-speed automatic transmission quickly shifts to access 346lb/ft available from as low as 1,750rpm. That number goes to 2,500rpm. In two-wheel drive mode, the traction control will usually kick in. However, there are few worries when the electronic on-the-fly four-wheel drive mode is engaged. A rear locking differential makes the pickup even more viable off-road.

For those that do use their pickups on-road, Mazda has but their delicate touch on the suspension to make the BT-50 handle well. The vehicle is never unsettled by rough conditions, retaining a good level of passenger comfort at a wide range of speeds. Equipped with the five cylinder, there are few rivals that can match the ease at which the BT-50 can operate.


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