MSN asks Hollywood stunt director Dennis McCarthy for his perfect car chase recipe
Launched - Mazda BT-50
Mazda serves up LOLs aplenty.
Mazda's new BT-50 offers, according to the company guff at least, a vehicle which combines the comfort of a passenger car with the versatility of a 1-ton bakkie. And I must say, I take exception to such claims. As much as I enjoy bakkies, a vehicle with a solid rear axle and leaf springs at the back, so that you don't break your rear suspension when you load the bed up to its maximum of course, can not deliver ride quality comparable to even a low-end all-independent arrangement.
As great as leaf springs are at taking punishment, there simply is no comparison to be drawn here. The two are made for utterly different reasons and offer entirely different characteristics. It's like saying that an apple tastes just like an orange because they're both round fruit. Or that the latest Ferrari is as good at beating Fiorano track records as it is at carrying a pallet of bricks. It's just false advertising.
Sure, like all the lifestyle 1-tonners out there these days, the BT-50 has got a decidedly car-like interior, featuring the requisite mix of Bluetooth/MP3-enabled ICE, comfort features like automatic climate control, and safety systems in the form of a bevy of airbags. Apparently plenty of room too, which given the gargantuan dimensions of this new model sounds about right.
The exterior is certainly striking as well, with Mazda transposing its road-car styling language onto the nose of the BT-50 at least, rather nicely. Those ludicrously flared front arches and shapely face combine into a frontal aspect which is certainly noticeable. But then, aft of the A-pillars, this design flare fades some - although to be fair there really isn't all that much styling that can be applied to a load-bed area anyway, at least not without massively impacting its functionality.
This body is available in three predictable variants, as a Double Cab, Single Cab, and what Mazda calls a Freestyle Cab, which is essentially a typical cab-and-a-half effort. Between these three body types, various off-road and engine/transmission combinations, the BT-50 range (entirely excluding the petrol versions) comes to 17. Clearly, as Toyota pull a similar trick with the insanely numerous variations on the seminal Hilux 1-tonner, Mazda has decided to emulate this success story by bombarding customers with choice.
And yet, there are only three engines available, four if you count the two different power outputs of the entry-level 2.2-litre "MZ-DC" turbo-diesel. Your entry-level model delivers a distinctly lacklustre 88kW, with the pricier option at least managing 110kW, while torque jumps from 285Nm in the lesser motor up 90Nm to 375.
Then there's the range-topping 3.2-litre turbo diesel, producing 147kW and 470Nm. The torque output in particular seems a little mean amongst the modern crop of six-cylinder turbo diesels of a similar capacity, falling short of what could be considered a minimum norm of 500Nm these days. A 2.5-litre petrol fills out the middle of the range, and clearly Mazda believe this engine configuration is on its last legs tucking this version away in the middle with barely a headline-grabbing fact to promote its presence. Either way making 122kW and just 225Nm, it's hardly a sleeper hit waiting to be unearthed.
Incidentally, of course, despite all the MZ nomenclature on these motors, they're the exact same units already doing duty in the new Ford Ranger. In truth, the BT-50 is simply a reskinned Ranger, with the companys cleverly extending the "launch-time sales spike" phenomenon by launching the exact same model twice spread between the two brands.
Having driven the Ranger turbo diesel already, I can tell you that the 3.2-litre diesel in particular feels every inch the old-school power plant that the figures would suggest, with a harsh idle and even more unrefined nature when revved. It's also not exactly light on fuel, which at least makes it gratifying that Mazda have foregone the de rigeur fuel-economy boasts in the BT-50 launch material.
Even the pricing will be very familiar to anyone who has researched the Ranger with an eye to buying. They're quite costly at the sharper end of the scale, the most expensive being the 3.2-litre diesel double-cab 4X4 AT, on sale now for R462K and some change. The equivalent from Ford will set you back around R5K less. Only one, the cheapest possible model on the list featuring no automatic climate control among a host of other comfort addenda, sneaks in under the R200K marker. Oh and that's excluding the 5-year service plan, which although listed under options is, in fact, compulsory.
So, the new BT-50 then is a somewhat more surreally overstyled Ranger, offering what by now is old tech for a bigger price tag. And a ride which in no way lives up to the "passenger-car comfort" hype. Enough said, I feel.
MAZDA BT-50 MY2012
Mazda BT-50 2.5 MZI SL LR 5MT 4x2 S/Cab Petrol
Mazda BT-50 2.5 MZI SL LR 5MT 4x4 S/Cab Petrol
Mazda BT-50 2.2 MZ-CD SL LR 5MT 4x2 S/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 2.2 MZ-CD (High Power) SLX 6MT 4x2 S/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLX 6MT 4x2 S/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLX 6MT 4x4 S/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 2.2 MZ-CD SLX 5MT 4x2 F/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 2.2 (High Power) MZ-CD SLX 6MT 4x2 F/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6MT 4x2 F/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6AT 4x2 F/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6MT 4x4 F/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 2.2 (High Power) MZ-CD SLX 6MT 4x2 D/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 2.2 (High Power) MZ-CD SLE 6MT 4x2 D/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6MT 4x2 D/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6AT 4x2 D/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6MT 4x4 D/Cab Diesel
Mazda BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6AT 4x4 D/Cab Diesel
Service Plan 2.5 Petrol (compulsory - 5yr/90'000km)
Service Plan 2.2 Diesel (compulsory - 5yr/90'000km)
Service Plan 3.2 Diesel (compulsory - 5yr/90'000km)
Airconditioner and slip rear axle
Images courtesy of Mazda SA via Quickpic.co.za.